Written by Jess Raubenheimer-Free
Tonight I'm feeling sad. I'm feeling overwhelmed. I'm feeling tired.
When my baby was 3 months old I went back to work. I work from home for a software company, so it made sense for me to go back. My husband used the other half of the parental leave. It's been a blessing, because it's meant we've both been at home during the lockdown. Even better he and my daughter have bonded so beautifully during this time.
But it's hard for me. A typical day looks something like this:
7.00 - 7.30am: Wake up. I know I'm lucky to sleep this late. Husband and I alternate morning nappy change/getting baby dressed. The other one makes the coffees. Breastfeed in bed and then have some family time before we get up.
8.00am: Shower, get dressed and eat breakfast.
8.30am: Start work for the day.
5pm: Finish work for the day. Finally get to spend time with my daughter, so we have playtime. Eat dinner while she's in the Jolly Jumper.
6pm: Bath time. We bath together in the big bath.
6.30pm: Boob and cuddles
During the day I breastfeed roughly every two hours. Often I'm in a meeting, headphones on, camera off, baby on my boob. Every second I spend in a meeting while breastfeeding my daughter I feel guilty that she doesn't have my full attention.
During the day I'll pop into her room to say hello, or help my husband settle her for a nap. Popping in and out of her day, not fully present with my mind busy with work problems. She always grins from ear to ear when she sees my face, and my heart melts a little more.
Sometimes (like today) she doesn't nap well during the day. On those days it means when I finally get to properly spend time with her she's cranky. I get frustrated with her when she grizzles or fusses while she feeds, which makes it worse as she picks up on my frustration.
Tonight when I put her to bed I held her a little longer. Gave her extra kisses. I felt overwhelmed with guilt that I wasn't there for her today. I hope I communicated how much I love her. That I'm working as hard as I do FOR her. To show her that she can do whatever she wants to do in life.
The truth is, working when you have a young baby is HARD. It doesn't matter if you're at home or in an office, whether they're being taken care of by their daddy, their grandma or they're at daycare. Your mind is constantly elsewhere, wondering if you're missing a milestone or if your baby is missing you.
You're probably still getting up multiple times a night to feed, resettle, cuddle or pump. Broken sleep is brutal, especially when you have to use your brain at work the next day. There will be nights where I've gone to bed at 9.30pm and gotten up at 7am, but I'm exhausted at work the next day. Those are the nights where I'll be woken up every 2-3 hours. You never get the chance to get down into that deep restorative sleep.
There's a lot of inadvertent pressure on women to return to work after we've had a baby. There's the more direct need for her salary, but there's also ideology at play. We've gotten to a point where deciding to be a stay at home mum is "sacrificing your career" or "conforming to your gender role".
I don't want to sound ungrateful, and I certainly am not complaining about my situation. I'm very lucky to have what I have, and to be where I am.
But I want you to know that I see you, I see how hard you work, mama. Whether you work full time, part time or you're "not working" right now. You are working. You're doing the hardest job you'll ever do - shaping little humans into big humans.