There are a lot of glorious and wonderful aspects of bringing a new baby home for the first time. As a working mom, returning to work after you’ve had a measly 6-8 weeks to bond with your child, isn’t one of them.
My Maternity Leave Soapbox
For most women, like myself, remaining home with your baby isn’t financially possible. I’m fairly certain it is safe to say that MOST women, if they had the opportunity, would choose to spend more time with their newborn children. The fact of the matter is so many of us need to return to work to help pay the bills. (And just for clarity sake, if you’re one of the minority here, it doesn’t make you a terrible person! Some people genuinely like their job and don’t want to stay home with their kids).
I find it so difficult to understand, and embarrassing for our nation, that we do not have maternity leave practices in place that would foster an improvement in a child’s upbringing. But hey, what do I know? I only interact with children EVERY DAY in my job as a teacher.
All of this is quite ironic, my job is literally to help guide and educate other people’s children. And yet, I can’t even be afforded the time to make sure my own kid makes it okay.
I have a secret for you though mama.
As the saying goes…Something’s gotta give.
I can honestly say that since returning to work after having my children that my job has taken the hit from my life as a new parent.
And you know what?…I’m okay with it.
The old perfectionist in me would not have been okay with it. Not at all. But the new me, who is learning to accept things for what they are has realized that I can’t be perfect for everyone all the time and I can’t keep up with the same pace that I used to.
Here are just a few ways that my job suffers, and yours might too…
I am LATE to work way more than ever before.
I was always the employee that was 15 minutes early. Now I skate in with 30 seconds to spare, if I’m lucky. I don’t think I’ve made it to work on time on a single Monday since I’ve returned to work. Once you have children you are on their timetable. You spend your entire life praying they will sleep well, and go figure that they finally start sleeping in on the days you need to get to work on time. I remember making mental comments about a colleague of mine that was always late. She has three children. Now I understand. Being late is just part of the territory, and I’m thankful I don’t get paid hourly and have to punch a time clock.
I don’t bring work home with me anymore.
Before I had children I could spend a whole Sunday afternoon lesson planning and grading. Do you think that happens anymore? NOPE. I now take ZERO work home with me. Aside from carrying my lunch, I’m not sure why I even have a work bag. My time at work is for doing work, and my time at home is to spend with my children and family. The boundaries are important. That being said, I don’t believe this makes me a bad at my job, I’m simply more efficient.
I don’t assign “HOMEWORK”
What? A teacher that doesn’t assign homework? *GASP* I try to teach them about efficiency and time management. If their poor work habits result in them not finishing their work for the day, then they have homework. Otherwise I don’t give them busy work just to say that I’m a teacher that assigns homework. I do not think it is fair to assign homework to students when I myself won’t do work at home. My newest motto is “if you have a job that requires you to do work at home, then get a new job.”
Those in academia may argue with me, but the homework/no-homework debate will rage on with or without my influence or opinion.
No. I don’t have time to talk to you at work.
There is no more socializing at work. I teach, plan, grade and PUMP because I am still breastfeeding. There is no time to talk to colleagues about their lives or mine. Part of being able to get away without having to do homework is that I use every SINGLE second while I’m at work for work related tasks. The more I can get done while I’m there, the better. It really stinks for my social life, but at least my employer can rest easy knowing I am not wasting time while on the job.
I changed my expectations of myself
Simply stated, I couldn’t expect myself to plan, grade and teach to the same level as before. I might not be my best teacher-self right now, but I’m still trying every day. You can find strategies for making your job duties more efficient if you just think about working smarter, not harder. For example, I give quizzes on google forms and have them grade automatically., and I have students correct their exams (the portions that don’t require reading written work) with me after they take their test. I grade classwork and homework differently and focus on the assignments that really show me what the student knows. In order for me to manage I need to put my time and effort into the things that will either give me the most bang for my buck, or help me utilize my time more efficiently.
I miss work far more frequently than ever before
If you have kids, they get sick. Sick kids need to be cared for by someone, and that job usually falls on me. My son wants nothing to do with my husband as it is, so if he is sick I definitely have to stay home with him. I went from being an employee who hardly ever misses work (I was in work on my due dates for BOTH children), to one who has to use sick days far more frequently. Not ideal from an employers perspective, but there’s nothing either of us can do about it. The one bonus about being a teacher here, and not someone with a regular 9-5 job, is that we can have substitutes come in and *kind of* do our job for the day. Alas, the world still turns without us.
The one PRO of returning to work after baby
It’s not all gloom and doom for my employer or me. While there are definitely more challenges for me as a parent, teacher and employee; there is definitely one major bonus I’m reaping post-kiddos.
I am FAR more EMPATHETIC than I ever used to be with my students. I have learned how to create a better student teacher bond.
Normally I am a very type A, task-oriented or black-and-white about things kind of person. Since having children I have softened up quite a bit. I see my students as someone else’s child. I recognize that they are still kids in many ways. It could be hormones, it could be personal growth, but I definitely think my ability to build relationships with my students is far better now that I have children.
At the end of the day, I’d say this might be the only improvement in me as a teacher and employee, but it probably outweighs all of the cons I mentioned above. After all, we could all use a bit more empathy most days.
My advice to you
My parting words to you would be, you can’t make everyone happy all of the time. I know as mother’s we often try to do this, but the sooner you come to the realization that you don’t NEED to do it all, the better off your sanity will be. You’ll end up being a better member of your family and workplace.
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