By Molly Nourmand, LMFT
Table of Contents
The phrase going back to work after you become a parent feels similar to the adage “get your body back.” There is no going back per se because you are different. Sure, you may sit at the same desk and may eventually wear the same pre-baby work attire, but you are forever changed. So what do you do about it?
If You Have a Job and Are Planning to Return to It
The strange thing about returning to work after you have a child–and are one of the fortunate ones in the U.S. to receive a humane maternity leave–is that your co-workers are more or less the same; however, you have completely transformed. Granted, things look different post-pandemic (i.e. some parents may be doing paid work from home), yet it is still a big transition. Here are some tips for making it smoother:
- Dip into your work email before your first day back, so that you’re not super overwhelmed upon your return.
- If you are feeding your baby from your body and physically go into an office–even a few days per week–keep an extra pump there. If you have insurance, then your plan should cover a pump.
- If you are not self-employed, then I would encourage you to ask your employer for what will be most supportive for you during this adjustment. Some examples: 1.) an option to work from home a few days per week; 2.) if you are a full-time employee, then ask to start back part-time initially; 3.) a parent-friendly schedule indefinitely (i.e. in an office/ available online 9am-3pm, then complete the other two hours when you’re able to.
- Carve out some time to revise your work wardrobe before returning to the office–even if you’re working from home. No one will know what type of bottoms you have on (if any), but dopamine dressing is said to boost your mood. Having a baby is a huge identity shift–and for some, a crisis–so we need our clothes to reflect the new us.
For more tips, check out the book The Fifth Trimester by Lauren Brody Smith.
To Work or Not to Work (if you are privileged enough to ask yourself this question)
Even if you are clairvoyant, you will not know what it feels like to be a mother until you are one. In the past six years of ushering women into parenthood, I have seen some mothers who cannot wait to return to paid work (and feel guilty about it of course), others who are trying to figure out how to be home with their child(ren), as well as those who are somewhere in the middle–perhaps hungry for a new career path and/or a desire for something more flexible to mesh with their changing priorities.
What I often impart to my clients is to get honest with yourself about what type of mom you are, and then if possible, have the courage to design your life to be in alignment with your truth.
There is also a trend of putting motherhood on the resume. In other words, instead of having to explain the gap in paid employment to future employers, you highlight your assets of being the CEO of your home. Unfortunately, there is a myth that mothers aren’t desirable employees because of “mom brain,” for example. And yet in my experience, mothers tend to be problem solvers, creative, efficient, and have high Emotional Intelligence.
Birthing a New Career
I was already a Psychotherapist when I had my daughter, but I was working at a drug and alcohol treatment center. I was passionate about my job, however, as my maternity leave and then FMLA coverage dwindled, I was still not ready to return. I was in the throes of postpartum depression and was having trouble taking care of myself and my baby, so I did not feel like I had the capacity to care for others. I had the privilege of quitting that job until I felt ready to put on my therapist hat again. In addition, due to the mental health issues I was experiencing, it was at that time that I felt called to help new mothers. It was at that time that my company Life After Birth® was born. What happened to me happens to others–motherhood can yield a new career path. Just like our babies outgrow our wombs, we outgrow older versions of ourselves, too.
About the Author, Molly Nourmand
Molly Nourmand, LMFT is a Los Angeles-based Psychotherapist and Founder of Life After Birth®. They provide 1:1, couples + group therapy for expectant + new parents.
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