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Welcome back to my blog!
It’s been a long time coming! I’m so excited to be back! A ton has happened since the last time I wrote a blog post! There’s sooo much to share!
I expect my upcoming blogs to cover topics you want to hear and things that you didn’t know you needed to hear. That’s why my first blog post back is for mommas returning from maternity leave.
If you follow me on my Instagram page, @pink_allure214, you know that I have a 2 ½ -year-old son who was born 3 months before the world shut down from COVID. I had a very unusual return from my maternity leave!
On March. 31st, 2020 I was set to return to work from my maternity leave. On March 30th, I turned on the news and learned we were entering a national lockdown effective immediately due to COVID, which meant schools would now be operating remotely.
At the time, I was working as a 7th grade Math teacher and coach at a charter school. This meant that my first day back to work was now remote. Upon my return to work, I was expected to do something I had never done before. It was now my responsibility to teach Math to a group of 7th graders via Zoom AND support my 8-year-old daughter who was also learning remotely at home – all while exclusively breastfeeding my baby. Suddenly, my new day to day consisted of daily Math classes and meetings on zoom, homework and classwork support for my daughter, grading assignments and homework for my students, while still breastfeeding and taking care of my new son! Let’s just say the experience tested my patience and strength every day. I spent many of my days mostly praying that my camera wouldn’t shift and show my boobs on Zoom while breastfeeding! Haha!
Despite the challenges, working remotely meant my entire sons first year of life was at home, with me and my family. It was such a blessing. I was able to avoid the pressures most parents feel when preparing to put their baby into a daycare, only hoping you could trust the people in their care- and let’s not forget those crazy, sky-rocketed New York childcare prices! While working remotely, I was able to save money, create precious moments with my kids, and spend quality time with my family.
Though my immediate return to work allowed me to work from the comfort of my home, that all ended in the 21-22 school year when schools were set to return to in-person learning. To sum up my work year for you all in the simplest form, it was by far one of my hardest years ever! Between traffic and long commutes to and from work, kid drop off and pick-ups, my leadership role at work, helping my daughter with school assignments, being a wife, managing and grieving over my daughter’s new medical diagnosis (another post for another day), typical mommy duties, etc.- I was SWAMPED 👏🏽 EVERY 👏🏽 SINGLE 👏🏽DAY. My cup did not “runneth over” at all! Most days, I started my day with my cup already completely empty! And though feeling drained may feel typical for most working parents, I wish I would have been more honest and upfront with myself about my capabilities at the time to avoid such physical, mental, and spiritual burnout.
So, now that I’ve shared a little context about my experience, let’s talk more about why I decided to write a blog about this topic. I noticed that there’s a lack of conversation about the mental state of a new or (renewed) mother, especially when returning to work. Some mothers are eager and ready to return to work once their maternity leave is up while others would rather have more time with their little one(s). Either way, emotional and career support upon return to work is crucial. For many mothers, they are expected to return to work and pick up where they left off, but this should not be the expectation!
With the help of some of my momma friends and family, I have a list of six things you should consider for a more supportive and sustainable return to work.
Here are six things to consider when planning your return from maternity leave.
- Ask your employer about your short-term disability benefits. You may be able to use your short-term disability as additional time added to your initial maternity leave, which would give you more time at home with their newborn.
- Research the full benefits of FMLA for your state and what it entails in its entirety, regarding your time off, job security and pay from your employer. (FMLA requirements are different depending on the state. Therefore, you should always do your research to learn whether you are eligible for paid family leave. As of now, 11 states offer paid family leave California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Massachusetts, Maryland, New Jersey, New York, Oregon, Rhode Island, Washington, and the District of Columbia offer paid family leave).
- Ask for an onboarding experience that meets your needs. This could look like a less responsibility and duties initially or a more scaffolded plan to help you work your way back up to your full responsibilities. Most employers will be happy to have you back to put you back to work, but you are not the same person you were when you left. Your capacity and priorities have changed. Be sure to advocate for the support you and your family need before you fully return to ensure you and your employer are on the same page.
- Ask for an accommodation or different work schedule, if possible. Consider a late start or an early dismissal to allow yourself time for drop off and pick up your child without the anxiety of being late to work or late to pick up your child. This will give you more time in the mornings and evenings to better take care of your personal obligations. If you’re lucky enough, maybe you’ll even be able to work remotely if the nature of your job allows it!
- If possible, consider returning to work part-time if you and your family can sustain it. This will give you the flexibility you need to continue to be present for yourself and family.
- My favorite one is to set clear boundaries with co-workers and your employer. Be clear about what you can and cannot do. Ask for parts of your role to be removed or delegated to someone else, or perhaps, consider a different role within your organization or company that better suits your current needs. Be mindful to not over-extend yourself and/or take on things that makes your plate too heavy to sustain. This can be incredibly detrimental to your physical, spiritual, and mental health. (Take this advice from someone who found this out the hard way!)
Stay healthy, stay whole! ✨
I hope this helps the next time you or someone you know are planning a return from maternity leave – or even paternity leave!
And special thanks to my mommy friends and family who contributed their thoughts and experiences with me to share! <3