“To teach is to learn,” the proverb goes. And though I did the back-to-work-after maternity-leave thing two times myself, I am always picking up new tips, tricks, and ideas from other mamas who have done it too. In January, I had the privilege of guiding 31 amazing mamas through an e-course on how to go back to work after maternity leave in a calm and empowered way, and WOW did I learn from them. During our 4 weeks together in a virtual community, these expectant and new mamas opened their hearts, asked fantastic questions, and made me believe anew in the power of online connections.
Here are a few of the amazing things they taught me:
1. We all cry before we go back to work. Whether we’ve taken 6 weeks off or 6 months, whether we’re entrusting our little ones to a family member, a nanny, an au pair, or a daycare, those weeks, days, and hours leading up to our return choke (most of) us up. Bring tears to our eyes. And make us hug our babies tighter. Is it a sign we aren’t supposed to go back? Nope. Is it a sign of weakness? Or lack of professional commitment? Nope and nope again. It’s just part of being a completely normal, living, breathing, human being. Who happens to have turned her body and soul upside down to bring great love and new life into the world.
2. We are much harder on ourselves than almost anyone else is. I don’t want to diminish the prejudices that exist in workplaces against working moms – they exist to be sure. AND we discovered together in the course that we tend to build up so much guilt over things that don’t even seem to matter to other people. Take baby sick days, for example. We may terrorize ourselves trying to stay on top of work and worrying what our colleagues will think of our absence. But guess what: we noticed in the course that most people we work with treat the situation as no big deal. People get sick.
3. We have so much to be proud of. We’ve given speeches to audiences of thousands; grown and led teams; helped neighbors; risked everything; survived pregnancy and other losses; learned to pump in crazy places; and given birth to human beings. To each woman in the course, I simply wanted to say: WOW.
4. New mamas are awake (and online) at all crazy hours of the day and night. More than one mama posted in the course while breastfeeding at 3am. How amazing is it that we have the technology to connect with one another in the wee hours, when we may need connection the most?
5. Our babies all come home smelling like their caretakers. I discovered that some mamas love this; some don’t care one way or the other; and some downright hate it. Good to know it’s a universal phenomenon, though.
6. We each have unique needs – and some of these are being met by really inspiring women and companies. For women who need to drive and pump at the same time, for example, did you know about the Freemie? And for new moms in the military, did you know about the Breastfeeding in Combat Boots program? I love that women in all sectors are getting inventive to help one another through their new mama struggles.
7. Precut veggies aren’t cheating. Whatever makes life easier can be worth it. Enough said.
I was truly awed and inspired by the thoughtfulness and openness of the women in the January course. They shared experiences, advice, feelings, and support. By far, though, the best thing about our time together was that we all walked away feeling, well, completely normal.
Want to add a confidence-boost to your return to work after maternity leave? Check out the Mindful Return E-Course here. New sessions start soon.