The day is too short to fit everything in. I don’t have enough money. My kids are growing up too fast. We don’t get to spend enough time together. My house is never clean. There aren’t enough exciting projects for me at work. I don’t get any time alone.
We’ve all had these thoughts about the state of our working mama days, haven’t we?
If you’ve been reading this blog a while, you know I can’t pass up an opportunity to be the lawyer and pull out my dictionary. And if I’m planning to pontificate today about meaty words like “scarcity” and “abundance,” then back to Merriam-Webster I go:
Scarcity: the state of being in short supply; dearth.
Abundance: a very large quantity of something; an ample quantity; profusion.
Let’s take another look at that first paragraph. Every single one of those sentences is written from a place of scarcity. Of not-enoughness. There’s a short supply of time and money. There’s a dearth of interesting work.
“But these things are TRUE!” you’ll argue with me. And to that, I’ll say, “of course they are, mama.” And then I’ll ask, “but what else is also true?”
I often get asked what some of the biggest struggles are that new working mamas face in heading back to work after maternity leave. And one that is always tops the list is having enough time in the evenings with their little ones. Bedtime is so early that first year of life. And there’s often little space between the end of a work day and baby’s lights out.
There are ways to make physical changes to this situation, of course. Whether by negotiating flexibility with your employer to adjust working hours, if possible. Or by adjusting baby’s bedtime by a bit.
And there are ways to make mental shifts that can be equally powerful.
Imagine yourself thinking the following two thoughts, and pay attention to how your body feels when you think each of them:
- “My baby is only awake for an hour when I get home, if I’m lucky. I don’t get to see her all day, then I get home at night, and it’s already her bedtime. It’s just not fair.”
- “When I get home from work tonight, I can snuggle my baby for as long as I want. I can watch him sleep in my arms, or in his crib. And I can touch the soft skin on his forehead. I can give him as many kisses as my heart desires.”
Okay, so both statements are true. But which one feels better (in your body!) when you read it?
Which leaves you feeling sad and anxious? Perhaps when you read it, your thoughts even spiral out of control to some overwhelming guilt about how this short hour together is going to affect the well-being of your child for the rest of his life?! (Been there. Thought that…)
Contrast that with the other statement. Does it soften you? Bring a smile to your face? Reduce your anxiety, and help you relax into the world and its abundance?
One of the biggest revelations I had as an overwhelmed new working parent was that viewing the world through a lens of scarcity or one of abundance was a choice.
No, I didn’t buy the idea initially. My obligations didn’t go away. My days didn’t get any longer. But wow did the pressure of my to-do list lift. And my days started feeling more replete with extra time when I shifted my thinking.
I don’t know about you, but if the circumstances are the same either way, I’d much prefer to think about them in a way that makes me feel better.
The words we choose – both when we speak and when we think – really, really matter. A few years ago, I got on the #banbusy bandwagon, and gave up using the word “busy” as a descriptor for the state of my life. Now, if someone asks how I’m doing and things are flying in all directions, I intentionally pause and say “my life is full, and good, and full!” I don’t feel whatever “busy” feels like, because I don’t use that word to describe myself anymore.
Vocabulary matters. The direction we send our thoughts matters. Reminding yourself that you are enough matters.
So for now, mama, remember that you can, indeed, give your baby as many kisses as your heart desires. There is such abundance and beauty in that knowledge, no? I’m pretty sure it won’t be true when he’s a teenager, at least while he’s awake! But for now, it’s as true as the sun’s rising every morning.
If you need more help getting your head in a better place to return to work after maternity leave, join us for the next session of Mindful Return.
Want more practical tips on working parenthood? Check out my book, Back to Work After Baby: How to Plan and Navigate a Mindful Return from Maternity Leave.