I noticed a lot of hype the past few years at New Year’s time around choosing a “word of the year”. In theory this is to help you not just set a resolution you may or may not keep, but to define your intention for the next 12 months. I admit I have no idea how long this practice of choosing a word has been a thing, but I’ve heard about it enough holiday seasons for me to pay attention to it. In 2015, I decided to give it a whirl – and non-artistic me even did a so-called vision board (see photo) to capture it.
The word I chose back then was “real” – and I shared it here on the Mindful Return blog not only to hold myself accountable, but because I think it’s a good word for new mamas to think about as they plan for and go through the period of returning to work. There are a number of ways the word “real” speaks to me – and here’s why I think it’s a great word for working mamas:
- Yes, these amazing things in your life ARE real, mama.
You created a new life. You gave birth or are about to. You’ve gone to school, have experience under your belt, and have a career. That baby’s gurgle. Her laugh. His soft skin. Your colleague with kids who just gets it and tells you not to worry about work, when you leave early to pick up your sick baby from daycare. These wonderful things – this abudance – IS real. Let’s take the time, each day, to think about, celebrate, and be grateful for these dreams come true.
- Reality check, mama! Are the things you’re fearing based in reality? Are your expectations for yourself realistic?
There are plenty of fears I had upon having a baby and returning to work – indeed, upon becoming a working mother, period – that simply ended up bearing no relationship to reality. Fears that somehow people were viewing me as less of an employee, because I took time out of my day to pump. That I’d never be able to survive on such little sleep. That he’d never figure out how to drink from a bottle. That my bond with baby would somehow be diminished by having him in daycare. That I couldn’t be a leader in my workplace with small kids at home.
Guess what, new mamas – with the benefit of hindsight, I see that NONE of those fears was based in reality. My colleagues still view me as diligent. I haven’t died from exhaustion (yet!). He did figure out the bottle (at daycare). My bonds with both babies are incredibly strong and healthy. And I wasted plenty of time worrying about these things. This year, I commit to trying to reality check myself more often.
Also, I’ve learned that a good question to ask myself is: are my expectations realistic? I definitely have a tendency to overestimate what I can accomplish in a given day (or a given hour!). Whether it’s at work or at home, I seem to have this idea that I can get a million and one things done in a very short amount of time. And then I get disappointed when I don’t get through my list. This year, I’m going to continue to dream big – but to live each day with a little more of a realistic expectation of what can happen in small chunks of time.
- Be the realest version of yourself you can be.
It’s not all rosy, the going-back-to-work with a newborn, thing. In fact, some days, it’s downright awful. Getting out of a funk, however, usually requires acknowledging that you’re in a funk in the first place. If you’re overwhelmed, admit that to yourself and to those you trust. There are times for putting on a happy face, but that can’t be all the time. Whether you’re elated or weeping, feeling the most loved you’ve ever felt or lonely, take the time to feel that. Acknowledge that as a real feeling. And move through it. This year, as working mamas, let’s committing to being as real and authentic as we can be – both with ourselves and with those around us