Separating from our little ones – whether for one hour or for many – is a process full of emotion. Particularly if we’ve been working remotely and now need to make the transition back to an office, separation anxiety and guilt can hit hard. In short, separating is tough!
I remember the day I dropped my oldest son at daycare for the first time. It was before my own return to work, and it was part of a transition week for him. That first day, he was only slated to stay for 2 hours, and I still felt like my heart was being wrenched from my body. I dropped him off. Came home and cried my eyes out. Pumped. And then went back to pick him up. He was completely fine, and separating was much harder on me that it was on him. I became fine over time.
As my kids got older, their separation anxiety waxed and waned. When they were toddlers, we came up with a tradition called “hug, kiss, push,” where the kids were allowed to give us one last squeezy hug, one last squeezy kiss, and a push out the door. It always cracked them up and got us physically disconnected from one another.
This week, I’m excited to introduce to you an incredibly sweet new children’s book, Wherever You’ll Be, that can help you and your child prepare for the transition to separating. Please welcome to the Mindful Return blog this new book’s author, Ariella Prince Guttman. I interviewed her both about her working parent experience and her journey to becoming a children’s book author.
Mindful Return: Ariella, welcome to the Mindful Return blog! Can you tell us a little about your own working parent story, please?
Ariella: The day I returned to work after spending every day with my daughter was exciting but certainly an adjustment. I had a new, long commute. And because I typically left before she woke up, I enjoyed video chatting with her on my walk from the train to say good morning. Luckily, my daughter went to sleep on the later side. So, I was able to be there for her bedtime routine, and I cherished that sweet time together.
Mindful Return: This is your debut picture book. What type of work did you do before becoming a children’s book author?
Ariella: I worked in television and was a producer/booker for NBC, where I worked on a variety of segments and booked guests for the network. I love storytelling, the excitement of TV, and bringing people together through news and entertainment.
Mindful Return: What first gave you the inspiration to write a children’s book?
Ariella: Going back to work after the birth of my daughter was very emotional, so I put my feelings down and wrote her a letter on my phone. It helped me cope with missing her, and I wanted to write something that she’d be able to read when she got older. As I wrote it, I realized it sounded like a poem. And it rhymed like one of the books we would read together. I figured if I was experiencing these new emotions, others might be too. And perhaps they would relate to my story.
Mindful Return: What has the experience of writing and publishing a children’s book been like for you?
Ariella: It’s been so wonderful – seeing my words appear on a page alongside the sweetest illustrations by Genevieve Godbout has been a dream come true. I’m so lucky I’ll get to share it with my children. The process has been great, with guidance from my thoughtful editor and the whole team at PRH and Flamingo. I can’t wait to share it with fellow parents.
Mindful Return: Who do you hope your book will most help, given its focus on separating from your children?
Ariella: I hope that it provides some comfort for parents who miss their kids. I also hope it helps children understand that no matter the distance, a parent’s love is always there.
Mindful Return: What’s your #1 piece of advice to new parents who are separating from their kids either to head back to work after parental leave or are return to an office after COVID?
Ariella: Remember to cherish the time that you are together, because it goes by fast! When you are apart and missing each other, every minute that passes means you are one minute closer to being together. And for returning after parental leave, if you’re able to, try and return mid-week to ease into it!
Mindful Return: What’s your #1 piece of advice to someone who would like to publish a children’s book?
Ariella: If you have an idea that provides comfort or helps you or your child, you’re probably not alone and others will find it helpful. See if there’s an audience and an untapped topic that your book can speak to!
Mindful Return: What resources (podcasts, books, blogs, etc.) have helped you most as a working mom?
Ariella: One resource that has been helpful is a group chat with other moms in my community who have a child the same age. It’s been great for advice and getting to know more moms in my town. I also really enjoy Katherine Schwarzenegger’s Instagram series BDA (Before, During, & After) Baby, and Kristen Bell’s Momsplaining. And I follow Tamari Jacob, who offers great pumping tips for working moms. Sometimes a funny post on social media or relatable moments in an episode of Workin’ Moms reminds me I’m not alone. A little laughter helps too!
Mindful Return: Any parting thoughts for the Mindful Return audience?
Ariella: Balancing being a working parent and that transition can be challenging. But try to hold on to some positive highlights and integrate them into your new schedule. Perhaps it’s reading a book together, even by video if needed. Or maybe it’s doing something special just the two of you on the weekends. Being creative can offer something special together in the new routine.
Ariella Prince Guttman’s inspiration for Wherever You’ll Be is based on her experience going back to work after the birth of her daughter. Ariella most recently worked at NBC’s Today Show for 10 years. She lives on Long Island, New York, with her husband and two children. This is her first picture book.
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