While perusing the internet today, I came across the article The Fifth Trimester: When New Moms Return to Work and was immediately intrigued. In my last blog, 6 Tips for The Fourth Trimester , I wrote about some personal tips that helped me during those precious first few months of motherhood. Now that I’ve been back at work for six months after my second baby was born, I’m ready to share my struggles and successes in this fifth trimester.
Whether you stay home with your little ones or go back to work is such a complicated, personal decision. With both of my kids, after about two months, I headed back to work as an elementary school teacher. I give so much credit to moms who choose to stay home. Honestly, after two months, I was ready for some adult conversations. I also was ready to eat my lunch with two hands and while it was still hot! The thing that I was most excited about… going to the bathroom with the door closed! I knew that I would miss my little ones, but I also knew they would be loved and cared for by a trusted caregiver while I was away.
Since going back to work, I have certainly had my ups and downs. On my good days, I feel like Super Mom. I pump plenty of milk for my baby during the day, while I am also helping tiny kindergartners learn how to get along and make sense of the world around them. I get to have adult conversations with my colleagues at work, and then also get the best gifts when I get home from work. The gift of coming home to an eager child ready to tell me all about his day, and a smiling baby who gets excited the minute I walk through the door. On nice days, I’m able to come home, nurse my baby and take the kids for a walk to the park. I feel successful at work, and I’m able to really value the quality time I spend with my kids each evening.
While there are my Super Mom days, there are also the rough days when I feel like I’m not able to give 100% to either my job as a teacher or my job as a mom. I’m so tired from being up all night that I struggle to focus during meetings. I often go to work with spit up on my shirt, because I don’t have time to change before walking out the door. There are days I realize that I’ve left my pump at home and try hand expressing for the first time all the while thinking, “Did I make the right choice to return to my job?” There are afternoons that I get home to crash on the couch, but I can’t…there are lunch boxes to be emptied, pump parts and bottles to be washed, a baby to be nursed, and a toddler who just wants to play with his mommy. Bedtime seems to drag on forever those days. When I finally lay down in bed, I can’t sleep because it’s the first time all day that I’ve had to think. I am exhausted. I think about the emails I need to write and my lesson plans for tomorrow. I think about the mountain of laundry in the corner of the room. Then my mind drifts to my kids and what milestones I am missing. Will I be there when they roll over, crawl, take their first steps? Those are the days I feel I can’t continue on as a working mom, but then I look over at my little sleeping baby next to me and smile. I smile because I know he’ll be waking up a few times tonight, and I’m okay with that because the nighttime wake ups are our special time to bond together.
The thing that has helped me the most through my fifth trimester are other moms! On the weekends, I’m tempted to just stay at home and relax from a long work week, but I feel rejuvenated when I get out and get together with other moms. Talking to other moms helps me realize that I’m not alone. Those little things that may have seemed incredibly stressful at the time, actually end up being pretty funny stories when I look back. We can laugh at those times together. I started to run the Saturday playgroups at Women’s Wellness of New Jersey. This is an opportunity for moms to have the chance to get out and talk to each other, while their kids are having a great time playing with other children. We say these playdates are for the kids, but everyone really knows that playgroups are really a time for the all the mommies to connect, laugh and work through the stages of parenting. At the times of motherhood where it seems my life is an endless cycle of going to work, doing laundry, and changing diapers, I get a notification on Facebook that it’s time for another Women’s Wellness Mom’s Night Out. I put on a nice shirt (well at least one without baby spit up on it), say goodbye to my kids, good luck to my husband, and spend a couple of hours being just me: not mommy-me and not teacher-me but just me. This night allows me to talk both with working moms and stay-at-home moms. I realize that no matter what our situation, we are all feeling the same things. We all have good days and bad days, successes and challenges, and we all constantly ask ourselves, “Am I the best mother I can be for my children?”
I’ve come to the realization that, by just asking that simple question, the answer is “Yes”. We are all doing the best we can. Day in and day out. So even on those days when I am struggling to balance it all or have to leave my kids crying as I get in the car to go work, I can remind myself that “Yes!” I am the best mother my kids will ever have!