Guest post written by Brand Ambassador: Ariel Del Toro
As a new mother, I felt like I now see the world through a new and unfamiliar lens. I have always considered myself to be confident, but there are few things that will humble you quicker than having a newborn. I used to pride myself in controlling my emotions. After having my son, I cried every day.
I was scared to drive my car. Worst case scenarios somehow seemed practical in every sense, and I truly believed they were going to happen.
Postpartum depression is real, and mine took shape in the form of anxiety. I was fortunate to have my family rally around me, and to really pour into me. I was able to shake my baby blues, and begin to understand my postpartum depression by being open and talking about what I was experiencing.
And as it goes, just when I was getting the hang of it, my parental leave came to an end, my vacation hours ran out, and unpaid leave just wouldn’t cut it.
Suddenly, I was expected to return to work, to be fully invested, and to enter a new, unfamiliar role, all while being present mentally.
The pressure felt immense, and the stress felt like two tons weighing on my shoulders. How could I possibly juggle my new role as a mother, my role as a wife, my postpartum, and work? I knew the only way to figure it out was to walk into the fire and learn as I went.
Thankfully, I have found a groove, and couldn’t be more proud of the wife, mother, and employee I am. I have come up with five tips I feel have contributed to my transition from being home with the baby to working my regular 10 hour shifts.
1. Don't Put Pressure On Yourself to Solely Breastfeed
I would have been mortified hearing myself say this before I had returned to work. I had this idea that I would breastfeed for a full year, and that it would somehow be a walk in the park for me.
Breastfeeding is hard work, and I commend every mother out there. Whether you last one day, or a few years ~ there is something to say about women, and how amazing our bodies are.
I put a lot of pressure on myself, and set a lot of expectations when it came to breastfeeding. I believed when I returned to work, I would be able to continue easily.
However, I endured a few bouts of mastitis, and my supply just wasn’t great. I cried at the thought of introducing formula, because I felt like there was something wrong with me for not being able to produce for my baby. But I recognized his health was far more important than my ego.
I began to supplement with formula, and it was the best thing for my mental health. It allowed me to take unreasonable stress off of my shoulders, and it was less stressful for me at work. I did not have to worry if I had enough milk stored at home, or if I was pumping enough. Most importantly, my son was getting enough food. A fed baby is the best baby. Whatever that looks like for you, meet yourself there.
2. Find Time to Work Out
Some days I run, some days I lift, some days I walk on the treadmill and stretch. I show up for me.
I know working out gives me time to focus on me and my mental health. It is about so much more than “bouncing back.” It allows me to do something healthy for me. I want to be a mother who is able to get on the ground and play, or run and jump with my son without feeling concerned that I'll hurt myself.
Additionally, working out allows me to process the stressors in my life. As mothers, we give and give and give, without taking or doing anything for ourselves.
If there is anything we should be selfish about, it should be a little bit of time to care for our bodies. Taking time for yourself, and focusing on strengthening and loving your own body will help you process the stress you may not realize from work, home, being a mother, or being a wife. Some of my most enjoyable workouts are when my son is in his bouncer, trying to copy the exercises I am doing.
3. Meal Prep for the Week, and Take the Whole Time Allotted for Your Lunch Break
I am still learning to balance a full day of work and coming home to clean a little, cook a little, all while hoping to get more than just bath time and bed time with my son.
I have found that overnight crockpot meals save me time, and they taste great. Pinterest has a lot of great recipes. I also took the pressure off myself to make big meals. The pre-made Costco meals are really helpful, and are delicious. The portions are large, and they last a few days.
When I eat my lunch, I call my mother in law to check in on how the baby is doing. I even go through my camera roll and find myself watching videos and looking at pictures I had taken the day before. Take your lunch break, walk away from the computer screen, call a loved one, call the babysitter, or just enjoy the silence. But don’t feel the need to jump in to work, and to be so “go go go.” Take some time for you.
4. Make a Routine, and Stick To It
I am someone who thrives off of structure, and I know I can be better for others when I plan out my day and have a predictable schedule.
My average day looks like this: workout, work, get home to my baby and husband, spend quality time with them (walk, cuddles, cook, clean), eat dinner, get the baby in the bath, and then get him down for bed.
Have you ever heard the analogy of the individual spinning plates? Each time something new gets asked of that person, they have to try to figure out how to spin another plate. That’s what it feels like to be a mom who's back at work. It's easier to have a predictable schedule so you can capitalize on the amount of time you have, and be fully present and to minimize all of the plates you have to spin.
5. Remember, You Are Replaceable at Work, But You Are Not Replaceable at Home
Go to work and be the best version of yourself. If that version is not who you were before having your baby, that's fine. If that version has one foot out the door because you miss your baby, that is understandable.
We go to work to help provide for our families. We do not work so that it can control our lives. Your family should always take precedence over your work. I truly believe you are just a number to your employer. But to your little one, you are everything.
If you need to take time off, then do it. If you need to go in late, then go in late. If you would rather be a stay at home mom, then do it! Being a stay at home mom is a full time job itself.
At the end of the day, you know what is right for you, and what is right for your family. Do not let societal expectations or pressure get to you.
We work to live ~ we don't live to work. Be the best mama you can be, and know you are doing so great. This whole motherhood thing can be so tough, but it is the best job I have ever had!