OK, I will admit it—I was unprepared for the challenges of being a working mom. I knew I wanted to—or had to—go back to work after my first was born, but for some reason, I didn’t think it was going to be difficult.
I didn’t think about what sending a child to day care meant. I didn’t imagine the feeling of impending doom caused by leaving my baby in the care of someone else. I didn’t think that the competitive day care market in my small city meant that I would be shopping for child care before giving birth. I didn’t know what it would be like to manage being a working mom with sleepless nights. And these are just the some of the early joys of being a postpartum working mom that I knew nothing of.
I had no clue that I would be joining an exclusive club of one in my workplace, which was made up almost entirely of guys and post-menopausal women. I had no clue about how all of things that I thought were personal and left at home could affect my work life.
No, that paper sign crookedly taped to my door that says “Knock, please” doesn’t mean “Knock, then open.” It means: I have a breast pump attached to my boob, and I’m trying to quietly pump quickly before my breast explodes in here.
No, I don’t want to sit in on that conference call. I want to sit at my desk and look at photos of my baby and check my day care’s status updates on Facebook.
No, I’m not crying at my desk. I would never cry at work—at least I didn’t think so.
No, I’m not wearing an extra-padded bra. Those are breast pads. And by mid-morning, I could take out a saturated one and throw it to you across the desk with enough milk in it for your coffee break. So stop staring at them.
No, I don’t want to take that extra job assignment on the road today. Even though I’m at work, I’m still expressing milk every few hours. Hauling around my breast pump machine and trying to find a clean gas station bathroom where I can use it somehow doesn’t seem sanitary.
No, I can’t use my breast pump in my car. Unfortunately it cannot be powered by the cigarette lighter. Believe me, I tried.
Yes, I feel like crying when I get another extra assignment. I don’t just feel like crying—I am crying.
Yes, when you tell me I have to stay a few minutes extra, I freak out a little inside. Paying a dollar for each minute I’m late for day care pick-up doesn’t equal the pay I’m making for the extra time I’m staying.
Yes, I know that my pants are looking a little shorter on me and the buttons of my shirt are a little tighter. Everything is fitting differently than it did before baby, and I don’t have the time or energy to shop.
Yes, I know that my baby is refusing the bottle.
Yes, I know that she is extremely fussy as she waits for me to get off work so she can feed. Please don’t kick me out of day care.
Yes, I know I should be eating healthy, but I’m too tired to rush to the grocery store with my baby after work. Can we just order takeout again tonight?
Yes, I know you aren’t supposed to rock your baby to sleep every single night. I can’t handle letting her cry it out because I am so tired.
Yes I know that this too shall pass. But it doesn’t make today or tomorrow any easier.
So tomorrow, I will get up again and get ready for work, head out the door, and drop the baby at day care. And as I start my commute to my office, I will try to focus on just how lucky I am to have the choices that I have. And I will be sure to find the nearest Starbucks for a very large caffeinated drink to get me through the day.