Returning to work is difficult for reasons you think and reasons you don’t. People tell you about the common reasons, separation anxiety, worry, longing to be back with your baby. Nobody talks about the possible hurdles you have to face due to shifting priorities.
A snippet of my story: Before the arrival of my baby, whatever needed to be done to meet the goal, I was willing to do. Work 50+ hours? Okay. Maybe sacrifice a Saturday here or there? Fine. No big deal.
Knowing what was to come, I had multiple conversations with management in an attempt to be proactive and set new expectations. I let them know that given the life change that was about to happen, I would no longer be available to work 50-60 hrs a week once my child was born. In theory, it was A-okay. In practice, it was not!
While on maternity leave, I worked DAMN hard to be able to breastfeed. Fortunately, all my hard work paid off and I was successfully able to exclusively breastfeed. I quickly realized after returning to work that pumping at the rate I needed to to maintain my supply and living up to my previous work output level (pre-baby) was not going to be doable. Something was going to have to give. Either pump less and risk sacrificing my milk supply in order to meet organization expectations -or- sacrifice work productivity, continue pumping on schedule to maintain my supply and provide adequate nourishment for my newborn. That was the decision I was faced with.
I chose the latter. As you may have guessed, my decision soon became a topic of discussion. When I presented (what I thought was) a viable solution to the issue I was shot down and not offered any alternative options. Eventually I had to make a decision. Work first or family first. I chose family first resulting in me making the difficult decision to walk away from my role.
I was fortunate to be in a position to make that decision. Everyone isn’t so fortunate.
So what do you do when you attempt to correct an issue but your solutions are not deemed viable? Do you compromise to appease the company? Possibly meaning not being able to be there for your child. Or possibly compromising your ability to provide nutritionally for your baby? Side note: Breastfed children survive solely on the nourishment provided by the mother. People say “just supplement with formula”. Yes, that’s an option. But why are women pushed, forced towards formula? Why is that the first suggestion? There has been study after study lauding, proving the benefits of breast milk. Outside of the science, formula is expensive. It can cost literal thousands which can be a tremendous financial strain. Breast milk is F-R-E-E!
Once I started sharing my story, I can’t tell you how many women told me they had to stop breastfeeding once they returned to work for one reason or another. No matter the reason, it always boiled down to time. Most women are not given the proper time needed to successfully continue producing the adequate amount of milk for their baby. There’s meetings and deadlines. This stressor, that stressor. Which all drastically and quickly impact milk production.
When women return to work they are expected to act as if this life changing, body altering, natural part of life didn’t happen. Like everything is business as usual. That sort of attitude and expectation doesn’t bode well for nursing moms. Nor does it bode well for the mom who wants to be at little league games or able to pick her child up from school. Who puts family first and in doing so implements certain boundaries that may not have existed before.
So what’s the answer? Sadly, right now, depending on where you live and your occupation. You may not have the protection of federal law which means, you’re going to have to make some tough decisions. Decide what compromises you are and are not willing to make, what your deal breakers are, and more importantly what options you have in case those deal breakers become reality.
Returning to work after giving birth is hard enough. Confronting inflexibility, unwillingness to compromise, a non supportive environment, etc. just makes things harder. Remember, you do not have to stay where you are. You are able to reposition yourself. Maybe not in a timeframe that you’d like. But, diligence, planning, consistency, and motivation will allow you to make moves that you never thought were possible.