Brain, Child’s Pep Talk for Moms Returning to Work

by Monica on January 19, 2010

Share Button

coverBrain ChildFor obvious reasons, I don’t intend to share all the details about my process of going back to work on API Speaks. I have wrestled with the choice to work or not work since my first baby was born over three years ago. I always knew that I wanted to be home with my babies; and I always knew that I found personal fulfillment in work and would like to continue in some capacity. I opted for consulting part-time from home with the intention of eventually going back to work full-time when the timing felt right.  A solid dose of economic pressure combined with a bit of SAHM burn-out has helped me determine the time is now.

Yes, I’m nervous about the time lost with my girls while they are little, about finding childcare I can trust and making sure my girls remain securely attached.  And I choose to believe we will find loving care and that I can nurture our bonds with continued nursing and co-sleeping and my loving attention when I’m home.

After I’m hired, I’d like to share a post with tips on how to put your best foot forward to successfully make the transition from proud Stay At Home Mom to shining employee in the job of your choice.

While I’m still somewhere in between those two realities at the moment, I am generally excited when something crosses my path that I think will guide me through this significant life change. I saw the latest issue of Brain, Child — a magazine I like for its thought-provoking content and delightfully cerebral reflections on motherhood — and the headline, “Mama Wants a Brand-New Job” popped out at me like a neon sign.

“Sweet,” I thought. “Maybe they’ve got some great pointers in here for me,” so I immediately tossed it into the grocery cart for future reading.

I didn’t really pay attention to the sub-heading until I got home and was able to read it eight hours later when all was finally quiet on the Cravotta front. “Opting in during a recession,” it read.

A little depressing, but I was still hopeful for the “How to Opt In” pep talk.

Yeah, not so much.

The article itself was extremely well-written, well-researched, and provocative in its analysis of a woman’s choice to stay home and the recessionary push that has many women currently returning to work.  I remain a fan of this publication and its smart writers, including the author of this piece, Katy Read.

And, I’m now trying to figure out how to train my brain to reflect upon the article briefly here and then send all that I read into some hidden corner of my frontal lobe where I can’t access it again. It was one of the more depressing articles I’ve read in a long time.

The story leads with one mother’s back-to-work success story and quickly declines into one bleak vignette after another, replete with a solid collection of evidence to reinforce just how dismal it is for moms returning to work.

The top doozer:

“Even in the best of times, re-entry in the job market can be tough for mothers who have been home for a while. Experts say they already face various stigmas and assumptions, from ageism to the suspicion that they’re not sufficiently committed, dependable, ambitious or capable.  In a 2007 study by psychologists at Northwestern, Princeton and Lawrence Universities, researchers measuring public perceptions of different groups found that ‘housewives’ were perceived to be approximately as competent as elderly and mentally retarded people.”

WOW.  Not really the inspiring insights I was looking for!

The in-depth article closes with a story about a fast-track executive mom who was previously making $90K and now, after sending out 250 resumes and only securing a handful of interviews, is considering applying for retail jobs at the local mall.

On one hand, I concede with the picture that Read paints in this article. She is not the only one writing depressing stories about the economy.  Reality is reality and I’m not about to deny that we’re living through a serious economic recession that is impacting families everywhere.

My concern is that the pervasive doom-and-gloom story lines can become part of the collective consciousness and only serve to perpetuate the gloom.

Rather than use the extremely limited free time I have filling my brain with messages that say what I seek is incredibly difficult, if not impossible, to achieve, I choose to focus my mind and my energy on what is possible and make it so. I am a firm believer that what we think and believe is what we experience. What we appreciate, appreciates.

When you focus on “what is” – whatever that is, you get more of it.  The simple Law of Attraction.

I appreciate Oprah’s perspective on the Law of Attraction during her interview with Larry King.  She contends that the Law of Attraction isn’t the only law out there. We are certainly dealing with a lot more than that in our world. But whatever the circumstance, I too believe you can change your reality simply by changing what you choose to focus on.

In Read’s defense, she includes a personal note at the end of her article in which she offers her own desire to have shared a more optimistic view and the fact that she remains inspired by people who turn tough times into opportunities. She is a talented, accomplished writer who deserves the steady pay-check she seeks.

I would love to hear other back-to-work success stories. How did you maintain your AP practices?  How was your transition? What did you find helpful for you and your family?

I wish all Stay At Home Mama’s the absolute best in their chosen path, whether it is to mother full-time, to be a part-time “WAHM” or to go back to work full-time.  I believe attachment parenting is fully possible with any of these paths.

Monica Cravotta blogs at Attachment Mama.com. She is also a musician and is currently working on an album of children’s music with eight other singer-songwriters in Austin, Texas due for release on Mother’s Day.  All profits for the album to benefit the Mother’s Milk Bank.

Share Button
Monica (3 Posts)


{ 18 comments… read them below or add one }

Joanna Pelc January 19, 2010 at 5:47 am

Hi
I have just returned back to work after a year off to look after my new baby. He is now 11 months old. I also have a three year old, which whom I also stayed home for the first 11 months.

I am extremely positive about working and love going to work. I think the time and space to persue my own interests for a long stretch at a time (as opposed to 5-10 minute stretches!) is wonderful and can only make me a better mother when I am back home with my children.

That being said, I am in a very fortunate situation.

Firstly, my boss is a wonderful person who provides me with eternal flexibility. She also values my work.

Secondly, even though I am working because I need the money, I also really enjoy my work, which is in the area of my chosen career. So I don’t dread turning up…

Thirdly, my children are cared for my my mother and my partner (they take turns) so I don’t have to worry about them at all. I know they are well looked after and with people who love them just as much as I do.

Fourthly – I only work 2 day per week, so I don’t feel like I am missing out on time with my children at all. It is just enough to have a nice break and appreciate them all the more when I get home.

So – for me – work is great, but more importantly, my children are also happy. They love spending time and attaching to their grandma and dad when they are with them one-on-one. The more love in their lives the better. They happily wave me off when I head off for work.

I think we all win!

Reply

Monica January 19, 2010 at 7:49 pm

It sounds like you have a fortunate situation indeed! How nice to have the best of all worlds with part-time work and your children cared for by family members you trust. Definitely a win-win for everyone in your family!

Reply

Paige January 19, 2010 at 7:04 am

I am a wohm and the sole income for my family. Like the previous commenter I *have* to work but I also love what I do. I work full time but telecommute 1 day per week (I think this is a great family- friendly practice).

Attachment parenting has made going back to work bearable for me. I miss my daughter during the day (while also being so thankful she’s with her dad) but I get the most precious bonding time at night thanks to cosleeping and reverse cycling. Many resources on reverse cycling focus on how to discourage if or *cope*; I find that quiet time in the middle of the night when she cuddles up to me to nurse to be such a beautiful recharging time for my mommy batteries.

Reply

Monica January 19, 2010 at 7:53 pm

That is very encouraging Paige – thank you! And I learned a new term from you with “reverse cycling”. I imagine my baby will do the same.

Reply

mollie January 19, 2010 at 11:35 am

My MIL was in your position over 15 years ago. her children were in high school, and she finally decided to go back to work. TRW (now northrop gruman) had an absolutely wonderful program for women who decide to go back to work. They even trained her (sent her to UCLA extension courses) and gave her a pretty good salary with great benefits.

I would like to go back to school and start working as a Japanese – English translator. I hope to embrace AP themes, especially striving for balance in life.

Reply

Monica January 19, 2010 at 7:54 pm

Mollie – thanks for your comments! I love hearing about companies that encourage and support women coming back to work. A friend told me there is a new trend similar to internships, called “Returnships” to aid in the transition. I need to look it up….though I have my eye on one company in particular here in Austin that I’d love to work for.

Reply

Bernadette Noll January 19, 2010 at 11:50 am

I think you should definitely put that story into the unreachable crevices of your mind for those tales of woe are not yours. I think connection with others is the key to good employment and if you work those connections I imagine you can find what you’ll need. And for sure, if you start with an AP approach, you will continue your connection with your children for now and for their whole lives long. It’s not something you can just turn off. And it’s not purely physical either. Part of AP is the emotional connection and you’ve got that one big time.

Reply

Monica January 19, 2010 at 8:02 pm

Bernadette – pleasure to see you here. Thank you for reading my article. You’re amazing and I love your perspective on AP not being purely physical. So true. And I think my cup will be filled in a way that will really serve my girls in the way we connect when we’re together. I’ve got my resume in for a job that I’d really like and have two solid connections and recommendations. So I’m quite hopeful — as you say, that’s how good employment happens for sure. And if not this position, I will keep on keepin’ on! :)

Reply

Rachel January 19, 2010 at 2:02 pm

I had planned to stay home til DS was 2. Got the (unpaid) leave from my job but our family’s financial circumstances changed and I went back when DS was 16 months. The only thing that made that possible for me was that my employer allowed me to work 2 days as 4 half days so I could continue to nurse DS down for his nap, and that he stays with my husband/his dad while I’m at work (interestingly my husband has since found a job where he works the opposite of what I do, so he works 4 afternoons a week and all day friday). This has really improved their relationship and my husband’s confidence at looking after DS. Now that he’s 20 months, we are able to share tips/techniques on how best to deal with DS’s tantrums.

Although at the time I enjoyed the stimulation of a job I love, the adult company, the break from DS, the extra responsibilty and the possibility of drinking a hot coffee and going to the toilet on my own, 5 months down the track I am having trouble staying motivated at the office and dread Monday mornings. The work is really interesting but I want to be at home with my little boy. Work will always be there but he will only be little once. But I am an older mum with a permanent, well-paid, satisfying, permanent job as a lawyer with a flexible employer and the right to plenty of leave (I live in Australia where this is fairly standard) so although I have no intention of quitting, nor do I ever have to worry about not being able to find work.

I suspect my lack of motivation also has a lot to do with that fact that I am currently 22 wks pregnat with our second and therefore counting down the days til I’ll be a SAHM again.

Reply

Monica January 19, 2010 at 8:05 pm

I totally respect your desire to be home with your little angel and relate completely. It sounds like you have excellent job security and great support for maternity leave. When will the U.S. get with the picture there? I am also reading from Amber that women receive a year maternity leave in Canada?!! Fantastic!

Reply

Amber January 19, 2010 at 2:53 pm

I returned to work when my first child was 1-year-old. The transition was initially difficult but also brief, within a few weeks we were all well-settled. Once I was in the groove, I enjoyed work. It was almost like time off from parenting. I enjoy parenting immensely, but having some time when I could eat (whatever I wanted!) with two hands was restorative.

A few things eased my transition to work. We started daycare several weeks before my return, which allowed me to focus on getting my daughter well-settled so that I was confident with my arrangement by my own return to work. It meant that I could focus on one thing at a time. Having access to the excellent year-long maternity leave we receive in Canada was also helpful, because it meant that I was able to continue breastfeeding while we were together without having to pump, once my supply adjusted within a couple of weeks. And finally, negotiating a flexible part-time schedule gave me a good balance of work and family time.

Best wishes to you!

Reply

Monica January 19, 2010 at 8:48 pm

Thank you Amber! I’m still marveling at your year-long maternity leave. So wonderful. It sounds like you’ve got a great arrangement and handled your transition back to work beautifully!

Reply

Stephanie January 20, 2010 at 2:26 am

What timing for this article. I have been home for almost 2 full years now. My job holds a place for me for the first 2 years, but after that I am no longer guaranteed a position and would have to jump through all the hoops to apply for one in the future. This week, I got The Letter requesting that I state my intent (whether to return to work or to permanently leave) and I just don’t know what to do. I feel fortunate that I am not financially constrained to return to work (my spouse doesn’t earn a gigantic salary, but we have been able to live within our means – plus the cost of daycare for 2 kids would all but obliterate my own salary). But losing that safety net of a ready job position is kind of frightening. I don’t feel “done” being home yet – I feel like I’m only just starting to get my groove on – but there is that nagging, practical voice that says 2 years is plenty and maybe I should just take that safe bet of a job after all. I don’t know what I’m going to write in that letter!

Reply

Monica January 21, 2010 at 8:33 pm

Stephanie -
That’s amazing that your job holds a place for you for 2 years. I can totally understand the pressure you may feel to hold on to that security. And I also know that life has a way of taking you in unexpected directions and in letting go of that particular job/company to extend your time home with your kids may result in a job down the road that you like even better. Who knows right? Nice that you don’t *have* to work which gives you some breathing room. Good luck to you!

Reply

Brooke January 20, 2010 at 12:27 pm

I returned to the workforce this past October after staying home for six months with my first (only) baby. I quit my pre-baby job in order to seek part-time employment, but couldn’t find anything (even as a licensed social worker) that could contribute enough to my family’s income needs. I was ridiculously lucky to get hooked up with my dream job in a totally different field by a friend of mine. Currently I am a temp, but I expect to be hired on permanently in the near future.
AP has most certainly helped with this transition back to work. We went from co-sleeping a little to mostly co-sleeping, which has helped maintain my milk supply, helped my baby get more mama-love, and helped us get a bit more sleep. We love the daycare she’s in, and it’s close to my office, so I can see her on my lunch break sometimes. My husband is off work on Tuesdays, so she gets a full day of daddy-only-time, and he brings her up to have lunch with me at my office. We co-nap on the weekends, and I respect her need to be carried around a lot (despite her speed-crawling abilities) whenever we are together.
My concern, which I realize is a bit premature, is what will happen if/when we have another baby. The organization where I work is immensely competitive in terms of getting hired, and there’s not anywhere else locally that I think I’d be happy enough working to counterbalance the fact that I’m away from my baby (another big reason I quit my former job). So I can’t imagine being able to stay home more than the standard 12 weeks. I do think it will be easier the next time around, because I really felt like I was learning how to take care of a baby this first time, and I’ll have the experience to lean on. But it will definitely be sad, I think, not to be able to give baby #2 the six months I was able to devote to my daughter.
That said, good luck with your job hunt, and I hope you find a job that you like enough to make it bearable to be away from your children.

Reply

Keri January 20, 2010 at 10:25 pm

I work as an adjunct lecturer at a university near my home. I do my own scheduling: 3 to 4 classes, 2 nights a week. This way I can be home with my kids during the day and my husband can be with them when I go to work. It works out really well for us. The irony is that some semesters I make more money than my husband does at his 9 to 5, 5 days a week job! I highly recommend seeking out this type of job if you want to stay home with your kids. =)

Reply

G January 21, 2010 at 8:55 pm

I have an 8 mo old son and went back to work when he was 3 months old. The transition went much better than I had thought. We don’t live near family and my husband works full time, so we had to put B in daycare. We opted for a home daycare with 5 other kids and it has been the biggest blessing. Rather than being in an institution with rules and schedules, our daycare provider is focused more on responding to each child’s needs. She is a former breastfeeding and cloth diapering mom, so she has been very supportive of those choices. I know that B doesn’t get held as much as he would at home, but it’s the closest we can come to recreating AP outside of the home. It feels more like he has a surrogate mother and 4 part-time siblings.

The key to our transition was identifying what our most important AP practices were and focusing on finding childcare that would mimic those. For us that meant focusing on a non-schedule emphasis environment that would focus more on being responsive to his cues. When he started, she let him nap when he was tired and fed him when he was hungry. Around 5-6 months, he settled into a predicable routine, but she didn’t push it.

Honestly, going back to work has made me a better AP. I think more about what is really important, but I also have time to feel personally fulfilled at work. I feel like my husband and I have another team member that is constantly trying to figure out what is best for our son. When we hit a rough patch with nursing or sleeping , etc we have another “parent” who is part of the conversation. We ultimately decide what is best, but I’m blessed that she thinks about how to use daycare to further our relationship (i.e. he’s acting a little hungry, but I rocked him (20 minutes) until you got here so you didn’t have to pump again”).

Reply

Marcela January 23, 2010 at 9:23 am

Hi Monica,
Returning to work can be very hard at first. I remember those first days, feeling my milk let down and not having a baby to put to my breast but a big plastic pump. I felt guilty at first, and sad, but I quickly learned that going to work didn’t mean I wasn’t there for my family.
Being an attached mama helps so much. The first thing I do when I get home is get in our big bed, with my 18 month old and 9 year old. I breastfeed my little one while my oldest tells me about what he did while I was away.
We also read books during that time, and sometimes we can’t wait to get in bed to see what is going to happen next!

I take advantage of the time I have with them.

I can’t blog as much, or sometimes forget to return a phone call, and maybe serve leftovers way too much during the week ( :

but I do get to love on my kids and my husband while I am at home, and really treasure those moments.

We make and eat dinner together as a family, and we get in lots of family time there. Someone cutting veggies, someone getting the utensils together, someone serving drinks while wearing baby on their back ( :

On my days off we like to take walks as a family. My husband and I also take time out to snuggle while watching our favorite show. Having a good relationship with your husband makes all the difference in raising a well balanced family.

I think I might have gone on and on a bit too much. What I’m trying to say is that your family won’t be sacrificed by you going to work if you all work as a team and dedicate time for each other.

Good luck! You are a great mama!

Reply

Leave a Comment

{ 1 trackback }

Previous post:

Next post: