Lessons Learned During My Last Maternity Leave

Today marks my return to work following my last maternity leave. I can confidently say now that our family is complete and this is my last maternity leave. These past four months have been a gift – not simply because of the time I was given to be at home with my newborn son and his older brother but also because of the journey I’ve been on at the same time. My longer-than-usual maternity leave was anything BUT a cake walk, but it forced me to think about and ponder things that I had either been missing or avoiding for a long time and made me slow down in general. 

If you’re a fan of the Today Show, you know that Hoda Kotb returned earlier this month after a five month maternity leave following the adoption of her youngest daughter. She described her time at home with her two girls as “the best summer of her life.” When describing what it’s like coming back from maternity leave she said, “You come back better. You come back more whole. You come back ready.”  Hoda also went on to say that following her extended maternity leave, she now has a sense of calm about her that she’s never experienced before.

I echo Hoda’s sentiments as I say goodbye to my last maternity leave. I AM coming back better. I AM coming back more whole. I AM coming back ready. I am also coming back as a better version of myself than before, in part due to two key lessons I learned along the way during this special time::

How To Ask For Help

Lessons Learned During My Last Maternity Leave | Houston Moms Blog

With this pregnancy, I discovered that I was not immune to postpartum depression. Looking back, it seemed as though it snuck up on me virtually overnight. There were many days where I would cry off and on for the majority of the day and I had no idea why. The world around me seemed too much and I didn’t know what to do. Thankfully, the very tight circle of friends, family and one coworker who I told really showed up for me and helped me move through it and eventually past it. Throughout the experience though,  I finally learned how to ask for help as a mother and admit to others that I was struggling, which has always been very difficult for me to do. I also learned that I cannot and will not carry the burden of motherhood alone on my shoulders and that frankly no one expects me to. 

I will also say this…how employers help women transition into maternity leave and interact with them {or don’t} while they are out is key. Not all women who go out and have babies want complete and total detachment from their jobs. This was a significant factor {albeit not the only one} in my battle with postpartum depression. I went from being on the classic corporate America treadmill going full speed to virtually being thrown off the day I delivered my son, and the adjustment was jarring. People absolutely had the best of intentions, but the relatively short maternity leaves we get in the United States really aren’t that long in the grand scheme of things. For those of us who love what we do, the people we work with, and the satisfaction of being part of a work team – part of us feeling supported by our employer is being able to maintain some sort of connection with that part of our lives while also enjoying down time with our new babies. Now that I am back at work, my goal is to more openly talk with my coworkers about how they envision their maternity leaves and how I can best support those wishes, while also giving them a much needed break to bond with their little ones. 

How to Play the Long Game

Lessons Learned During My Last Maternity Leave

Being at home for these amazing four months of maternity leave has also taught me all about how to play the long game on behalf of my family. By “long game”, I’m referring to the things I do that add to my family’s long term goals and help set us up for success. Since expanding our family and going back to work, it’s become quite clear to me that the only way I’m going to survive this new normal is if I play the long game and give up the short game shenanigans I used to let bog me down and drain me of energy. I used to be addicted to doing a million little things that meant nothing in the long game and were actually harmful to my family’s well-being. I would recklessly overextend myself quite frequently just to keep up the charade of “being able to do it all”. But that’s different now.

Long gone are the days where I agree to a 6:30 AM work phone call with someone which requires me to barely stop the car before rushing my four and a half year old son into his classroom as soon as they open in the mornings. Long gone are the days where I make myself too accessible to everyone around me except my immediate family. From now on, if actions required of me only contribute to the short game for my family and do nothing for our long game, I’m out. People who suck the life out of me aren’t going to be folks I allow a place for in my life any longer, and roles at work that don’t allow me to balance the work I love and the family that I love even more are no longer worth it to me. Life is too short, y’all and we only get one crack at it. Period. Now I’m noticing that I frequently ask myself, “Does this move the needle for our family?” and the woman who used to have a ridiculous time saying, “No” has learned not only how to say it, but also to say it with conviction. You’d be surprised at how liberating it is – try it for yourself! 

So there you have it:: Two of the biggest lessons that came out of my last maternity leave.  Neither is overly complex or profound, but both have enabled me to return to work better, more whole, and ready for the next chapter!  For that, I consider myself very fortunate. 

P.S. – I have to share with you guys one of the best pieces of advice someone gave me about returning to work after maternity leave. She said, “Don’t ever return from maternity leave on a Monday. Your whole weekend before will be stressful and depressing and it will be the longest week of your life. Go back on a Tuesday or a Wednesday so you can have a short week and it’s not as long until you can snuggle your sweet baby again as you both adjust.” I took this advice to heart and have returned mid-week with both of my children and don’t regret it at all!  Try it if you can…


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One Response to Lessons Learned During My Last Maternity Leave

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    Dee W October 13, 2019 at 8:06 am #

    Awesome blog! I wish I would have found this weeks ago as I return to work tomorrow (a Monday 😳), but I’m going to make the most of it. I’ve done things during this leave to help with my anxiety about returning to work as a mom of two. I decluttered every room…except the playroom…and I feel like a humongous load has been lifted off my shoulders! We have to find what will make our lives easier with that transition. Donating over 40 bags of items was freeing! I just have to remind myself that if the first few weeks don’t start off smooth, that they soon will get there!

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