Going Back to Work

November 9, 2020, Hailey Cain

The question of the right time to return to the workforce after having a baby is one which most parents will face at some point.

First, I am incredibly grateful to be able to choose when I’m ready to return. In the past few months I started to think I might be ready to go back to work, but I had some concerns.  My biggest concern was being away from Delilah. I didn’t know how she was going to react to being away from me or if I could handle being away from her. I was also concerned about scheduling and figuring out who was going to watch Delilah. Along with scheduling, I was also worried about how working was going to impact my pumping schedule. Even with these concerns I still wanted to try going back to work.

During my pregnancy I was racing to finish my associate degree and wasn’t working much. My plan for after Delilah’s birth was to find work as an assistant in a preschool classroom, which is in my field of study. But what I ended up doing was finding part time work in retail, and not because of a lack of open classroom positions. As I applied for jobs and thought about working full-time in a classroom, I realized I wasn’t ready for something like that. I just couldn’t imagine being away from Delilah for 8 hours a day, plus a commute. It was also hard to think about spending all day with other people’s children while being away from my own. Realistically, I know that I could work through it if my family needed the financial help, but since I had a little flexibility, I didn’t want to make things any harder on Delilah.

I chose a part time job in retail for the same reasons most of my friends have complained about working in retail, which were short shifts and fewer hours. For my personal situation, a job where I was working 4 to 5-hour shifts was ideal because I wouldn’t be away from Delilah all day and I wouldn’t have the stress of pumping at work. I know that people pump at work all the time, but breastfeeding and pumping has been such a constant stress to me that I just didn’t want to have to figure out how to do it at work.

Another reason part time work was more appealing to me was that I would have freedom to make changes if things weren’t working out. If things really weren’t working out with childcare or sharing a vehicle with Joshua and I decided to leave my job, I wouldn’t be quitting on my career.

While I haven’t been working very long I am incredibly happy with my job. Going back to work has been really good for me in ways I didn’t really expect. For me, going back to work has almost been like self-care. I was getting so wrapped up in what I wanted to accomplish at home and with Delilah that I was practically a walking stress bomb about to explode. My job gives me an outlet where I can leave that stress at the door and shift my focus in a completely different direction.

I’ve also noticed that going back to work has made the time I do spend with Delilah each day a little happier. Previously, I was Delilah’s primary caregiver because Joshua is a full-time student, with both in-person and online classes. While I’m far from going it alone there were a lot of days when trying to do it all would get to me. I was getting burnt out and on days when Delilah was fussy or fighting a nap, I would carry that frustration with me even after she calmed down or fell asleep. Being able to be away from the house for a short time breaks up the day. I’m able to enjoy every minute I have with her before work and excited for every minute after work. Every day I look forward to seeing her smile and light up when she realizes I’m home.

The most challenging part of choosing part-time work, especially in retail, is inconsistent shifts. An ever-changing schedule can be extremely challenging when trying to find childcare. To be honest it would probably be impossible if I didn’t have family to watch her. Since Joshua is taking most of his classes online, working shorter shifts has actually been ideal for us to split up our parental responsibilities. When I’m working, he’s able to be home with Delilah and the shorter shifts still leaves him plenty of time to get his school work done.

The most challenging days are when my work schedule conflicts with Joshua’s in-person classes. But it’s only twice a week and my mom can also able to help with Delilah. The difficult part is timing and sharing a vehicle. There are days when I’m dropped off early so Joshua could make it to class and times when he has extra time after class because my shift went later than his class.

Even though we all had to adjust to the change, I think this has been good for Delilah, too. Before I started working, she was beginning to go through what I refer to as a, “Mom phase”, meaning she wanted me constantly. It was even to the point where she would start fussing if I left her with Joshua in the living room while I quickly made a bottle. I hoped the changes would help this situation.  Although we since realized that part of the fussing was because she’s working on her third tooth, I think spending some time away from me is good for her, too. I want her to be comfortable with other family members caring for her and I also want her to be able to find comfort in them when she’s upset. It’s hard for me because I want to always be there to comfort her when she’s upset, but helping her to know that other family members care for her creates a strong support network for her as she gets older.