Moms have so much on their plate postpartum, but there isn’t much discussion about what is considered the “fifth trimester.” Some moms are able to stay home with their children, and others even have jobs where they work from home. However, there are many more mothers who eventually have to leave their children in the care of someone else while they go back to their jobs.
I have always enjoyed working and consider myself career-driven. The thought of wanting to stay home with my son after having him had never crossed my mind. That is until I actually had him. During those snuggle sessions I would constantly ask myself, How can I ever go back to work? I spent months dreading my eventual return to work, every day telling my husband I would much rather stay home and raise him myself.
We are not alone
As I lamented about this to one of my best friends, a full-time working mom with two boys, she recommended I read the book “The Fifth Trimester: The Working Mom’s Guide to Style, Sanity, and Big Success After Baby” by Lauren Smith Brody. Reading this book, I have realized I am not alone. Apparently many other women go through this phase where they cannot fathom leaving their baby. For many new moms, work seems meaningless and mundane when compared with the quality time spent with this new life you brought into the world.
One issue I have realized after having a child is that moms are always putting their children first. Their wants and needs are the most important, so the thought of leaving them to go do something else seems trivial at the time. However, now that I have been back at work for a period of time, I realize that many of the tips and suggestions in the book are actually true. Here are just a few of my key takeaways:
- If possible, extend your maternity leave. This was crucial for me, and my husband and I saved up knowing I was going to take an unpaid leave from work. If you are able to do this, I cannot recommend it enough. It not only allows you more time to heal after childbirth (physically, emotionally, mentally), but you get to spend more time bonding with your child and embracing your new role as a mom. This time goes by so quickly, and you’ll never look back on it and regret spending extra time with your newborn.
- Start planning childcare in advance until you find the perfect fit. I really like the daycare we are using and I can tell my son is happy there. This is extremely helpful to me because when I’m at work, that is what I am focused on. I’m not worried about him throughout the day. This is a huge positive because I don’t feel the need to check on him and can be more mentally present while at work.
- Prepare for each day as much as you can ahead of time. The mornings can be crazy and rushed, so try to do as much as you can the night before. This can include showering at night, packing a pumping bag, laying out clothes, and preparing bottles and lunches. I also found it helpful to start working on our morning routine the week before I went back to work. Meal prepping on Sundays is another saving grace that allows me to survive weekdays.
- Determine the best ways your partner can contribute so things are split 50/50. As moms, sometimes it feels like we have an overwhelming amount of responsibility. However, we have to let our spouses contribute more — both with the children and daily tasks. My husband and I have always called ourselves a team because we work together. Not only does this make things less stressful, but it sets a good example for our children. It’s an important conversation to have to decide who will take on which tasks.
- Don’t forget to take care of yourself. You can’t be the best version of yourself and a great mom if you completely lose yourself. Find small ways to give yourself some me-time, as well as continue to do things you love. For me, I still exercise almost every day because it’s something I have always done. Some days I’m able to do it by myself, and others I take my son running with me in his stroller. Find what works best for you.
This will not last forever
Returning to work has helped remind me that before having a baby, I was my own independent person. I still am my own person, and not everything has to revolve around my son 24/7. The biggest takeaway from both this book and my experience going back to work is that this transitional time is only temporary. On the hardest days, remind yourself that this will not last forever. You will establish a routine, and things will get easier.
And don’t ever forget, you’re not in this alone mama. There are so many of us going through this transition; let’s rise up and cheer each other on.