May 17, 2012

Surviving Back to Work

Tomorrow marks the end of my fifth week back at work. I’ve been back to work five weeks. FIVE WEEKS! As fast as that year off passed, I’m pretty certain the past month plus passed faster. I feels like just yesterday was April 16 and I was putting on my “sitting shoes” (you ladies know what I’m talking about, the pretty, high heeled shoes you wear only for sitting, because walking anywhere further than a photo copier or water cooler would be stupid and painful and stupid… )
Practical? No. Pretty? Most definitely!

But I digress... it feels just yesterday that I was putting those shoes on for the first time in about a year and heading out the door into a brand new world, the world of the working mom. It feels like I blinked and I was back at it more than a month. Here’s how I survived.
I mentally prepared myself. I told everyone I was ready, looking forward to going back. And I was, it just helped to be saying that out loud over and over every time someone asked. You say it and it becomes true. Even when there’s a shadow of a doubt, it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. I am fortunate to like what I do for a living, to like where I work, and to be surrounded by colleagues who are of the same mind, generally speaking. I also like to think about things other than diapers and bibs, to challenge my mind. While I loved being off, I was looking forward to the change. And just saying it out loud to family and friends reinforced that for me so that when a moment of doubt came creeping in, I was able to kick it back out and say it to myself.
I found awesome care arrangements. I realize many people struggle with care arrangements, so I count my blessings that my best friend was able to take Hudson P for us. Having him in a home where I am confident he is picked up when crying, fed when hungry, changed when wet, cuddled when sleepy, and just loved all day made that transition back to work significantly easier on my heart and my mind. I urge every momma out there to try to do the same. Look early, plan accordingly. I know actual daycare places are hard to come by, particularly for babies under two, and that they generally cost an arm and a leg. I also know it would be hard to leave HP with a stranger in their home. But taking the time to find that place, that environment, that person that makes your heart simply feel right is key.
I planned the transition. As a general rule, I like to feel like I’ve got a handle on things, which naturally makes me a planner. Heading back to work was no different. I planned Hudson’s transition into care. He and I went by for a couple of play dates/visits in the weeks leading up to my return date. I also made sure to plan a solo visit for him, where I could stay for a bit and then leave (with an appointment at the hair salon, so I wasn’t tempted to go back early!). That helped me feel confident he knew the environment where he’d be spending his days. I also planned meals. I stocked the freezer with some soups, chili, and casseroles in lunch and supper sized portions, along with muffins for breakfasts, and sweets for evening treats. Knowing that meals were taken care of after long days or during morning rushes was key those first couple of weeks.

Crawling around at Aunt Sandy's - enjoying the new toys!
I went with flow. Not my forte (at least in my personal life!) let me tell ya, but I decided to go with it. If I've been running late for work, I took a deep breath and just worked through lunch or late on the other end to make up for it. If the furniture was dusty, I took a deep breath and closed my eyes (to wit, I dusted on Wednesday for the first time in five weeks, I probably shouldn't admit that, but it's true). If that laundry didn’t get done til the weekend, I took a deep breath and remembered we all have more than enough clothes to wear. As a result, I have a growing pile of wrinkly clean clothes on the ironing board, fingerprints all over the front of the flat screen and fridge, and a happy me. I focus on making sure everything looks tidy and that the floor is swept, and I’m all good. Seriously, just go with the flow.
And, before I knew it, five weeks have come and gone and we’re no worse for the wear. There were no tears on the first day back, for me or HP. Hudson has adjusted well to his new situation, loves seeing his little buddies in the morning and his ‘rents in the evening. We’ve not starved to death. We’re all in clean clothes (even if a little wrinkly). I’ve managed to keep up with race training and groceries, but maybe not all the housekeeping. And it’s all ok. We’re just getting into a new rhythm at the Ryan household. Some days it’s more of a dance than we’ve been used to, but it’s a rhythm we can groove to for the long haul.

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