I’d always known that I wanted to be a career-woman. I loved everything about the idea – the office, the power-suits and the sleek heels. But I also wanted to be a wife and mother. I just never knew how those two worlds were supposed to collide successfully. In my head, I was supposed to be like Sandra Bullock in the Proposal – quick, decisive and super fashionable. But once I became pregnant that all went out the window.
For starters, I really struggled with being pregnant at work. I mean, yeah – being super nauseous really sucked. “Yes, this is our strategy for the…[gag] next fiscal year… [gag] and I think… [gag] excuse me one moment”… [vomits in trash can.]
But once I started showing, I was uncomfortable being visibly pregnant at the office. To me, it somehow shouted that I was a FEMALE. I wasn’t just a corporate player – it was now blatantly obvious to the WHOLE world I was also someone’s wife and soon-to-be mother. [Except for the last few weeks of pregnancy when I wanted EVERY.LAST.SOUL to know I was REALLY.FREAKING.PREGNANT. I played the pregnancy card at that point because I earned it.]
Fast forward three months later and I was back at work after a glorious 12 weeks at home with my sweet baby boy. Maternity leave rocked, but I was excited to return to my job and start to feel a bit more like myself. The only problem – I didn’t really know who I was as a working mom yet. I had this cute squishy little boy attached to my TaTas 24/7. I had been well acquainted with the “new mom” me, but the other “career” me had been on the back burner for a little while.
In the weeks leading up to my return, I had a lot of questions swimming around in my head. [What was I supposed to be at work? Do I talk about kids? If I bring him up immediately does that make me sound weak? If I cry at work on the first day is anyone going to take me seriously? Will people notice that I’m still chubby?]
My first day back I acted completely calm and put together. But in reality, my boobs were leaking and I was a big pile of human emotion. It felt great to be back at the office – I could take pee breaks whenever I wanted – but I wasn’t prepared for the balancing act of pumping between meetings and eating a sandwich with two apparatuses attached to the “twins”. It was also pretty trippy hearing male co-workers have a conversation outside the Mother’s Room when I’m in there just doin’ my thang.
Needless to say – there was definitely an adjustment period when I returned to work. For a while, I really struggled to find my new “authentic” self. I loved being a new mom and I loved my job, but before kids I always had a separate work and social “persona” and the two had come to a head and I had to find a way to be the same authentic person both at home and at the office.
How did I accomplish this? For starters, I leaned on other moms. They helped me through the adjustment period. I wasn’t the only one who struggled with this and they coached me along the way. These same moms gave me some great advice: Don’t apologize. Like, ever. I stopped apologizing for coming back from maternity leave a different person. I birthed a human being. Of COURSE I’m going to come back a changed person. Becoming a mom changes your freaking.soul.forever. Anyone who says differently is lying. So I stopped apologizing for that and embrace it.
Once I came to terms with the fact that I wasn’t the same person who left the office at 9 months pregnant, things didn’t necessarily get easier, but my self-acceptance did. I stopped trying to be the perfect employee I was before, and I decided it was enough for me to still be a great employee and being an amazing mom is far more important.
I still love work and I love kicking butt at the office. But I also loving coming home at the end of a hard day and letting it all melt away when I wrap my arms around my sweet boy. I still struggle some days with this “working mom” identity, but I’m getting more comfortable in my new skin, because I know above all, what’s best for me and my family is that my son has a mom who is confident and has an authentic sense-of- self.