For Karen*, 31, an archivist in Kansas City, MO, time management is the name of the game. At work, she handles sensitive documents and extremely exacting requests, and has to track her activities in six-minute increments (can you even?!). If her twice-daily pumping sessions exceed 15 minutes of break time, she has to start using her personal leave. Needless to say, she’s got her schedule down. We, on the other hand, are exhausted after reading it.
Knowing that my boobs and pumping shape a lot of my work life, my work apparel is whatever is quick to put on, doesn’t get in the way when pumping, and is easy when it comes to laundry. I cram so much into the morning and evening, I often prioritize other things over showering. I was low maintenance pre-baby, but if it is at all possible, I am even more so now.
I let the dog in and get him set for the day, pack up baby, and get our seemingly endless number of bags loaded in the car; Jake comes down and we all leave together. We live in the suburbs, but both work downtown, so we’ve got a commute, which we do together to save money on gas and parking. It’s also our time to talk about work, friends, life, or just be in the same place together, even if no one is talking. This takes the pressure off one of us to do all the drop-offs and pick-ups.
Often, Ben's at daycare 9.5 to 10.5 hours during the day. We pay $273 a week with an annual $100 fee to keep our spot. This happens to be the most expensive location in our area (which we aren’t super pumped about), but we both feel confident about our kid's safety and well-being there — you cannot put a price on having a sense of trust in your child’s daycare.
Pre-baby, I was a go-getter who took it all on, put up with anything, and sometimes struggled with work-life balance. I am still a leader in the office, but now I say 'no.'
I’ve noticed an interesting shift in myself since returning to work. Pre-baby, I was a go-getter who took it all on, put up with anything and everything, and sometimes struggled with work-life balance. I am still a leader in the office, but now I say “no” and set limits; I produce at high rates, but won’t give up time with baby to make that happen; and have a much easier time managing others and providing feedback without taking it to heart. My sense of self isn’t so heavily based on my role in the office now. My role as a mom has placed home life and happiness outside of work at a much higher priority level.
I have to be on and focused from when the alarm sounds to when baby finally goes to sleep.
After pumping, it’s back to my email, voicemail, faxes (yep, we still use those), and I reassess my strategy for the afternoon.
I feel torn about sending him to daycare. I think he is well cared for, learning and experiencing lots, and is enjoying his little daycare buddies. I just hate having him spend so much of his day away from my husband and me. He’s often wiped at the end of the day and falls asleep in the car, which makes it even more tough, because neither of us feels like we are getting quality time with him. At home, we almost immediately dive into his nighttime routine. I also got spoiled with five-and-a-half months of maternity leave, so I got a taste of the ups and downs of being home with baby all day, every day. I loved my time with him and wouldn’t have traded it for anything. Having had that time, though, it makes me want more.
You have to look big picture and try your best. Know that your baby is okay and you are okay.
Breast-feeding has dictated a good portion of our scheduling, because I have to allow extra time to get baby fed and situated before I can address myself for the day. The original plan when I returned to work after maternity leave was that Jake would take care of our dog in the morning, but that slowly shifted to me and has just kind of stuck. I tend to be more detail-oriented, so I’ve defaulted into the position of organizer for getting us out the door.
I do wish he’d get up in the morning and help instead of sleeping for an extra hour while I scramble around. He is an amazing husband and father (I can’t say enough about how impressed and proud I am that he’s ours — he carries the load in so many areas), but in the morning, I just look at him with disdain and think, Get up! Get UP! GET UP!
Finish this sentence: I absolutely can’t do it without...
Vegging out in front of the TV at some point during the day. I just need a little time to not be in charge of anyone and not have to think about ANYTHING. There isn’t much right now that I do truly for myself, but I do try to make sure I get time to wind down, sneak chocolate from my secret stash, or wander Target for an hour or so when I just need to get away from home.
What do working moms NEED to know?
There is no preparing for the pressures of being a mom of an infant and an employee. There is no way to accurately describe it in words. It can be a tough transition, but you have to look big picture and try your best. Know that your baby is okay and you are okay.
Also, for breast-feeding moms, pumping sucks. It just does. BUT you can do it. You’ll stress about how much you are pumping, how much you need to be pumping, how long you need to pump in one day, how much you need to pump in one week, how long you’ll pump before weaning, and on, and on, and on. It’s okay. Just focus on what you can control and find sources of support in your work and home life.
I feel like I’ve always had a positive body image, but I hate the way clothes fit me now. I haven’t settled into my post-baby style and nothing EVER fits right. Ever. I’ve been the exact same weight since a week after Ben was born (which is actually less than pre-baby), but my body is a different shape every few weeks — everything just keeps shifting around!
What postpartum symptoms have you had to deal with?
Honestly, the worst thing post-delivery was the weeks of sore legs. I was apparently holding my knees up with Hulk strength! I had a last-minute epidural to buy some time, because I was delivering five weeks early out of town and my husband was flooring it across the state to be there in time. The epidural was our last-ditch effort to halt the baby, by easing my desire to push. It worked! The epidural was amazing, but I had ZERO gauge on how hard I was holding onto my legs during delivery — and boy, did they ache afterwards.
When did you first have sex after childbirth and what is intimacy like for you now?
We waited for seven to eight weeks before having sex. My husband was extremely turned on by seeing me as a new mom, so our level of intimacy during the no-sex period was actually higher than it had been for...years! We were much more physical during that time than we are even now. I wanted to wait until after I went to my six-week appointment to confirm everything was healing correctly and had been on birth control again for at least a week before we even considered doing anything down there. Our sex life hasn’t actually changed too much since pre-kid, but it is significantly quieter. DO NOT WAKE THE BABY!
Ed. note: If you're wondering if the time limitation on Karen's pumping breaks is legal, it is. The U.S. Department of Labor only specifies that employees should be granted "a reasonable amount of break time" in which to pump. "Reasonable," of course, being subjective. And Karen lives in Missouri, a state that specifies in its laws about breast-feeding in public that it should be done "with discretion." It's no wonder this kind of thing is still happening.
*Names have been changed.