No matter if you get 6 weeks of maternity leave or 6 months, it’s hard to go back to work. For me I had the right support, a great job, and a healthy baby. And it was still very hard. The reason why it is so hard for women to leave their children to go back to work is because of guilt. Inherent in every mother is “Mom Guilt”. Mom guilt is something that starts the second a woman pees on a stick and sees two solid lines. Instead of feeling excited about having a child, their first thought is usually about how much alcohol they drank before they knew they were pregnant . They worry their baby will have 2 heads because of the glass (or bottle) of wine they consumed two Fridays ago. They have already been hard on themselves and they have been a mom for approximately 3 minutes. And that is just the start of a condition mothers deal with for the rest of their lives. Mom Guilt.
Mom guilt pokes its ugly head in right after the baby is born. A mom will attempt to breastfeed her child and she will suddenly realize that the simple and beautiful concept of breastfeeding is actually REALLY FREAKING HARD. She will blame herself, her body, her lack of research, or her diet. The mom guilt continues a few days later when she realizes her newborn sleeps during the day and is awake all night. “I am doing something wrong my baby doesn’t sleep”. Actually you are doing something right and the moms who claim their baby slept thru the night at one week old are big fat liars. Then, the absolute peak of mom guilt occurs the second a mom steps out the front door to go back to work. She knows the baby will be in good hands and she is excited to get back to work, but for some reason she feels like an absolutely terrible person. She feels guilty for going to work to support her family. It’s asinine…but that’s mom guilt.
My mom guilt peaked when I went back to work after a 6 week maternity leave with Thomas. It was easy to be pregnant on a construction site, but it is definitely not easy being a nursing mother on a construction site. I was killing myself trying to figure out how I was going to pump breastmilk in a construction trailer full of men with no private room. How could I pack all of my pumping supplies, and the kids bags, and make myself somewhat presentable? How will I be able to travel? Charlie was never on formula – how could I do that to my sweet Thomas? How would he survive??? It sounds unreasonable that anyone would ever think like that, but that is what mom guilt does to a woman. I am a huge believer in the theory that misery loves company. My “company” at work was mostly men so the concept of pumping schedules, refrigerating breastmilk, and not being able to drink excessively is completely foreign to them. So since I didn’t have company at work to join me in my misery, I buried myself deep into the internet world which made things ten times worse. The internet is plagued with lies telling moms that their baby will be a future criminal if they are on formula and chances of them being a criminal are tripled if she had a can of Diet Coke when she was pregnant. I was searching for one mom out there to tell me my baby wouldn’t suffer for my selfishness, but the more I read the more I consumed myself with guilt.
My husband was the one that convinced me to stop the mom guilt madness and make the switch to formula. So I finally did and I never looked back. Thomas is almost 2 now and he is just as healthy as his sister. It took me having two babies and a supportive husband to realize that I am a much better mom when I control my mom guilt. It’s ok to have guilt as long as that guilt doesn’t overtake your ability to be a healthy and happy mother. Women will never be able to get rid of the overwhelming need to take care of others, but we can’t take care of others unless we take care of ourselves first. So whether you go back to work in a construction hat like I did, or if your work is taking care of your children at home, do whatever you need to do to take care of yourself. Your health and happiness has more of an impact on your child than a years worth of pumped breastmilk.