Returning from Maternity Leave in the Midst of a Pandemic

“I’ll see you all in 12 weeks!”

I began my maternity leave in early February rather confident that my team would hold down the fort, as I entered motherhood for the first time. I wasn’t nervous about stepping away from my job for three months – I was excited to start my journey in a new role I felt I was destined for! I felt lucky to have reliable teammates, a supportive executive team, and the security that my job would be there when I returned. The nervousness was mostly due to the impending lack of sleep, the “I don’t have any idea what I’m doing – where’s the manual for raising a human?” feeling, and all the other concerns that consume your mind as a first time mom. Not to mention that the tiniest person I have ever seen was literally depending on me for everything.

Fast-forward a month later, and the news was getting scary. We had entered a global pandemic and soon, the rest of the world would be quarantining with me. Unlike others, boredom was not a concern of mine.

As scary as the world was, I knew I had to prepare for my return to work in PR. I wondered what challenges my teammates were facing as they navigated a new normal across our clients’ industries. Everything was changing. Would the changes be temporary? Permanent? Would my job be completely different? These were all the questions I could have been asking myself while on leave. Could being the optimal word. Honestly, I tried really hard to focus on making memories with our little one, while I had the time.

Before I knew it, it was my first day back.

You know what’s weird? Returning to work as a new mom – remotely from my kitchen – while your baby screams throughout your conference calls. Three things to focus on here:

#1: Thank God for the mute button.

#2: Thank God my husband and I could tag team acclimating to a new meaning of work-life balance.

#3: Thank God I work at a company that is easygoing, flexible, and understanding.

I think that last bullet point was the one that kept me sane: I knew that every parent working from home was experiencing a similar situation. It was all so very new to me, but I had to come to terms with the fact that this too shall pass. My conference calls wouldn’t be interrupted by spit up and blowouts forever! (Hey, there’s no sugarcoating motherhood.)

There are only so many times you can go for a walk, play in the sit-and-spin, and listen to Mozart’s concertos while simultaneously giving 100% to your full-time job. I was logging back on at night to finish my work to make up for the 58,495 interruptions during the day, before embarking on a night of minimal sleep as we entered that fun four-month sleep regression phase. After many weeks, we decided something had to give.

My husband and I made the tough decision to send our newborn to daycare. At this point, we knew that the facility was taking every precaution to keep everyone safe, and the effects of COVID-19 would ebb and flow for the foreseeable future. It was a difficult choice to make, but it was important that our son continued his development around mini humans like him, and that he received the attention he needed throughout the day.

Yes, these times are hard. Yes, as I reentered my career with fresh eyes as a new mom, family time is now the most important thing to me. It’s a juggling act that I am getting the hang of, while counting my blessings. I keep in mind that our work-from-home policy is allowing me to savor those special moments that I wouldn’t otherwise get to experience while trapped in traffic on I-40. Through the unprecedented ups and downs, this wild ride has taught me it’s all about perspective. And right now, my bottle is half full.