"You're Returning to Work, Early?"

Author: Weiting Bollu | August 2022

When I started thinking about going back to work, it was about 60 days post-partum for me. That's basically 2 months.

For some context, I have 4 months of maternity leave from Assurance IQ (the company I work for). In grand total, the Ontario/Canadian government allows about 18 months split between the caregivers.

Everyone around me asks: "Do you have maternity leave?"

To that, I'd answer: "Yes, I am."

Then, they'd ask "So when do you return back to work?"

I'd say: "I have 4 months off, though I'm thinking about going back to work earlier. We'll see."

They'd say something along the lines of: "Only 4 months?"

I'd say: "Right now, it feels enough. In fact, I'm thinking about returning back to work a month early."

They'd say: "What?! You're returning to work, EARLY? Why would you do that? Are you sure?"

I want to break down my line of thinking so mothers who are considering going back early don't feel as if they are the only one thinking about it.

The premise of this article is to answer: I know I can take a longer, but do I want to?

#1: I chose to exclusively pump breastmilk.

Very early on, I made the decision to do exclusive pumping of breastmilk to feed Kian with. (Read Breastmilk - breast feeding, or exclusive pumping, or both?)

I spent a lot of money to purchase the pumping parts, a lot of effort to practice learning how to pump without pain, and a lot of time doing the actual pumping.

I am so good at it now, I feel I have got it down to a science. I am just kidding!

I'm really fortunate that my body can produce enough milk to be pumped every few hours throughout the day. I also produce enough for me to freeze >300mL (or >10 oz) each day. My freezer is about to run out of space!

In saying so, I prepared enough milk for the day my body starts producing less. Those days could come when I return back to work. It could be due to stress or not pumping as often anymore. I'm ready.

#2: I have a tremendous amount of support.

My two main sources of my help are: 1) Vishal and 2) My mother.

As a life partner, Vishal is extremely involved. From feeding the pumped breastmilk to changing diapers to 'tummy-time' practices to walks around the block to swaddling for bedtime, Vishal's learned it and done it.

My mother is a Doula. She takes care of post-partum mothers and newborn babies, professionally. For families who hire doulas or nannies, it could cost thousands of dollars a month. Right now, my mom has chosen to spend time with us! Seriously, what more can I ask for?

Because of their support, I had a quick and smooth recovery. That's both physically, mentally, and emotionally.

In a 24 hour day, of course I have responsibilities and I make sure I take ownership of them. With that help that I get to make sure Kian is safe and healthy, I feel extremely comfortable going back to work.

#3: I want to stimulate the brain more by solving hard problems.

I was reading the Cribsheet by Emily Oster. Emily said that 4 hours a day with their kids was enough for her. The first hour is extremely entertaining, second hour is still pretty fun, third hour becomes a little draining, and by the fourth hour she's had enough for the day.

It's not to say that she doesn't love her kids. She totally does! It's that she wanted to spend the other time ensuring she's doing things that stimulate her brain. And that is exactly me too.

Prior to giving birth to Kian, I would say I hustled hard. If I wasn't working a 9-5, I was volunteering or learning or trying new ventures. While pregnant, I scaled back a little bit. During post-partum recovery, I pivoted to more low impact activities such as reading, writing, and exercising.

I must admit, some days I found myself scrolling through social media and thinking, "this stuff is total rubbish!" That's when I had to physically stop myself from scrolling to do something more productive.

Right now, I still feel that priorities changed a little bit. Though, it doesn't change that I want to continue to solve hard problems like I did before. I've tested the waters by jumping into a few meetings outside of work, went to some networking events or gatherings, and pushed myself slowly to work on passion projects.

#4: I work from home.

Being fortunate enough to work-from-home (WFH) is absolutely beautiful. My day can begin at 7AM or 10AM or 12PM depending on what needs to be tended to both at home and at work.

In addition, I can take time off when I need it off. Of course, this comes with great responsibility. This option allows me to run errands when businesses are only open during the day, or to personally take Kian to appointments.

That is extremely valuable for me.

If Kian has active mornings, you bet I'll be there.

If Kian needs a diaper change that I can do throughout the day, I'm going to do it.

If work calls for a later evening meeting, I'll be there.

If work calls for some international travels, I'll try my best to arrange for it.

The hard part is the balance to ensure I don't miss the best moments of Kian's development nor do I miss the most important work developments is going to take time to achieve.

I know there will be times I might not do so well in the mother department or in the colleague department. I'm going to try and I will ask for help where I need it most.

The thing is, people will make new moms feel inadequate because of a whole slew of reasons.

Moms are judged if we choose to return back to work early.

Moms are judged if we choose to stay at home all the time.

Moms are judged if we fight for what they want.

Moms are judged if we parent a different way.

Moms feel the guilt because we feel the imposter syndrome - all the time.

There is no winning in this society. Overall, life is short so we need to do what we feel is best for us.

The choices I make is dependent on my life's circumstance. I'm very privileged to be in the position I'm in and to be able to make choices like going back to work, early. I know that not everyone has the same opportunities I have.

To each mom out there, you do you.

For me, that's starting work 2.5 months post-partum.