No one quite tells you how to prepare for the conflicting emotions you will oscillate between towards the end of your maternity leave. Dread and excitement, joy and apprehension, guilt and confidence. The weeks that roll into months caring for your newborn baby — learning and unlearning countless things — start to feel like a blur by now. You tell yourself you’ve got this, as you slowly begin to arrange your desk, dust your weary laptop, stack up your notebooks. You want to get back to the grind and you also want to be the best mother to your little one. You want to straddle two lives like a superwoman you’ve been told you are — a job that demands your full focus and a baby that needs your undivided attention. You don’t want to let slip your identity as a career-driven, independent woman and neither do you feel ready to hand over your baby to someone else.
So, here I am, a pandemic mom to a 5-month old baby girl in a country that I’ve begun to call home. I am a content manager at SingSaver, Hyphen Group, and I am back to work after a hazy, hard, and fulfilling maternity leave. The last few months let me and my husband grow into our roles as new parents, even as we watched our daughter’s changing features and phases, her tears, her first chuckle, her first roll-over. The beginning of many milestones to come.
And now, all of a sudden, my daughter won’t be the only one keeping me on my toes.
It’s been a strange couple of years with the pandemic leaving most of us stranded in as much a geographical location as in a state of mind. The proverbial ‘village’ that would otherwise help raise your child is in isolation in a COVID-stricken world. Looking back, though, I am filled with gratitude. Gratitude for an organisation that became my support system in the absence of my family. It is a privilege to have empathetic employers. As I write this, I know how fortunate I am to have leaders, peers and teammates-turned-friends who have unflinchingly stepped forward to ask the one simple question that matters the most:
“What can we do for you?”
I realise that there’s a lot I can do for myself as well. Working efficiently is half the job done and that means I have to get my new mom ‘get organised’ zeal into work. Here are some routines I started adopting and could be proven useful for any new mom or parent:
01. I start with a to-do list for both work and my baby first thing in the morning, and I get a lot of work out of the day before the team logs in.
02. As hard as it is, at times, compartmentalising helps. When I’m in a meeting, I’m fully engaged and, when I’m working, I’m focused on completing the deck or the spreadsheet at hand. This works the other way round too. When I’m playing with my baby, I’m trying not to think about the email that I have yet to send.
03. If you’re nursing, it’s best to talk to your manager or HR, and take scheduled breaks for pumping and feeding. Normalise vocalising things you need from the workplace to feel supported. Blocking off Google calendar with these breaks not only helps me feel less stressed, but it also helps me manage my time better.
04. Make Google calendar your best friend. If your team depends on you for sign-offs, set up recurring approval blocks and finish going through their work within that time.
05. Prioritising has never felt more necessary and your baby is your biggest priority. Getting childcare support is 100% recommended. Take it from me. I wouldn’t get to be a ‘supermom’ if not for my supportive husband (who also, fortunately, has a longer parental leave) or my wonderful helper.
06. Finally, drown your ‘mom guilt’ (it’s very, very real) in copious amounts of tea.
I’m equal parts afraid and excited to be back at work. I know that nothing about being a working mom is going to be easy. But I’m grateful for Hyphen Group, and especially my SingSaver fam, knowing that they are ever-ready to make my days a little less tough.