Going back to work after a new child is born can seem like juggling a ton of responsibilities, in too little time. Jersey City Mom Alyssa Birkhofer shares her personal experience and words of wisdom having just made the transition from maternity leave back to the office.
About the author: Alyssa Birkhofer is a new mom to her baby boy Cameron, dog mom to her mini goldendoodle Molly, and long time resident of Hoboken/Jersey City. She’s a healthcare public relations specialist in NYC by day, gym rat by night, and a forever Huskies fan/UCONN graduate. Follow Alyssa on IG: @AlyssaBleiHoff
It’s hard to believe I’ve been back to work full-time for over two months now. In just two months I’ve already done: three client events, a few new business pitches, and an overnight business trip. All while my husband has been in crunch mode working late and taking business trips, too. And then there’s just the "regular" work days.
These days I’m up a few times throughout the night to move Cameron from belly to back, or to find the pacifier he’s so upset over (of course, it's fallen behind the crib.) By 5am, there’s no going back to bed. My husband and I have a good team routine for the morning but it is non-stop. Between getting ourselves ready and the baby ready for the day - it's a lot... and don’t forget about feeding and walking the dog!
At the office, I am literally getting as much done as humanly possible. That way, I can run out the door in hopes of not being the last one to pick up my child from daycare. Then it's time to bathe and feed him, have some sort of time to hug, and read a book all before his bed time. But the evening doesn’t end there – then we must walk the dog, wash bottles, make formula, make dinner, prep for daycare tomorrow, and probably do laundry. When all is said and done, it’s 10pm and I just want to sit.
Am I tired? Yes.
Have I walked out the door without my keys a few times? Yes.
Do I text my husband when I’m on the way to the PATH each morning about something I forgot to do in hopes he can save the day? Yes.
It wasn’t until a few weeks ago when I found the guts to get to the gym at 8:30pm and a friend asked me how I had the energy, that I realized this full time working parent balancing act is truly that… an ACT! My response to my friend that night about gym energy was “I’m just pretending.”
So here’s the thing – all working parents know no one has it completely together. But it’s everyone else you put on the show for each and every day. And most importantly, an act you put on yourself because to be quite honest, it just feels good!
Here are my tips for mastering the act of working and parenting:
- Coffee: Coffee is your friend. And you will need a lot of it. Just like an airline, stick to one kind and one with a rewards program. I recently discovered the LPQ app for my city coffee trips and have already accumulated enough points for a free cappuccino, avocado toast, and pastry of my choice. Totally necessary.
- Flat Iron: Not just any flat iron sitting in your bathroom, but an extra flat iron at the office. If I can’t dry my hair fast enough after my shower because the baby needs me, or he’s pulled my hair all over the place while still damp, I know it needs a good fixing when I arrive at work. It’s about looking the part sometimes.
- Stock Extra Umbrellas: Speaking of extras at the office, keep an extra umbrella there. Who has time to study the weather forecast each morning anymore? You can’t wait out a downpour at 5pm if you need to pick your baby up from daycare. Be prepared for the elements!
- Implement Code Words: As silly as it sounds, my husband and I have a few code words we use over text to indicate how things are moving along so no one worries. My biggest fear is getting stuck on the PATH on the way home from work, not being able to call anyone underground, and Cameron being stuck at daycare late while my husband could easily get him. So we have a code word I text to my husband when I get out of the path in Jersey City. If he doesn’t hear it by 6, he should start to worry and figure out if he should pick up the baby instead.
- Freeze Food: I love making turkey meatballs and it’s one of my husband’s favorites. But I simply don’t have time to make a meal from scratch every night. So instead, when I make the meatballs, I put half in a freezer container. Then on a morning where I know time is tight and I don’t have much in the fridge, I move it to the fridge before heading out the door in the morning and it’s an easy reheat later.
- Fit in Fitness: Let’s be serious, it is very hard to find time to be at the gym and not be half asleep. I personally love working out so take every opportunity as one I need to make the most of. Sure I don’t have the energy or excitement like I did pre-pregnancy, but I’m excited that I made it there and put everything I have into the hour I spend there. My husband and I bought some kettle balls too and sometimes will do some weights together at night in the living room.
- Get Work/Mom Friends: Everyone knows you need a good work bestie, but work besties who are also moms are extra special these days. Scope them out, share stories, share tips, complain, freak out… it’ll remind you how normal your new crazy is, and that they too are just acting.
- Have Thoughtful Weekends: And that doesn’t mean very busy and packed weekends. Weekends are your time now – time to get things done, have quiet family time, see friends, and recharge. Try to do a little bit of each of those things every weekend. You will find yourself turning down a lot of plans these days which isn’t always easy, but worthwhile.
And remember, it’s an act. Don’t beat yourself up or put enormous pressure on yourself to do things perfectly. Take it day by day, minute by minute.