This is my last week of a 5-month maternity leave that I’ve taken after having our second daughter, Ruby. I noticed myself getting twitchy to have more structure in my days a few weeks ago, so I know it’s time. But that doesn’t mean I’m not sad.
I planned a 5-month maternity leave mostly because of astrology (thank you to Jennifer Racioppi, our resident astrologer in Origin™ who helped me make that decision). I knew I would want to take 3 months, and then when she told me Mars was going to be retrograde the whole summer (my chart is full of Mars) and that working would feel really frustrating for me, I went ahead and tacked on an extra 2 months.
(You can read all about the logistics of how we created space for this work-wise here.)
As I started to wrap my mind and heart around Ruby starting childcare and me starting to work in an organized fashion again, I’ve been reflecting on what I’ve learned during this time – as it’s the longest break I’ve ever taken from work since I started working.
These will likely be relevant to you if you’re returning back to work after a time away, regardless of the reason, or if you’re looking to reinvent the way you work at any time for any reason.
1. It’s okay to want more time and be ready simultaneously.
I’m ready for structure, baby-free time, and to work for more than 15 minutes at a time, but I’m also not. When I was recently asked what going back to work was going to look like for me, I realized I needed to ease in slowly and give myself permission to take Ruby to daycare late, pick her up early, or occasionally not take her at all. The benefit of being a second-time mom is that in addition to being irritated every time someone says, “It goes so fast,” I also know the truth of that statement. I want more time to just be with my baby and I’m ready to move it along. I’m allowing myself to feel both.
2. Get more help than you think you need.
Oh, man. I thought we had enough help lined up for when Ruby joined our family. We had a MealTrain, daycare for our older daughter, grandparents, neighbors, and a nanny helping out a few days a week. And yet there have still been many moments where we could have used more support. I’m astounded by the energy it takes to care for a family well. And our culture’s assumption that one or two people will be the source of all of that energy is insane. Once I am sleeping more than 2 hours at a stretch at night, I will begin to do my part to change the way our culture here in the US views parenting and help move us from the isolated nuclear family model to something more resembling the village we all so desperately need.
3. You are no longer the same person, so you can no longer work the same way.
I don’t know what running a business as a mother of two looks like because I’ve never done it before. I’m a new version of myself, so I need to work in a new way. And I won’t know what that looks like until I’m doing it. I give myself permission to iterate and change my mind on the regular. To start, it will look like having 3 days a week to do focused tasks like writing, making videos, and recording podcasts, as well as appointments and out-of-the-house things like yoga class while both girls are at daycare. Then I plan to have one morning a week just with Ruby and one morning a week just with Penelope. That’s my vision, but I won’t know if it works until I try it. Big life events usually mean that everything changes.
4. There’s no such thing as going back.
When it comes to your body, your business, your marriage, or any other part of your life: there’s no such thing as going back. We have an insane focus on getting things (especially our bodies) back to the way they used to be before having a baby (or any other major life event). Ushering a new human onto planet Earth is MAJOR, and trying to go back to the way things were before that happened is total insanity. I don’t want my pre-baby body back. Why? Because then I wouldn’t have my beautiful babies. I don’t want my pre-baby marriage back. I don’t want my pre-baby life back. Instead, I want to be fully present in the new life I’m currently living, which bringing new life into the world required me to create. I want to live it on purpose and actually be here for it instead of wasting precious energy trying to go back in time.
5. We don’t need to earn the right to have needs.
When Mike and I were recording a recent, raw, sleep-deprivation fueled episode of our podcast, The Kate & Mike Show, I got choked up as I uncovered an unconscious belief I’ve had that I have to earn the right to have a need through having done enough things first. So many people wrote in telling me they cried right along with me at that moment in the show because they’ve had the same belief. I have so many more thoughts on how we can transform our relationships with getting help, having needs, and leaning on support, but for now I’m gonna give us all permission to have needs because we’re human.
Listen: You don’t have to have worked out for two hours to earn the right to a delicious meal. You don’t have to be on the brink of collapse to earn the right to ask for help with your children. You don’t need to be having an emotional breakdown to earn the right to lean on a friend. We are human. Humans have needs. We don’t have to earn them. We deserve to have needs and we deserve to have them met, by ourselves or by others. Period.
While my heart is a little heavy, I’m also so excited to be returning to work with an entirely new world view that comes from taking time away. I hope my reflections give you permission to look at your relationship with work, parenting, getting help, and having needs so that you can update your current reality to reflect the incredible person you currently are.
OVER TO YOU:
Which of these reflections resonates most deeply with you? How can you reinvent an aspect of your life to reflect the current version of you? Tell me in the comments!