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By Jessica T

Returning to work

Uploaded: Nov 18, 2013

I have had nightmares about returning to work. As someone married to a Cal State professor and fiction writer, I've never had a choice to do otherwise. If I had had a choice not to work when my first daughter was born ten years ago, I'm pretty sure I would have dropped out of the workforce at least for a little while. I was 26 with roughly 5 years of experience under my belt and few exciting opportunities to pursue. And I was in love with being a mother.

Instead I went back to work at my previous job for six months and negotiated a partial work-from-home assignment to make breastfeeding easier. When I returned to work, my maternity-leave replacement was promoted, the founder's best friend was hired as CEO, and my health insurance was cut. I decided to look for a new job. I got an awesome role writing gift acknowledgements for the Office of the President at the University of Virginia where I worked with an amazing group of professionals. Then I decided it was time to go back to school to pursue my MBA full-time. It was the right moment for me to pursue a graduate degree and crack open a new vault of opportunities before I expanded my family further? Then, of course, I was unable to expand my family for many, many years. And the opportunities my MBA afforded me were much more far-reaching than I ever might have imagined.

Today I feel passionately about returning to work. I think about the doors that opened and the trajectory I was able to follow simply because I continued working full-time. It was heartbreaking to leave my baby at home and miss so much, but it was invaluable to my own development. With ten years of raising her behind me, I know now that there are wonderful childcare providers who came into her life because I was working. They provided her with a much richer experience and a wider range of values than I could have alone.

In a small way, I'm also proud to have (hopefully) contributed to the feminist movement by staying in the workforce and setting an example for my daughter and other women in the workplace.

The truth is, I have some of the same misgivings about returning to work as I did the first time. In fact, I cringe at the long hours, the difficulty compartmentalizing work and home that I struggled with the first time around. How can I maximize my work life and home life in a way that is satisfying and well-balanced? Will I be able to give my babies and my daughter and my work enough without losing out on one or the other?

How do you feel about returning to work after maternity leave? What are your tips/tricks to making it work for you and your family?