By Deepika Sandhu
Diary of a working mom
I’m not about to dip my toes in the working-mom versus stay-at-home mom debate. I’m also not going to engage in whether women can or cannot have it all. There are enough people discussing these topics in the news, on talk shows and all over the internet. Whatever your point of view may be on these subjects, you will undoubtedly find more than enough literature to support your position.
What I am here to share, is my story of having a baby, returning to work after four months of maternity leave and getting promoted shortly thereafter. How does that happen? What’s my secret? Was I happy while all of this was transpiring? Is my baby normal? These are just some of the questions other women ask.
There is no magic formula. No secret that I can share with you. There is no five-point plan you can follow. There’s just me, my life and a set of circumstances that lined up to create my reality.
I am one of the lucky ones who had an incredibly easy baby. Other than a painful recovery after a c-section, most every aspect of caring for my newborn was relatively easy. I recognize that not all women would use the word easy to describe the weeks and months after having a baby. There were certainly difficult moments but the baby was exceedingly cooperative and we fell into a nice rhythm rather quickly. My mom stayed for a week after the baby was born and then my aunt stayed with me for another two weeks. After that, baby and I were on our own.
After a week of help from my mom and another week from my aunt, baby and I were on our own. We quickly fell into a lovely routine that turned my maternity leave into one of the happiest times of my life. My easy baby was a breeze to take care of. She slept large portions of the day. I kept myself busy with all the usual baby tasks – changing diapers, cleaning bottles and ironing baby clothes (yes, I ironed all her tiny baby clothes – still do). My husband is the cook in our family so he took care of our dinners and all the grocery shopping (I recognize this is a major luxury that most new moms do not enjoy).
Without the pressure of work, days filled with meetings and tight deadlines, I found myself oozing with creativity. There was a book brewing inside of me and I wanted to learn more about creative non-fiction, so I took an online course through Stanford University. Since it was an online class, I could do my assignments and read for class whenever the baby slept. It was simply perfect. Now don’t get me wrong. I had the sleepless nights. I had trouble finding time to take a shower, let alone blow dry my hair. But somehow the positives outweighed the negatives and things just fell into place in a very manageable way.
After a few months of maternity leave, and my book project well underway, I began the process of planning my return to work. Before having the baby, my career was accelerating at an excellent pace. I loved my job. I was in the thick of the Silicon Valley ecosystem helping high growth companies prepare for IPO’s.
I knew if I could create the right support structure at home to help care for my newborn, I had an excellent shot at making partner at my firm, which is an achievement I could hardly imagine when I started my career some 15 years ago.
The first step in contemplating my return to work was finding a nanny. Since both, my husband’s family and my family didn’t live nearby (his family is in India and mine 500 miles away). We intended to hire someone to take care of our daughter in our home. I interviewed dozens of nannies and after a month-long horrible and disappointing search, there as not a single nanny that I felt comfortable with. Some lived far away, others had salary demands that did not fit our budget, some had timing restrictions or wanted to bring their children to our home. None of these options suited us.
The stress of the nanny hunt was taking its toll and I began doubting whether I could truly return to work at all. I was not going to pick my career ambitions over care for my daughter. That was never an option. As much as I wanted to go back to work, everything needed to line up just right for that to happen. The clock was ticking and my return-to-work date was quickly approaching. Finally, we compromised on our budget and hired a young woman who was far outside what we wanted to pay.
She seemed to be the most loving of all the nannies we met and I felt she would work the best.
She did work, but not for very long. After a few weeks, I asked her to take on a few minor household items, like moving our laundry from the washer to the dryer. Or helping to keep the common area tidy where my daughter spent most of her day. She told me my husband should get a better job so I could afford a housekeeper for those tasks. Needless to say I let her go and restarted my nanny search. Thank God I did, because the very first person that landed on my doorstep is now the most amazing nanny and a wonderful caregiver to our entire family. Our nanny is an older Indian lady who has turned into more of a family member than hired help. She is a grandmother-type and is good at taking care of all of us, which is exactly what I needed.
With the new nanny in place, I made my way back to work. From the outside, I probably looked completely put together and on top of things when I jumped back into my job with full steam, but on the inside, I was terrified.
What made you choose to go back to work after having a baby? What held you back and what challenges did you overcome? Share your thoughts with Deepika below!
Stay tuned for part 2 in Deepika’s series!
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