It’s no secret that returning to work after giving birth is hard, we all know the deck is not in women’s favor. Navigating unsympathetic company policies and trying to live up to unrealistic societal expectations are difficult obstacles on their own, but the utter exhaustion after bringing a new life into the world is the biggest hurdle.
It’s a challenge I’m all too familiar with, I gave birth to my second child quite recently.
I came home from the hospital about three weeks ago. Despite being tired and in pain, the delight of being able to hold my new baby boy in my arms helped restore my vigor, I was eager to step right back into my usual schedule and resume my routine.
Being a mother didn’t stop me from being a busy woman before, I was able to continue running my companies while raising my first child, so I saw no reason why I couldn’t do it again. Yes, I now had to tend to a newborn in addition to making time for my two-year-old daughter, but my career has given me plenty of experience on effectively managing increased tasks and workloads.
That’s not to say it wasn’t a struggle, I assure you there’s nothing easy about trying to feed my baby boy while attempting to play with my young daughter, all the while striving to keep up with my work. My daughter occasionally threw jealous tantrums the first few days we brought the baby home, which only made handling his fussiness more of an endeavor, leaving me little time or energy to do things like wash laundry or pay bills, let alone answer important emails or respond to my employees’ inquiries on the various projects I have them working on.
Assuming responsibility requires you to maintain accountability, putting yourself in a position where others answer to you means you can’t just push aside their questions when it’s inconvenient, otherwise they’ll pile up. It’s not a standard everyone can live up to, but it’s the minimum you’ll have to meet if you want to run a successful business. Indeed, on the third day after coming home from the hospital, I had to attend a few prescheduled in-office meetings, as well as a conference call.
It takes a special kind of strength to perform under such pressure, but I believe that very strength lies at the core of every woman in the world, she only needs to reach inside herself and grab it.
Again, I’m not trying to imply this is a simple thing to do. Seizing your full potential is a special skill, and achieving it requires the right frame of mind. On that third day when I went back to the office, there was a moment I felt like I was going to fall over and faint. I closed my eyes, but instead of passing out, I pictured what it was I keep pushing myself for.
I imagined my beautiful son and daughter in their twenties, so healthy and smart, and all because my efforts provided for them. I dreamt of my companies flourishing, of my hundreds of families prospering from the income my employees bring home. I saw what I wanted to make happen, and with that image in front of me, I found enough strength to go on with my day.
I’ve saved that picture in my mind, it still serves me well. Every morning, when I have to get out of bed after being awake half of the night, I put that image in front of me like a finish line in front of a race care, and I can feel my tank fill with the fuel I need to reach it.
I’m not trying to brag when I tell you this story, I want to inspire other women. You’re going to feel like you’ve hit the bottom of your abilities, you’ll think you can’t go any further, but I’m here to tell you to think past that. Think beyond that moment, beyond that day, beyond that action, and recognize the full scope of why you need to keep going.
The other night my son had some stomach issues, and I stayed up for hours tending to him. He finally fell asleep around six the next morning, only for my daughter to jump on my bed demanding I wake up. As if that wasn’t enough, I still had some unanswered tasks from the prior week that I had to get to, otherwise my employees wouldn’t be able to start their day in the office. I was being pulled in different directions without a wink of rest, but just like before, I didn’t let that stop me. Just like before, I closed my eyes and imagined the picture in my head, restoring my sense of purpose and reinvigorating my drive.
Standing up with a smile, I asked my daughter if she’d like to brush her teeth with me, getting a fresh start to what would be a long day.
Nothing can change the fact that we all face unique challenges when it comes to reentering the workforce. I am lucky enough to know I have a career waiting for me, whereas some women lose their jobs and have to find new work after giving birth. However, that same assurance of work means I don’t always have the free time to attend mommy groups that other women go to. The specific support networks and balancing techniques will vary from one woman to another, each mother must find the system that works for her and her circumstances. However, we must all learn how to build up and tap into that same inner strength, for it is only in the power of self-reliance that even the busiest woman can find the power to succeed.