I had no idea what to expect during my first week back to work after maternity leave at a brand new job. Just before my son was born, I landed a new academic postdoc position after being ousted from my first*. The subject matter, though generally enthralling to me, is way outside the scope of my technical/intellectual expertise. And though I knew that I would be starting over and had been looking forward to it, I could not have known how that would feel once the time came.
The first few days, all of my willpower went toward the following:
— Getting my son to daycare intact
— Figuring out where/when/how to park on a campus that sells far more parking passes than it has spaces
— Figuring out where/when/how to pump in a place with no designated facilities, and in several different buildings across the campus
— Adjusting to having zero immediate colleagues who are moms**
— Relearning material that I had sort of let slip from my mind since high school
— Between a mother and son with chronic medical needs, juggling way too many medical appointments with my husband
— Learning the schedule of outside-of-lab obligations including lab-mandated seminars/dinners and fellowship-mandated meetings/workshops
— Getting home in time to feed and see my son for 5 minutes before putting him to bed
The first few days, I cried alone in the bathroom more than I expected. I absentmindedly missed turns on my way to daycare and work. I missed kissing my son goodnight twice***. I freaked out about my milk supply dropping. I put WAY too much pressure on myself to figure it all out and be productive too quickly.
Now, three weeks in, things have not calmed down much. However, I’m more familiar with my surroundings and the personalities of my colleagues. I am very slowly getting used to not seeing my baby all day every day. I am giving myself a little leeway, having kicked so much butt at everything so far (several glitches notwithstanding). It all still feels very messy and exhausting and hit-or-miss, but I’m not crying every day anymore.
*Though the timing felt awful, it could not have been better in the long run to leave my previous position ASAFP without burning bridges.
**Being able to talk to other moms versus dads DOES make a huge difference. Especially moms who have experienced pumping breast milk at work. This will improve as I meet people through my fellowship and in different labs.
***Since my sweet boy was sleeping through the night at that time, this absolutely broke me.