One Year Back Since Maternity Leave: Balancing Work and Parenthood

Devon-McDonald by

What coming back from maternity leave has taught me.

My daughter, Grace, and me at OpenView's office.

One year ago in April of 2013, I came back from maternity leave. I really didn’t know what to expect in terms of returning to work after such an amazing, life altering event: having my first baby (two months premature at that).

There was a time when I doubted myself. And it’s no surprise. While pregnant and then into my maternity leave, I got so many questions like: “Are you going to go back to work?” and “Are you nervous about leaving your daughter with someone else when you go back?” Somewhere along the way I started having questions, too — like if I could even do it.

I’m sure that no one meant any harm in asking these questions — it was likely mostly just small talk. But there is implied meaning and undertones in those questions. And just to be clear (without turning this into a feminist rant) my attorney husband NEVER got those questions.

Despite some nervousness, I returned to work in the spring of last year…and in no time found myself back in the saddle with guns blazing.

Don’t get me wrong, the transition isn’t easy. When you are a new parent life certainly becomes a lot more complicated. But I also found that I came back to work with sharper focus and motivation. My priorities became so clear that it actually improved my productivity. When I’m in the office I work my ass off getting the job done. When I’m at home I work my ass off being a mom.

I’m a competitive person. Anyone who knows me knows that’s how I am hardwired. So part of me wonders if my coming back in full force was to prove people wrong. But the other part of me thinks that being a parent simply empowered me — both in my personal and professional life. Whatever the reason, I can honestly say that I felt a surge of confidence and creativity all around.

So this is my experience. It doesn’t have to be yours.

If you are a man or woman who wants to get pregnant or adopt, who is pregnant, who is on maternity/paternity leave, or is recently back from maternity/paternity leave — you may not have these same feelings. And that’s okay. There is no shame in having a different reaction or different circumstances and taking a different path. There is time to figure everything out. The only shame is ignoring what your gut tells you and feeling miserable about your decision.

Parting Thoughts

You may be having doubts about everything, and if that’s the case I hope that this post serves as one reminder that you can have a baby and go back to work and be successful if that’s what you really want and you have a support system in place (I’m personally very thankful for family, friends, and, yes, OpenView).

Not having all the pieces of that equation can certainly influence your decision and impact your options, but one thing that absolutely shouldn’t are other people’s questions, comments, and opinions. Remember, only you will know what is best for you and your family.