how to Go back to work full time after twins
4 secrets for supermom Sanity
I returned to work full-time after a 4 month maternity leave (my babies were in the NICU for 6 weeks). Here’s how I made it work and stayed [relatively] sane.
From the moment I got pregnant, I was worried about how being a mom (of twin infants, no less) would affect my work life. I spent many years (and lots of money) to become a nurse practitioner, and up until the point of my pregnancy, I was having a great career trajectory.
I’ve always valued families with two working parents, especially because I grew up in one. I assumed that it would be as easy as my parents made it look! Once the reality hit during my pregnancy, this one thing was what caused me the greatest anxiety.
Since I work in a hospital, I am very fortunate to be in a job that has 24/7 opportunities to work. While some may see working weekends and holidays as a huge drawback to a job, it actually affords tremendous flexibility for working parents. Prior to the birth of my twins, my schedule was all over the place without any set hours, since I didn’t have many scheduling conflicts. In any given week, I could work a 9 hour day shift, a 12 hour evening shift, and two overnight shifts. I have always enjoyed my work setting and the rotating schedule, since there is so much flexibility for long weekends, week day commitments, among other things.
If I’m being honest, once getting pregnant, I decided I didn’t really want to go back to work full time. After the babies were born, I didn’t want to go back to work at all. There’s something about becoming a mother that changed me, in a way I cannot put into words. There is an ache in my core, and no matter where I go, there is a magnetic force that pulls me back to my girls.
But, the reality is, I had to go back to work. And it had to be full time. I am a recipient of a loan repayment scholarship, and I was right in the middle of a 2 year service commitment when I went on maternity leave. If I didn’t return full time, not only would I be out another year’s worth of funding, but I would have to repay everything they had given me already (my award is direct deposited to me monthly).
So, I put my big girl scrubs on, and after 4 months with my babies (6 in the NICU), I went back to work.
Secret #1: Find Quality Childcare
I am perpetually jealous of new parents who live within close vicinity of their own parents who are retired or not working. If you have free, reliable, family childcare, take advantage of it! My husband and I are more than 700 miles from any family, so that was not an option for us. We posted an ad on Care.com and interviewed 3 or so candidates. None of them was really the right fit for us.
Then, through tremendous coincidence, I ended up “meeting” another twin mom online through my local twin mom Facebook group. Turns out, she lived down the street from us and had a nanny who had watched her kids since they were little babes. They were headed into kindergarten the next school year and they no longer needed her full time.
We now share her with the family down the street–she gets their boys on and off the school bus and watches our girls during the time in between. She’s younger, reliable, and has 10 years of childcare experience. My girls have never once shown any sort of stranger anxiety towards her and it gives me such tremendous peace of mind to have my kids cared for in my home. Not to mention, I don’t have to worry about getting myself and two babies ready by a certain time to drop them at a day care center.
Another reason to seriously consider an in-home or small child care setting for twins is the possibility that they may be born premature. According to the March of Dimes, 60 percent of twins are born prematurely. I do not say this to scare anyone, but to give you the appropriate information to make an informed decision. Premature babies are more susceptible to illness, especially during fall/winter, and large day care environments are discouraged for this reason.
Secret #2: Change or Optimize Your Schedule
Like I mentioned earlier, my job affords a great deal of flexibility with my work hours. After a few months of working my typical schedule (a mix of days, evenings, nights), I was struggling with the fact that I was not seeing my babies for days at a time. If I worked a 7am-7:30pm day shift, I was gone before they woke up and getting home around bedtime or after. This was not okay with me. I spoke with my supervisor and did a trial of an exclusive overnight schedule. 7pm-7:30am, three days per week. After my three month trial, I signed on permanently as night staff.
I’ll be honest again, nights are not ideal. A night schedule messes with your body, increases levels of cortisol, leads to to excessive fatigue, etc. I knew all these things but still changed my schedule. Why? It was simply the sacrifice I had to make for my family.
The perks of working nights, at this point, outweigh the cons. While my days change, I always work the same shift. Longer shifts mean fewer work days. My children are being watched while I sleep, meaning I am there if anything were to go wrong.
Most nights, I get to put the babies down to sleep before I leave for work. When I get home in the morning they have just woken up. This gives me tremendous peace of mind, and calms that magnetic force a bit. I can’t feel too guilty while at work knowing my babies are sleeping peacefully.
I realize not everyone has this type of schedule option. But perhaps you could change your work week and work four 10-hour days instead of a five day work week. Is there any part of your job you can do remotely? Whatever you think could make your work/life balance easier (which will ultimately make you a more productive employee), don’t be afraid to ask for it.
Secret #3: Plan, Plan Plan
In order to coordinate a whole family’s schedule, especially with two working parents and potentially a caregiver, your planning skills must be top notch. If they aren’t, practice makes perfect and there are tools to help. It’s no secret that I don’t go anywhere without both my iPhone and my Erin Condren calendar. Here’s a list of all our calendars:
-iPhone: shared master calendar between me and Chris. Includes my work schedule, his meetings, and the nanny’s schedule
–Erin Condren calendar: mine only–includes my work shifts and other appointments and things for myself and babies
-Wall calendar: hand written calendar with the nanny’s schedule. It sits in the family room for her reference.
Once per month, Chris and I sit down and have a scheduling meeting. It’s usually after the girls have gone to bed, and we lay on the couch with all our devices and calendars out while Criminal Minds plays in the background. We go through the upcoming month day by day and write out our child care schedule (which we then give to the nanny). After that, we go through the following month and determine what days I am free to work.
Basically, he tells me when his night and morning meetings are, which are our biggest scheduling conflicts. I then create my schedule requests and submit them.
In the past 8 months, we have only messed things up one time. And the mistake came from me having an unexpected morning commitment that I neglected to update on the shared calendar, and Chris had scheduled a meeting at the same time. Oops. We realized it at 10pm the night before. Ultimately we had to decide whose commitment was a higher priority and went from there.
Secret #4: Outsource if it’s Worth It
So, we are those people that pay people to do stuff for us, but it’s not because we are entitled or spoiled. We both work hard for our incomes, and try to live a budget conscious, modest daily life. However, it is totally worth it to us to outsource certain necessary things. When deciding what to outsource, I am usually taking into consideration the hourly cost versus my hourly work wage. I ask myself: how many hours do I have to work to pay for this luxury? Of course there are certain things that are worth much more than that based on other factors. Some of the things I outsource are house cleaning, lawn services, snow plowing, shopping for clothes, and other mundane administrative tasks. I have a separate post dedicated to my outsourcing tips, tricks, and favorites here.
Ultimately, you have to figure out what is going to work best for you and your family. Life changes so dramatically after becoming a parent, and your priorities may change beyond anything you ever expected
This is so cliche, but time is precious. It’s the memories that you create with your family that will be what you look back on in your older age with fondness. Make the choices that will keep your heart full. Make the choices that keep your tears to a minimum and your laughter to a maximum.
What does working mom sanity look like to you? I would love to hear your secrets!