After four months away from my job as a college professor—which I love—I was excited to get back to work. But after months of snuggles and sweatpants—which I also loved—I was anxious, too. Here’s a look at my first day back, trying to balance life and work as a mom of two.
6 a.m.: Wake up to my alarm instead of a baby crying. Of course, the first time she sleeps past six is the day I have to wake up anyway.
6:05 a.m.: Check my phone and find a good luck text from my neighbor and friend, a mom with two kids who also works part time.
Blur of feeding baby, preschooler, cat and dog, making coffee and lunches, and triple checking my bag to make sure I haven’t forgotten anything.
7:15 a.m. Put on makeup for the first time in weeks, including an eye brightener called “Well Rested.” Hope it lives up to its name.
7:30 a.m. Wait until the last possible minute to get dressed to avoid ruining my carefully curated back-to-work outfit with a poop-splosion.
7:31 a.m. Walk into the kitchen where the preschooler asks, “Mommy, why you got scary eyes?” I guess four months of Today Show makeup tips can lead you to overdo the eyebrow defining gel.
7:40 a.m. Give baby a quick kiss and take preschooler to school. My husband offered to stay until the nanny arrives to preempt any meltdown. From me. The baby doesn’t care.
7:55 a.m. Arrive in my office and put up a picture of the baby. The ratio is now 5:1 in favor of the first born. Write “print more photos” on a sticky note.
8:00 a.m. Open my Internet browser tabs, including Pandora, which is still set to the Baby Sleep station.
8:02 a.m. Text my husband to ask about the nanny, who arrived at eight.
8:03 a.m. Scowl at husband’s one-word reply: “Good!”
8:30 a.m. Get a “Good luck!” Facebook message from a stay-at-home mom friend I met while I was on maternity leave.
9:30 a.m. Reheat coffee for the second time after having misplaced my cup. So far, this is mostly like being at home.
10:00 a.m. Feel overwhelmed by email, people stopping by my office and a growing to-do list. Realize that people (with the best intentions) didn’t send work my way when I was on leave. Word has clearly gotten out that I’m back.
10:30 a.m. Reheat coffee again. A colleague asks if I like to watch my baby while she sleeps. Refrain from saying, “I like to watch Netflix while she sleeps.”
11:00 a.m. Hit some kind of caffeine high and get into a groove. Feel my professional self coming back and stop looking at the clock every four minutes wondering how the baby is doing. Now it’s more like every twelve minutes.
Blur of replying to emails, making lists, organizing files, checking for emergency texts from the nanny, planning courses, scrolling through baby photos on my phone, fighting foot cramps from my high heels, reading for class and scheduling meetings.
2:30 p.m. Get a text from my colleague, a mom recently back from maternity leave, asking if I’m feeling exhausted yet. Realize the answer is yes, though it’s so different from that 2 a.m. feeding type of exhaustion that I didn’t realize what I was feeling until she asked.
3:15 p.m. Respond to the fourth colleague who asks me who is watching the baby; tell him she’s home with a nanny until summer break starts. Worry that I’m raising that crazy woman from The Bachelor every time I say “nanny.”
5:00 p.m. Go home to snuggle my baby, who I’ve only seen for about 45 minutes all day. Feel a lump in my throat.
5:01 p.m. Feel poop on my hand. I’ve been greeted with a poop-splosion.
Blur of dinner, laundry, baths and more poop. But also quick emails, notes on the family calendar and class prep.
9:30 p.m. Go to bed thinking about adjusting the baby’s nap times, helping with the preschooler’s class party, writing a student’s letter of recommendation, finding time to binge watch a new HBO show with my husband and preparing my upcoming conference presentation.
It turns out, work life balance is more like work life poop-splosion. It’s messy, and there’s no real way to avoid it. It’s also not as bad as it seems. And it helps knowing that all the other moms—especially the ones who text and message and call—are right there with you.