We are just about half way through September, the unofficial end to summer has come and gone, leaves are starting to change color (at least in my nook of the world), and fall is about to make a comeback. Folks are settling into familiar routines once again and the new normal, you know the one, the September through May routine, is back in action. Yet while you read this and nod in agreement, there are men and women who have a new September through May routine, one that is shaped by the birth of a child.
Recently I caught up with Ronika Money- Adams, wife of one, mom of two, lover of Jesus, dweller of Dover, Delaware, higher education professional, believer in educating, supporting, and empowering women, and sharer of her experiences in going back to work after the birth of her two children, Kimora and Kaiden. May her words resonate and encourage you.
Photo courtesy of Alex Elle
TSLL: As a mother of two children, it would seem that you have had to “go back to work” twice. What if anything was different about going back to work after Kimora’s birth? After Kaiden’s?
RMA: After Kimora’s birth, I did not return to work until she was 7½ months old. I had resigned from my position as a Residence Director and was looking for a new opportunity. That opportunity ended up being a full time position with a 3-4 day schedule at a non profit organization. Due to the schedule, I didn’t feel as if I had fully returned back to work until I was hired full time at a university in Pennsylvania, when she was approaching 11 months old. I would say had a somewhat smooth adjustment with her.
Now, returning to work after Kaiden’s birth was painful to be honest. Unlike Kimora, Kaiden had an emergency delivery and spent nearly 3 weeks in the neonatal intensive care unit. I returned to work just after he turned 3 months old. I found myself regretting my decision to return so soon. I would’ve preferred to have returned when he was at least 5 or 6 months old, but with our medical bills rolling in so quickly I didn’t want us to be down one salary. I did not feel the same peace I felt when I returned to work after having Kaiden. I wanted the have the same foundation of time I had with Kimora. I also breastfed Kaiden which added another layer of difference to my return to work.
TSLL: What would you do differently if anything about maternal/paternal leave?
RMA: I would have researched the options for a reduced work schedule to ease my transition back to work with Kaiden or have made budgetary adjustments to allow for a longer leave period.
TSLL: When you think about the first time you went back to work after your first child, what was the most exciting? Most challenging?
RMA: The most exciting thing was being able to communicate with adults about adult issues. When I was home with Kimora, I gained a new found respect for stay at home moms. They do not have an easy job. The most challenging thing was not being able to spend time with Kimora the way I had when I was home. We played together, took naps together, and I found her smile to be soothing. Thankfully, she was being watched by my mom who was 5 minutes away from the job I had when she was 7 ½ months and 30 minutes away from the position I took in Pennsylvania.
TSLL: What do wish you had known about the back to work transition?
RMA: I wish that I had known that I could have worked an abbreviated schedule to assist with my transition back to work. I also wished that I had paid more attention to the attitude and culture of my workplace towards returning mothers. There are no nursing spaces and accommodations are different for staff and faculty who are returning parents.
TSLL: How does being a working mom influence the way you parent, if at all?
RMA: Being a working mom, influences the level of importance I place on spending time with my children. Work has my time 40 hours or more a week. I want to make sure my children have time with me as well. I don’t want them to say at my funeral “ We loved our mom, she was always at work.” I find this to be the case more now that I am a mother of two and my daughter will be 8 years old. She needs me to be there. I’m working on taking more time off.
TSLL: How does parenting influence the way you work, if at all?
RMA: I believe being a parent has made me for empathetic and understanding of out of work life issues affecting my staff. If someone is sick, I want them to stay home and get well. I know what it feels like to run yourself into to the ground at work and come home to do same thing. I’ve become a better supervisor in my opinion as a result of my having a second child and trying to take better care of myself for them.
TSLL: How did your friends and family have supported you in the back to work transition?
RMA: I’m very blessed. My mother has been the caretaker for both of my children when I returned to work after their births. She is honored to take care of her grandchildren and finds it rewarding to spend time with them. I don’t know that my transitions would have been as smooth as they were emotionally if she wasn’t so supportive. My aunt was also a great source of support in the area of child care with Kimora whenever my mother wasn’t available.
TSLL: How could employers have supported you in the back to work transition?
RMA: Employers can be more understanding of the lack of sleep and emotional strain being experienced by returning parents. I can’t say that these two issues are limited to mothers because there are fathers who take paternity leave and experience just as much of a lack of sleep and emotional strain.
TSLL: Looking back, at your experience of going back, are there any words of wisdom you would offer parents returning to work after having, adopting, or being given custody of a child?
RMA: My advice to any parents returning to work would be to establish a transition plan that gives you and your family the most peace. I know finances play a huge role in when we choose to return but it is vital that you have a sense of peace for you and your family. Research your Human Resource policies related to leave and utilize a flexible schedule option.
So what was your transition like back to work? #DaretoShare