Consider your options
The birth of her son, Samuel, seven years ago dramatically changed Walker-Matthews’ priorities. “After maternity leave, even as I became reconnected with love of my work,” she recalls, “I would find myself speeding recklessly home in the evening. My desire to see my son became nearly excruciating the minute I began leaving the office.”
Recognizing this need to be with her son, Walker-Matthews cut her schedule down to a four-day workweek. Other options for women who want more time with their children include working from home a few days a week; negotiating a leave from the job; choosing a day-care center near their work so they can visit during the day; working part time; or switching to a career that allows more flexibility or provides on-site day care. And some companies let parents bring their children in to work on slower days.
While every new mom’s experience is different, the emotion that unifies nearly all of them is guilt. One way to ease it is to create a work schedule and child-care arrangement that you feel is best for you and your baby—and to be willing to make adjustments along the way. (See “Easing Back to Work” and “Which Child Care Is Right for You?” for tips on both.) Other coping mechanisms: Keep photos of your baby with you at work, and if you can, call your caregiver often to check on the baby’s welfare. Some working parents also establish a later bedtime for their babies so they can spend more family time together.
Whether you burst into tears at the office or breathe a sigh of relief, go easy on yourself. Unlike other jobs, there are no “right” choices in motherhood, only ones that work well for you and your family. As Morrison says, “Have a sense of reality, and don’t get too dogmatic about trying to do everything perfectly.”