7 Assumptions I Had About Returning To Work

When I am not busy opining about you-know-who over at the Vatican, I have my new part-time job to tend to. And here, three weeks in, I can already feel the pain of the illusions I brought with me as they shatter and fall to pieces around my feet.

I can’t believe that I actually assumed these things, especially now that reality has spit in my face.

My Assumptions:

1. My kids will miss me so much. Of course I thought this. I mean, suddenly I am gone for two whole days–  missing snacks, wake-ups, and preschool pick ups.  This is a big deal. Except not so much for them.  Honestly, I’ve never seen them happier than they are these days.  I am not taking that too personally.

2. The job will have a nice gentle ramp-up period.   I assumed that the workload would slowly build like an exercise routine for a cardiac patient.  What actually happened is that as soon as I was done with the HR presentation on “What To Do During A Bomb Threat,” I got a nice thick stack of papers to call my own.   With a relatively short deadline. And the next day, I got another stack.  The stacks, they keep coming.

3. I will be extra nice to my kids on my long work days.  Thanks a lot, Universe. Is it too much to ask that when I roll in the door at 6PM, we all just get along? At least a tiny bit?  My vision is to come in after a day of work and scoop up my kids and listen raptly as they fill me in every single thing I missed.  But sometimes I am stressed from work, they are cranky and we are out of milk (for them) and pudding (for me).  Sometimes I limp through our diminished number of hours together, heavy with disappointment that even though I am working now we are all still human. Devastatingly human.

4. My brain will snap back quickly to its former condition.  It was only two years that I was out of the legal game.  That’s not so long right? I assumed that the complicated analyses I did during my time at home (how late can I let Simon sleep and still get to Sadie school on time? or what are the odds that Jeff gets up with Sadie if I just pretend to be asleep?) would keep my mind sharp-ish.   That didn’t happen.  Let’s just say on Day 1 I had to look up the spelling of the word “prejudice.”  And then I still spelled it wrong.

5. A baggie of roasted almonds is all I need in my snack drawer. In the old days when I had a desk job, I had  a modest snack drawer (except when I was pregnant; then I had a snack closet), so naturally I assumed that some roasted nuts (a lil fat, a lil protein) would suffice.  And that still works.  Until about 10:00 AM.  Then, I am all where are the real snacks?

6. I can ignore Ann’s siren song. I am a mom of two, one of whom is in private preschool and one is on his way.  Surely, I am not going to fall for those emails luring me to Ann Taylor Loft for the sales, right? I mean, who needs new clothes when her clothes from 2010 are just fine.  I did hold off, dear Readers, until that pesky 30% off President’s Day sale.

7. Public transportation will be invigorating.  I love the train– I can read, be with my thoughts, enjoy some people watching.  I thought it would be extra fun to join the rush hour train crowd once again.  Not only did the Chicago commuting public NOT open me with open arms, they saw fit to step on my toes, shove my backpack aside and spray their germy sneezy bits all over me.  Not so much invigorating as it is humiliating.

You get the picture right? I won’t even bore you with the assumption I made that I would be able to achieve work-life balance with a part-time job, because hey! It’s only 20 hours a week.  I forgot to include extra time for the obsessing and fretting that I am not doing the job correctly or that I made a mistake.  That extra time? Adds about 20 hours to the week.

Have you gone back to work? Did you have to deal with your erroneous assumptions?


31 thoughts on “7 Assumptions I Had About Returning To Work

  1. #3 is the hardest. Getting home just in time to order some dinner and get the kids to bed is the most miserable time of day. I negotiated my PT rider to say “I will work until 9pm on days I come in to the office if you promise to leave me alone on the days I am home.” Seems fair to me.

    • OMG, I need to get that in a contract. It’s been very demoralizing to come home, be bitch and then get everyone to bed. I much prefer being a bitch all day. Concentrated doses are painful.

      • Agree that #3 is the worst. I work two days a week – and on those evenings I yell more, the kids whine and fight more and we are all more miserable. I thought I would come home and we would all embrace and be happy to see each other, but we save that stuff for the days I don’t work.

      • Whew, I’m glad it’s not just me, but it makes no sense. We’ve had all this wonderful space and we should reunite and play red rover in the living room instead of practically snap each other’s heads off.

  2. You paint a perfect picture of the working mom’s struggle. I went back to work after a 6 month maternity leave when my daughter was only 5 months old and I only work in the office 3 days a week (the other two from home). But I have experienced exactly what you describe.

    Numbers 1 and 3 are the worst: coming home after not seeing my little girl all day only for her to throw a tantrum over some stupid toy, refuse to eat her dinner, and respond with “NO!” when I ask if she missed me today. Those days are only offset by the times she rushes down the stairs to greet me with a big bear hug and then doesn’t leave my side for the entire night. Those are the days I live for…I’m sure they are coming for you, as well 🙂

  3. #3 is killer. Why does everything happen during that witching hour of 5-7pm? Dinner, dance class, soccer practice, everything at the time of day kids just lose it. Sigh…

  4. A fully stocked snack drawer is an absolute must. As I type this comment, I’m also making a list of everything I need to buy at the grocery store tonight to re-stock. It’s the best way to get through the day…

  5. It’s funny b/c the one time I took 4 months off and then went back, I was actually more organized. But that didn’t really fall into place until about a month in. You’ll be fine 😉 Definitely ramp up the snack drawer though.

  6. Mine used to be fed and bathed and pretty much ready to tuck in when I got home. Not so much now that they can stay up past 7 pm. Now I’m like…get in bed so I can watch something inappropriate on HBO. I’m certain mine prefer the days I work to the days I’m home–the curse of hiring a fun, competent 20-something sitter who gets paid not to be a bitch to them. The wannabe greenbean in me uses public transit, but the real me drives to work. I use my job to justify all kinds of spending which certainly exceed my salary…but hey…I provide health insurance for the family…and we have a sweet coffee machine at work and my boss has a candy basket. It will all fall into place soon enough.

  7. Hilarous . . . and I feel your pain completely!!! I appreciate your humor — which has given me a delightful reason to laugh — something I need badly –because without that — all I am is a royal pain in the ass who pisses and moans about not having any time for me these days. Argh!

    Here’s to a fully stocked snack drawer with only the “best of” inside. 🙂

  8. I was always told that kids save up their worst behavior for the person they feel safest with — so they are good for day care/Grandma/teacher all day and then let loose all of their stress and insecurities, etc. on Mommy (or Daddy). My kids were always gems at school and babysitter and little rampaging heathens for me in the first hour or so after work. Be flattered; it means they feel safe and secure with you.

    If it helps, I worked part time with my older two and stayed home with my youngest, and the older two were much more socially advanced than the little one. I think it was good for them to be in daycare two days a week, around other kids.

  9. Am sending some snacks over to you right now … it takes a lot of courage to jump back in to the work world. You are brave. I hope you’ll be gentle with yourself. And eat your almonds with some pudding.

  10. Thinking about returning to work… Sometime. I have a lot of fears and I lot of (likely unrealistic) expectations. I guess nothing in life goes PERFECTLY. Dang it.

  11. I’m honestly grateful to hear about your experience. So I can prepare myself when the day comes. I tried to work a reduced schedule after my first was born – I got paid for 4 days and worked 6. It was the worst. The best and most painful advice someone gave me was telling me there is no such thing as work-life balance. I still don’t want to believe it, but it was true for me when I worked. 😦 I hope you find it!

  12. My assumption was the corollary to #1. I thought I’d miss my little Ashley dearly all day. Turns out that compartmentalizing wasn’t that hard; in fact, going to the office and knocking out problem after problem was a really nice break. Of course, then I felt crummy about being a cold hearted absentee mom. No winning is there?

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