Back to School!

Abigail Walston

Posted By: Abigail Walston

I'm returning to work as a teacher in September. I'm not a big fan of pumping and my son has rarely used bottles so I know that going back to work is going to be a big adjustment for both of us.

After almost a week at work, I can say it's HARD to be a working mom. I had no idea how draining it would be, physically and emotionally, to go back to work. I miss Joshua and feel like he spends all of his waking hours at daycare and that I have such a short amount of time to spend with him. He's going to bed so early, but I am happy that co-sleeping allows me to snuggle with him all night long.

I don't want to do any work at home to subtract from the time I have to spend with Joshua, not that I'd be able to concentrate if I tried. I rush around at work trying to get everything done, when I used to take a lot of my work home- both lesson planning and grading. I don't waste time talking to colleagues who ask about Joshua, answering instead "He's great, and I'm busy!" I find my preparation period at work is shortened because I'm expressing milk along with the time it takes to set up and clean up. I'm also missing lunch with my friends at work, instead eating alone while I pump or in the car on the way home. Overall, I have a lot less time to get my work done, both at home and at school, but I have become much more efficient out of necessity.

The biggest shock to me has been how complicated it is to get us organized and out the door in the morning. I took breastfeeding for granted and had no idea how much easier it is than to have to wash bottles, nipples, caps and pump parts. I make sure everything's clean, packed and ready to go the night before, but still it's a mad dash in the morning to make sure we remember to get the bottles out of the fridge and be out the door by 6:45 a.m. I am truly looking forward to our first weekend at home and will not be fixing a bottle the whole time!

On the bright side, I have found a good place to express milk at work: a seldom-used storage room that's close to my classroom. After discovering the nurse's office only had curtains separating the pumping area from the area where sick students rest and wait to be picked up by their parents, I checked out the second-floor room and discovered it had no locking door. The idea of a colleague or student inadvertently walking in on me pumping was enough to send me to the bathroom. I spent two days pumping in the bathroom before deciding to commandeer the storage room and tell my colleagues (my dozen department members who also have keys) to knock before entering. I even hung a cow sign on the door, figuring the image would be enough to remind them to knock before entering. I set up a comfortable chair and desk, and I'm so happy that this is resolved!

The whole transition is eased by the fact that Joshua's had a great couple of days. He spent Monday with my mom, Tuesday with my mother-in-law, and the remainder of the week at daycare. He was happy and drank the expressed breast milk from bottles without a hitch. Each morning before work, afternoon, evening, and what seems like all night, he nurses and I enjoy the time to sit and relax with him. Though I'm not happy to be away from Josh and I'm struggling to keep up with the demands of motherhood and teaching (and don't even ask about housework!), the transition has surprisingly gone better than I expected!

12:00pm on Wednesday October 20


9:24am on Tuesday October 26

You are doing an amazing job transitioning back to work! It's tough!

I'm hoping that first commenter Rachel was joking, it kind of had a playful tone to it... I hope.

I think it's great how you kept working to find a new spot to pump without giving up too easily

9:16am on Tuesday October 26

@Rachel I'd be delighted if I knew my chuld's teacher was keeping her work at work, and expressing breast milk for her own child while she's away from him. This is the stuff of healthy work/life balance. Knowing my child's teacher prioritized her own chuld's wellbeing by providing breastmilk even when it's not convenient would reassure me that she is interested in the wellbeing of children in general. Mothering is hard work. Teaching is hard work. Doing both requires creativity, ingenuity and dedication, all in evidence here. Bravo.

7:06am on Tuesday October 26

Actually, Rachel, pumping at work is a legally protected right. And I hardly doubt anyone would take issue with her not taking work home so early in her transition back to work with a newborn. Perhaps you could be more supportive of a hard-working, nursing Mom.

Abigail: Good luck to you & good work thus far! I know pumping can be tedious, especially when you have a lot going on. Hang in there & if you haven't done so already, make yourself a pumping bra. I'm glad to hear that you are co-sleeping, so you still get snuggle time with your little one. Hold on & the routine will get easier. :)

"Another Mom"
6:50am on Tuesday October 26

It's true that your priorities are re-set once you become a parent, but I can attest to the fact that Abbie is a TERRIFIC teacher who gives her ALL to her students and to her new son!

Squeezing in time for pumping during your "prep" time must be a challenge!

11:43pm on Monday October 25

Great Post Abbie I think you are amazing!
Rachel - Lunch time should not be spent working so why would anyone care what Abbie chooses to do on her lunch? Also she has found a way to be more efficient at work so not bringing home school work is a non issue she gets it done all during working hours. Thank goodness there are Federal Laws protecting nursing women!

10:45pm on Monday October 25

Rachel, I think you are reading this differently than I am. What I read was that she has become more efficient and is learning to maintain appropriate barriers between her work and her personal time. We're not actually paying teachers to do their prep at home, although they often wind up doing that. We also, as a culture, do a miserable job about teaching anyone, particularly girls, to respect themselves enough to say, "No." when it's appropriate.

So, as a parent of 5, I'd say I'd be delighted for my kids to have a teacher who was modeling courtesy and concern for others (in her approach to work pumping) and respect for herself as part of her classroom position as a role model. I'd feel the same way about a male teacher who lost time due to a family concern. And I'd hope that the experience of balancing work and home led any teacher to appreciate the limitations of homework as it exists in the lives of students.

Win for everyone, I'd say. And pretty impressive for a new mom. :)

Margaret Colegrove
10:19pm on Monday October 25

I'm an active duty mom and I feel your pain. It'll get easier once you get comfortable with your back-to-work routine I promise. You're doing great!

10:06pm on Monday October 25

Rachel - I'm a mom of many, one of whom is in elementary school. I'd be delighted to know my kid's teacher was pumping during school hours. Furthermore, working moms have a right to pump often during the day! I'd never assume that a teacher's time is spent 100% with students.

10:05pm on Monday October 25

Wow! This could be me, right down to the curtain in the nurse's office. :D I only have one prep period at work, and 20 minutes for lunch. I was feeling majorly stressed about pumping, because I didn't have time to pump what I needed for each day, and I was going home engorged and in a lot of pain. Once at home, I had a toddler, in addition to the baby, in need of my attention. I decided to stop pumping and do formula while I'm at work, and exclusive breastfeeding when I'm at home. It made a little sad, since my older daughter was exclusively breastfed until six months (we weaned at 13 months). But overall, I'm happier and less stressed. I'm very happy that you've been able to make it work!

Please ignore Rachel's comment below! Why should we do school work at home?! Do bankers and lawyers and doctors do THEIR work at home? And does she think you are skipping out on your classes to pump? Some people are just silly, to put it nicely.

10:05pm on Monday October 25

contraire mon ami, It's vital to post this kind of thing so people know the lengths we moms often go to in order to nourish our kids. Policy makers read blogs too. And I'm sure many parents have had the same struggles. Its blog posts like this that help to define normal.

And I'm not sure where it was implied you're not doing schoolwork at home? Or that you're pumping during classtime? (I'm assuming you're using your lunch time or free period)

Oh and I'm sure parents will appreciate you taking less sick time.

10:02pm on Monday October 25

I would be thrilled to have my children's teachers spend work time pumping. A teacher who is conflicted about her baby's health and well-being would be far more problematic than someone fitting a pumping break in where a watercooler break used to go. Plus all that oxytocin and prolactin from the breastfeeding hormones has to do wonders for a teacher's patience! :)

7:48pm on Monday October 25

There's nothing wrong with pumping at work, and I'm not ashamed of it! They're legally required to allow me to have time to express milk. As for doing work at home, I have no choice. I don't want to, but that's part of being a teacher. I do work at home when Joshua is asleep at night, but it was really tough to find time in those first few weeks back. I don't think anyone cares WHEN I do my work, as long as it gets done.

6:11pm on Friday October 22

Be careful what you post, after are a teacher! You wouldn't want your student's parents to know that you are doing absolutely no school work at home, and that you are spending work time "pumping"!

9:24pm on Wednesday October 20

Enjoy every bit of snuggle time you can! You're doing a fabulous job, Abbie, and how nice that you can remain close as a nursing couple!

The "art of pumping" has improved so much since you were a baby! So many choices for efficient pumping to make extended breastfeeding more achievable!

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