The End of Maternity Leave Amid COVID-19

maternity leave COVID-19

This is my second maternity leave, and the 12 weeks passed a little slower this time around. COVID-19 entered during the last stretch of my leave, and the stay-at-home order made things a little different than planned.

I was looking forward to visiting all the indoor playgrounds with my daughters. I planned to attend more Baby Café lactation visits to get out of the house and socialize with other moms. Instead, I spent most of my time at home with 2 kids under 2, then promptly went back to work in my office setting.

My field of work is considered “essential,” and with the stay-at-home order still in effect, going back to work was a scary thought. It’s challenging enough to return to work now with two children and creating a new routine and new normal, but even more nerve-wracking with COVID-19 still a looming risk for families. 

Snuggling with my girls on the couch and giving myself a break

Normal Maternity Leave Worries

Before COVID-19 became a key word on everyone’s social media, my initial thoughts about returning to work after maternity leave were typical:

“Has it really been that long since I have been gone from work?”

 “I’m going to miss these day-to-day routines.”

“I just got the hang of being at home with the kids and having dinner ready early.”

“I miss seeing my co-workers.”

“It’s going to be so nice to have someone to talk to face-to-face besides my husband.”

“I can’t wait to have some work time and not have a child on me 24/7.”

“I want to enjoy a hot lunch by myself and not need to share it!”

“I’m not looking forward to the pumping-at-work deal again and finding the pumping-appropriate work clothes.” 

I got the girls’ schedules down almost to a minute of what to anticipate (well, for the most part). This helped me keep a routine for the girls and myself. Now, returning to work, establishing a new routine, and trying to prevent the spread of a virus are all on my mind. Not only to my family, but also your family.

How Will This All Work?

My mind swirled as I tried to figure out my questions before returning to work, and find I only have more questions now that I’m back at work: 

How do you social distance in an office setting? Do office meetings now entail everyone staying in their closed office and on conference call? Or is every team meeting now a video call?

Do I need to think about bringing a mask with me to use and keep at work for site visits or visiting other offices? Does this mean I have to eat my lunch alone in my closed office? 

How do I go about pumping at work? Do I bring a cooler to keep my breast milk separate from the community fridge, or do I look at getting my own mini-fridge for my office?

Has there been any information about COVID-19 spreading through breast milk? Should I bring more hand sanitizer and the Medela Quick Clean Steam Bags and wipes to use before and after pumping?

What about my children; should I keep them at home and work remotely until it’s calmer?Should we look into a home daycare or nanny to come to the house? Wouldn’t that be encouraging the spread of germs? 

How would I do work at home with two under two? My job is considered “essential,” but would I qualify to work from home still? If I worked from home, it would be a juggling act of answering phone calls with children crying and dogs barking. Or do I work at night when everyone is asleep?

It’s OK to Feel Overwhelmed

I know daycares are doing even more cleaning and taking precautions to prevent the spread so my kids should be safe there. Masks can help prevent spread, teleconferences can get the same point across for meetings, and everyone is already navigating the work-from-home office setting. I just need to remind myself that it’s okay to feel overwhelmed. Not only am I returning to work after maternity leave, but also after being in a stay-at-home order. It’s a lot! 

I’m fortunate to have my own personal office. I know not everyone is. The biggest concern I have is helping #stopthecurve or #socialdistancing. My husband would be the one to do all the shopping since he was already out (he is in the medical field so he is “essential” worker). We did our best to only have one person to worry about exposure versus all of us getting exposed.

I got a HUGE wake up call when I dropped my girls off at daycare for the first time and treated myself to a much-needed Chai Tea. As I was near tears for dropping the girls off at daycare for the first time since being at home, I was caught off guard by the plexiglass windows in front of the cashier. I hadn’t been out in public since I started maternity leave 12 weeks earlier, so the reality of it all truly hit me in the drive-thru when I saw masks, gloves, and a glass shield in front of me.

As we all slowly get back to work from being at home, remember that we need to be patient with ourselves. We had one routine, now we are starting to figure out another routine. Let’s share our concerns about returning to work, school, and the community to validate one another. There is no one way to navigate these new waters we are in. We all don’t have the answers, and we all don’t quite know what to expect, but we’re all #inthistogether.

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Danielle is a born-and-raised native to Aurora, CO who recently moved from Fort Lauderdale, FL to Fargo for work and family. Extreme hot to an extremely cold climate makes for fun experiences. She has her bachelor's degree in Communication Studies with a minor in Recreation, Tourism & Hospitality and will always be there to support her Alma Mater, the University of Northern Colorado (Go Bears!), but also tries not to blend into the sea of Bison fans as a UND fan. She is married to her husband, who works in the medical field, and juggles a life of being a wife, momma to two girls and two terriers, and a full-time sales manager. Her house is never quiet, or clean with games, toys and crafting materials everywhere, but she wouldn't change it. Her goal in writing is to help keep your day light-hearted with humor about how things never go as they seem when outnumbered by children, while also sharing topics, tips, and tricks for odd and funky things.

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