I was 1,900 miles away from home in a remote village of Guatemala…separated from my 9 month old firstborn for what seemed like a very long 10 days. As a first-time nursing mama, this was an experience I was ill prepared for. Yet I refused to allow a work trip, no electricity and no way to communicate back home to keep me from being connected to my baby boy.
So I pumped and dumped. I wrote in a journal every night – letters from mother to child, telling him how much I loved him, shedding uncontrollable tears for being away from him. And then prayed that he would still nurse once I got home.
I left copious notes with my husband and parents with detailed instructions on where to find my frozen breast milk, when to feed him and details on his sleeping schedule. I knew he was being well taken care of, but I still couldn’t help but feel like a terrible mother for being away from him and, truthfully, completely alone as a working mom attempting to do what felt like the impossible.
When I first began my working mom journey, I read all the What to Expect When You’re Expecting books and talked to my friends who had become mothers before me. But most of my personal and professional friends either had no children or stayed at home, and besides their invaluable advice on breastfeeding, disciplining and potty training, I lacked the support system to equip me with what to expect once balancing work and motherhood entered the picture.
To be honest, I envied the stay at home moms who had their built in support groups and other women in similar situations to regularly connect with at playgroups, book clubs or Bible studies. It seemed easy for them to find, or make, the time to be together and openly share their struggles.
I learned quickly that working mothers, on the other hand, are in a league of their own, largely unsupported and perceived as working out of selfish motives and worse yet, for being told that they are allowing “someone else to raise their children”.
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Sadly, formal support groups for working moms, or dads, have never existed, perhaps besides the occasional lunch or rant session with a friend. Simply put, there’s no time for them.
Nine years later into my own journey, I’m convinced I need a working mom support group now more than ever, regardless of how much time it would take. I’m blessed to have a handful of very close friends who are in the same personal and professional stages of their lives as me, and I find every opportunity to connect with them, even if it’s a quick text chat to connect, simply sharing helpful articles or seeking their advice on how to handle a difficult decision. Admittedly, it’s not enough, but it’s a start.