Taking Care of a Newborn IS Work!

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Michelle’s Latest Post for WorkingMother.com

Three weeks ago I “came back” to work. I say “came back” because for the previous 10 weeks I was at home taking care of a newborn and now I’m back at my full-time career. I love the saying, “every mother is a working mother.” Now that I’ve had the experience of being a first-time mother, I relate to that mantra more than ever. Anyone who claims stay-at-home moms aren’t working has clearly never had the experience of caring for an infant.

Lillian was born at the end of May (an experience I will likely blog about) and since then I have learned a lot about baby care and just how much work taking care of a newborn really is. Before having her my experience with babies was fairly limited. I love my niece and nephew, but I’ve never had to care for them overnight. I remember that before she was born, I was most worried about how my husband and I would handle the sleep deprivation that seemed inevitable. I also recall saying to someone that I wanted my husband and me to try to care for the baby mostly by ourselves (not having family over too much).

Then reality set in. Between the 10 or 12 diaper changes a day, feedings, cleaning up messes made by bodily functions and managing the intense sleep deprivation that comes with a baby that doesn’t sleep more than 1.5 – 2 hours in a row, I really learned first hand how draining (physically and emotionally) it can be. Not to mention the fact that the task of deciphering her cries seemed nearly impossible. (Are you hungry…? Did you poop…? Are you just complaining for the sake of complaining…?)

Many of the ideas I had about caring for Lillian completely changed once she was actually here. We relied heavily on support from our parents in those first few weeks and it feels a bit silly now that we really thought we could handle it all on our own. I’m fortunate to have family that wants to help, and the first month or two of having a newborn can be incredibly difficult. We both learned never to say no to people who want to help and to reach out to family when we need extra support because it is a lot of “work.”

It also became clear just how appalling it is that our society doesn’t value the work of stay-at-home mothers. Women who choose to stay home can lose out financially, and in a big way. They do not receive social security for their years “out of the workforce” and the work they do is completely unpaid (this also applies to mothers who take unpaid family and medical leave but return to the job they held before their babies were born). Often if they choose to go back into the working world, the time they spent at home can be a deterrent to potential employers.

While being a stay-at-home mother isn’t for me, I really value the hard work it takes to be in that role. I wish I could say that our society feels the same way.

Let us hear from you! Did you decide to stay at home or re-enter the workforce?

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