“On my first day back to work from maternity leave, a woman offers me her seat on the train because she thinks I’m pregnant. I politely decline, put on sunglasses, and cry for the third time this morning.”
On my first day back to work from maternity leave, a woman offers me her seat on the train because she thinks I’m pregnant. I politely decline, put on sunglasses, and cry for the third time this morning. It’s raining—which seems like a prank because this is California—and when I come out of the train I slip and fall face-first onto the sidewalk. I hear a passerby gasp, “Oh no!” I am now wearing Hollywood Boulevard. (Don’t be jealous. My job here isn’t entertainment-related. It’s secretary related. As in, I’m a secretary.)
I’m openly crying while pretending I’m not crying. It’s probably awkward for my coworkers. I smile and answer questions with tears streaming down my face. And listen, just because you put a sign on a door that says “Wellness Room,” that doesn’t mean it’s not a closet. I’m pumping in a closet. That would make you cry, too. I am also crying because I don’t have a trust fund.
After I wash all the breast-pump parts in the company sink, I go back to my desk to get overwhelmed by my unread 7,402 emails. I delete them all. I feel better. Then I cry again because I miss my baby and I have boob juice on my sweater. It’s not even lunchtime.
Learning to function on 90-minute intervals of sleep is not something at which I ever thought I would be good. And today I know for sure that I’m not. But I have no choice but to kick ass at my job. Full disclosure: I’m only kicking about 70 percent of ass but I’m good with that. I’ve officially learned that I do not want it all. I do not want to lean in.
“Pretty much always, I feel pressure to be like the moms in movies and magazines and TV commercials. But I’ve played a mom in movies and magazines and TV commercials. I’ve been behind the curtain and it’s fake as shit, yet I still yearn to be a fictional character I have literally played on TV.”
Pretty much always, I feel pressure to be like the moms in movies and magazines and TV commercials. But I’ve played a mom in movies and magazines and TV commercials. I’ve been behind the curtain and it’s fake as shit, yet I still yearn to be a fictional character I have literally played on TV.
These moms have no problem working all day and looking adorable in their hot-yoga loungewear while sauteeing tilapia. Their energy is high, they have on makeup, their hair is shiny! My hair is shiny, too, but that’s because even the world’s most effective dry shampoo stops working after four days. Furthermore I’ve worn only leggings and a shapeless sweater covered in cat fur for five months, and one day I promise to dig up some foundation from under my bathroom sink and cover my acne. Honestly, I have a panic attack if I catch a glimpse of myself in a mirror.
As I climb on to the train at end of day one of work, I can’t believe for one second that I ever before today claimed that I was sleep-deprived. That was before the world stood still, a doctor pulled a baby out of my belly, and my life forever became divided into before and after said baby. I’ll say it: motherhood has softened me.
The “Before Baby” me would’ve been so pissed off at having to go back to work and be seen crying and feeling the non-mothers roll their eyes when I go pump. But the “After Baby” me is softer. I’m still totally pissed off and cry—but this baby is the best thing I’ve ever done. The dust has settled, he’s past the infant stage, and he is the tug at my heart I never knew I needed.
I’m not afraid of this. I am taking this working-mommy thing by the balls. I would sleep in 90-minute intervals and work 90-hour weeks for the rest of my life just to have that little guy grab my face with his slobbery fingers, shove his toothless gums onto my chin, then pull back with a smile like he just completed his biggest life achievement and shared it with me. His mom. I’d do it every single day for eternity.
And on the train after that first day, a man offers me his seat and points to my belly. I smile, say thanks, and sit down.
“I’m not afraid of this. I am taking this working-mommy thing by the balls.”