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May 10, 2020
Coming Back from Maternity Leave During The Coronavirus Pandemic

It's no vacation.

Whether it's your first or your third maternity leave, lasts a week or six months, it's simply exhausting. Gearing up to go back to work is a mixed bag of emotions. Simultaneously devastated to leave your child, excited to reunite with colleagues, dreading the commute and thrilled to have some alone time on the way.
Moms returning to work this spring have been hit with an even bigger challenge: COVID-19. This global pandemic has forcibly changed the way we work, travel, socialize and engage and we're not really sure when or if things will go back to normal.
 
We're sharing stories of two Superkin customers returning to work during this crisis, in Denver and Boston.
 

Meredith: 1st Time Mom in Denver, CO

  
Hello! Meredith here. I'm a proud new mom to my son Hudson, wife to my rockstar husband Tad (affectionately termed, Rad Dad Tad) and I work in Fintech. Hudson is our first child and has been such a sweet and goofy addition to our little family. We were fortunate to both have the opportunity to take time to bond as a family. My husband and I both took the same amount of parental leave (did I already say, Rad Dad Tad?) and I am so grateful that he did. When he took advantage of an opportunity to take a long parental leave it signaled to me that we were in this together and would truly split workload at home. Although still overwhelming, this enabled me to feel confident and excited to go back to work and know that we were a team.
 
Parents return to work after maternity leave
Meredith and Rad Dad Tad with baby Hudson
 
We both are in fast paced careers. I lead a Partnerships team for a Fintech startup and my husband is a management consultant. Last year, we basically lived on airplanes. Before he was born, Hudson went to Sao Paulo, Mexico City and across the US and back again about 10 times. I am fortunate that I will be able to travel less thanks to my team, but travel will always be part of the job to some extent.
I enjoyed every minute of my parental leave and am so grateful for the time we had to focus 100% on family. I will always cherish it.
 
When it came time to go back to work, I was excited. This shocked me. I was prepared for the ultimate case of "Sunday Scaries", but the transition back has been easier than I expected. This is in large part to my company, boss and team. I have been in awe of the support I've received and am grateful that I truly could step away from work and focus on my family. The fact that they support their people makes me even more committed and loyal to the company. 
 
We have a wonderful nanny that lives nearby and comes to our home to take care of Hudson. I affectionately call these, "Hudson's playdates." It's definitely different because of COVID and shelter-in-place, but as it becomes safer, I am excited for Hudson to be able to go on adventures during the day while we are at work. When we both have to travel, our nanny will stay at our house so that Hudson is always in the comfort of our home.
 
Heading back to work during COVID has felt easier in many ways. For the last two years, I've worked from home (and lived on airplanes). Going back to work and entering a WFH setup is my typical day. The fact that I've been able to transition back without needing to travel right away has been a nice silver lining to a strange and overwhelming time. I know I will need to be away from Hudson at some point and figure out life on the road (pumping, etc.), but that is a problem to tackle "tomorrow". The hardest part of COVID has been not being able to share these early months with family. We kicked off virtual story time for Hudson so that our family can trade off reading him a bedtime story, but we'd love to all be together and get to share these early memories.
 
As a new mom, I feel a lot of pressure. There are so many recommendations out there (and many conflict, of course) and too many opinions. I think breastfeeding is one of them. I made the choice to breastfeed / pump and have been fortunate that that has worked well for me. But, most importantly, focus on keeping them well fed (breast or formula), healthy and most importantly, just loving your babe to pieces. We are taking life as a family of three one day at a time, soaking up baby snuggles and learning to laugh at ourselves on our fumbles. Our approach to balancing it all isn't perfect by any means, but it has been perfect for us.Sending wishes for good health and sleep-filled nights to all the Superkin families!
 
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Kristin: Mom of 3 (3.5 years & twins, 6 months), Boston, MA

 In November 2019, I left on maternity leave to have my twin girls. However, during my maternity leave, my job was eliminated. I spent the last 6 weeks of my maternity leave job searching and luckily, I was able to secure a job, one I loved and was excited about. 

The change in company required me to tweak my childcare arrangements, so I delayed my new start date by a week. Just as I was prepping to start my new job, things started to close due to COVID-19. It wasn't much longer before my oldest daughter's full-time preschool was closed indefinitely. The only saving grace was that we had a nanny secured for the twins (who was still okay coming in) so my husband and I decided to split the day with our oldest daughter.

My first day of work was like nothing I've ever experienced: I drove downtown, picked up my computer, came home and logged in. It's a totally strange experience when starting a new company! 

I was familiar with a WFH situation from time to time but the uncertainty of this virus was very unnerving. There was still not a definitive plan or comprehension of the looming situation. Not to mention, I had 3 kids under 3 in the same house ALL DAY. 

From day one, I opened up to my boss. I figured there was no sugar coating this. I wanted to be honest from the beginning - that my performance was not going to be normal. I was relieved to hear they understand and that there are many parents in the company who were learning to juggle this new reality. The company has little to no WFH/remote infrastructure, so everyone was learning together. 

One month in: While I continue to enjoy the people and the work, I'm definitely not where I'd normally be at a new job. I know that I'm being hard on myself and it's a unique combination to start a new job during COVID-19 while coming off of maternity leave with twins. Some days I'm back on my laptop after bedtime and other nights, I can't manage to swing it. It can be overwhelming but we're managing. 

I can't imagine going through this without a supportive husband, especially as I'm ramping up with a new team, job and boss. My husband has really stepped up. We are huge planners so the days are pretty organized but outside of calls and toddler life, there isn't much time for down-time or anything else. 

 

Return to work during covid

Kristin with her husband, and three daughters

Returning to work after my second maternity leave, I've seen two major differences. While it can be so frustrating juggling being an employee and mom to three, it is nice to spend more time with my girls. Seeing that we'll continue to have some WFH and social distancing practices in place for the foreseeable future, it will turn out that I will have spent the entire first year of my twins' life at home with them. As a working mom who left her first daughter with a nanny at 4 months, I am cherishing this immensely and know that I will look back at this with total gratitude. 

Another notable change has been seeing the ins and outs of the day in the life of my oldest. Before COVID-19, we dropped her off at 8am and picked her up at 5pm. She loves her school and happily skips into school everyday. This is certainly every working parents dream situation. But now, she's at home all day with her 6 mo old twin sisters, a nanny and her parents. It's tough to hear and see all the ups and downs in toddler-land day in and day out. Before all of this, we could be blissfully naive about it all. Now it's like we see how the sausage is made.  

I can't wait to be able to commute (remind me of this once I'm 6 month in and it's 20 degrees out...) but at the same time, I know there are added challenges I've yet to tackle with balancing the job, commute and childcare (now x3!). It's been a welcomed experience to glide back into working rather than taking that shocking blow I experienced when I went back after my first. 

Parents are going through so much now but it's fascinating to see how parents are impacted with full-time jobs and childcare based on their kids' ages. While it's physically demanding in our house, I can't imagine having to balance zoom calls with e-learning! While I envy a 12-year's self-sufficiency, adding full-time teacher to my pile is a challenge on an entirely new level! 

For more return to work stories, check out our feature in the Returnity Project.

Miriam Williams
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