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10 thoughts mamas have when returning from maternity leave

Those days, weeks, and months immediately following your maternity leave often pass in a blur. You’re tired, you’re stressed, you’re missing your baby, or you’re feeling guilty for not missing your baby. Most of all, you’re not alone!


Here are 10 common thoughts among women returning from maternity leave that I’ve had or heard:

1. ‘None of my clothes fit’

No one tells you that the months (and sometimes years, let’s face it) after pregnancy are still hard on your body! You’re not with child anymore so most maternity wear is out, yet your pre-pregnancy clothes seems like they must have belonged to a supermodel. Do yourself a favor and go buy some decent clothes that fit your postpartum body…for now. Your body changes forever with each pregnancy, but you can get back to healthy, beautiful you in time.

2. ‘I’m failing at work and at home’

When you are up half the night with a crying baby, it makes it hard to feel like a rockstar at work. The opposite is true when late meetings force you to miss your baby’s bedtime twice in a row. Unfortunately, those situations are sometimes the reality for working mothers. The key is recognizing that it does get easier. Your skills will resharpen and the haze will dissipate after a few months. As your baby grows, the maternal bond will be more than strong enough to withstand some missed bedtimes and you will be more than strong enough to assert your boundaries.

3. ‘My baby is trying to kill me via sleep deprivation’

While sleep deprivation can, in fact, kill you, it does take a prolonged term of little to no sleep to create lasting harm. As everyone says, try to sleep when the baby sleeps. Take naps on the weekends (they’re nice, if a little disorienting). Although it’s tempting to stay up late and take advantage of the adult time, force yourself to go to sleep earlier than you would like if your baby is still waking in the middle of the night. Adding that extra hour increases productivity, reduces stress, and all around makes you a better person.

4. ‘How can I physically be apart from my baby for 8 hours?’

Some days are tough. As time goes on the ache won’t be as strong. Ask your childcare provider to send pictures and videos. Cherish the time you do have with your baby. Create an atmosphere of attention and love from the moment you walk in the door, until at least bedtime. Studies have shown the incredible impact of reading, singing, and talking to your child from birth has on later development.

5. ‘Who has time to pump?’

Never in your life will you empathize more with a cow than when you are hooked up to your breast pump. A beautiful experience it is not. But, pumping is a means to a great end, especially if breastfeeding is important to you. Put pumping sessions on your calendar so that you and others hold them sacred, even if they’re done in a creepy old supply closet with a flimsy lock. Many women pump on their drives to and from work, during conference calls (remember to hit mute), and get extra accessories to save cleaning time. If you can, use this time as a break for yourself to read, relax, and think about your sweet baby.

6. ‘Everyone else seems more put together than I do (and doesn’t have dried spit up on their sleeve).’

Looks can be deceiving. I bet more women than you think feel this way about themselves. No one notices other people’s mistakes, as we are all so focused on our own. Try to forgive yourself the pressure of perfection at this delicate time. Be kind and generous with your body right now. And keep some baby wipes handy for all the yogurt, poop, oatmeal, and whatever else you find caked on your person throughout the day. Try to institute small self-care regimens throughout the day, such as short meditation, or yoga practices.

7. ‘When am I going to feel like myself again?’

Everyone goes through this. You aren’t the same person, you’re a mother now. That experience forever changed you (and your body, see #1). That said, be patient and you will eventually get your groove back. However, post-partum depression can be a very serious issue. Often women ignore warning signs or are too ashamed to admit what’s happening because of the stigma associated with mood disorders. Pay attention to your own wellness and make it a priority.

8. ‘There are not enough hours in the day’

No, there aren’t but we do what we can? Prepare as much as possible the night before-outfits, diaper bag, purse, lunches, etc. Implement routines that work for you and your family to save valuable energy, emotional and otherwise. When you can, make meals in advance for freezing, consider outsourcing grocery shopping through Instacart, using a service like Hello Fresh or Blue Ribbon or ordering from a local meal delivery service (cheaper and healthier than takeout).

9. ‘Is my baby going to hate me for leaving him/her?’

No. In fact, a recent study showed that daughters of working mothers completed higher levels of education and earned higher incomes, while sons of working mothers spent more time on child care and housework. Sounds pretty good to me! Be secure in the knowledge that you are doing what is best for your family. As long as you can create some separation from work and focus on your baby when you are home, the teenage years should definitely maybe be a piece of cake.

10. ‘How does everyone do this?’

If nothing else, take heart in the idea that 70% of mothers in the United States participate in the labor force. Given the continuous attention paid to whether women can (or even want to) have it all, you can be sure that most of those mothers struggled at some point. Organize your home life as you do your work. Make a daily to-do list and make sure you’re not the one doing everything. Despite the early hour, try to really enjoy the one-on-one time with your baby before going to work and create a calm morning environment. Giving yourself extra time avoids the morning mania and allows you set positive intentions for the day.

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In This Article

    Ara Katz/Seed

    We spoke to Ara Katz, co-founder and co-CEO of Seed, who shared her journey to (and through) motherhood—and gave us the lowdown on how probiotics can benefit mamas and children alike.

    Chances are, you're aware that probiotics can help us digest the food we eat, keep inflammation at bay, synthesize essential vitamins and more. But here's the thing: When it comes to probiotics, there's a lot of misinformation… and because of that, it's hard to know what's actually a probiotic and which is the right one for you.

    That's why we chatted with Ara Katz, who is a mama to son Pax and the co-founder of Seed, a company disrupting the probiotics industry. The entrepreneur told us about her motherhood journey, what led her to start her company and what she wants other parents to know about probiotics.

    Q. What was life like for you before you became a mama?

    I was bi-coastal after co-founding a mobile tech company in New York City with a partner in LA. My life was, for as long as I can remember, consumed by creating and work. I was fairly nomadic, loved to travel, spent many hours reading and practicing yoga, being with friends [and] waking up at the crack of dawn. [I] was fairly sure I would never marry or have children. And then something shifted.

    Q. What were some pivotal moments that defined your journey to motherhood?

    Ha, that makes it sound like motherhood is a destination when at this very moment, more than ever, it evolves daily. I lost my mom when I was 17 and spent most of my life believing I didn't want to be a mother. I had a lot of wiring about its limitations and constraints—I'm sure relics of grief and the fear of loss.

    My journey started with a physiological wanting to be pregnant and have a baby. There was a kind of visceral sense that my body wanted to know what that was like and a strange curiosity that, at least for that period of time, usurped my ambivalence about motherhood.

    Then I had a miscarriage—a beautiful inflection point in my story. I resigned from my company, chose a coast, committed to be more committed to my (then) boyfriend, now husband, and tried again. I got pregnant shortly after that and found pregnancy to be a profound journey within, a reshaping of my life and the tiniest glimpse of how motherhood would unfold.

    In the 55 months since giving birth (and I like to use months because I have learned in the moments that I am most frustrated as a mom that he has only been on this planet for less than 14 fiscal quarters), I have realized and surrendered to a definition of motherhood that is a process. One of cultivating, creating, recreating, shapeshifting, learning, feeling, healing, hurting and experiencing the most potent form of presence I have ever experienced—and an aching, expansive love I didn't know possible—not just for my son, but for all living things.

    Q. How did motherhood change your approach to your career?

    Becoming a mother is certainly a persistent lens on all of my choices, but it was really my miscarriage that recalibrated my path. My pregnancy rekindled my love of biology and health and led me to my co-founder and the microbiome. My breastfeeding experience incepted our first product focus, and the newfound accountability for a human inspired our brand.

    Q. What inspired you to co-found Seed?

    I met my co-founder, Raja, during my pregnancy with Pax. [I] was immediately awestruck by his ability to both deeply understand science and to methodically break down a product, dietary question or piece of advice in a way that's educational (you actually learn something about your body), actionable (you understand what to do with the information) and foundational (you can build on that knowledge in the future to continue to make better choices).

    As we spent more time, our combined passion for microbes, their potential impact on both human health and the environment, and how to set up a child for a healthy life became increasingly clear. And through birth, seeding (the process by which we get our foundational microbes and the inspiration for the name of our company) Pax and my struggles with breastfeeding, my entrepreneurial spirit was lit to build something with Raja. His deep experience in translating science to product, and mine in consumer, community-building and translating through storytelling, culminated in a shared vision to set a new standard in health through bacteria.

    Q. Probiotics have been trending in recent years, but they're nothing new—can you talk a bit about the importance of probiotics?

    Interest in gut health and probiotics increases month by month. However, despite the quickly growing number of "probiotic" supplements, foods and beverages out there, there's still a lot of consumer confusion—particularly around what they are, how they work and why we should take them. Probiotics have been studied extensively across various life stages, body sites and for many benefits. Digestion is an obvious and immediate one (and the primary reason most people currently take probiotics). But other strains have also been studied for skin health, heart health and gut health (including gut immune function and gut barrier integrity). But this doesn't mean that any and all probiotics can do these things—this is the importance of 'strain specificity.' In other words, ensuring that the specific strains in your probiotic have been studied for the benefit you desire is critical.

    Seed Daily Synbiotic

    Seed

    Seed's Daily Synbiotic is a 24-strain probiotic + prebiotic formulated for whole-body benefits, including gut, skin and heart health.


    Q. How do probiotics play a role in your life?

    I mean, I take them, I develop them and I work with some of the leading scientists from around the world advancing the field—so they play a big role. As for my personal health, I take our Daily Synbiotic daily and my son also takes specific strains for gastrointestinal health and gut immune function. Beyond that, it's the re-orientation around my microbiome that guides many of my choices: how important fiber is, specific compounds like polyphenols found in berries, green tea and other foods, avoiding the use of NSAIDS like ibuprofen and antibiotics when not needed, exercise, sleep and time in nature [are] all aspects of our daily life that impact our microbiome and our health.

    Q. What are some misconceptions about probiotics that you would like to set straight?

    There's one main myth on from which all the other stem: that probiotics aren't considered a serious science. On the contrary, it's a field of inquiry that demands incredible rigor and extensive research. And when anything and everything from chocolate to ice cream to fermented food and kombucha to mattresses can call itself "probiotic" due to underregulation in the category, that grossly undermines the science and their potential.

    The term 'probiotic' has a globally-accepted scientific definition that was actually co-authored by our Chief Scientist, Dr. Gregor Reid ,for the United Nations/World Health Organization.

    At Seed, we work to reclaim the term for science, through the development of next-generation probiotics that include clinically validated strains and undergo the most rigorous safety, purity and efficacy testing procedures. Because why would you invite billions of unknown microbes into your body without asking "what's in here, is it the correct dosage that was studied, and has that strain in that amount been studied in human clinical trials to do something beneficial for my body"?

    Q. Can you tell us a little bit about what product you plan to launch next?

    We are developing a pipeline of consumer probiotics to target specific ecosystems of the body and life stages, including a synbiotic for children. Our next product will reflect a unique breakthrough in the field of pediatric probiotics, which we are excited to announce soon.

    This article was sponsored by Seed. Thank you for supporting the brands that support Motherly and mamas.

    Our Partners

    This post is brought to you by Staples. While this was a sponsored opportunity, all content and opinions expressed here are my own.

    One of the biggest changes in my household once my daughter started homeschooling was that, suddenly, everything and everyone in our home had to start pulling double duty. While I was used to wearing a lot of hats (mom, wife and WFH employee, to name a few), suddenly our dining room was also pulling shifts as a classroom. My laptop was also a virtual teacher. Our living room hutch was also a school supply closet.

    If I didn't want my home to be overrun with an abundance of clutter, I had to find products that could multitask. Here are 10 products that are saving this WFH + homeschooling mama right now.

    Stylish storage cabinet

    Whether I need a place to keep the printer or just want to keep crayons and colored pencils organized, this pretty cabinet provides a mixture of exposed and hidden storage without clashing with my living room decor.

    White board calendar + bulletin board

    With so much on our plates these days, I need a visual reminder of our daily schedule or I'll forget everything. This dry erase version makes it easy to keep track of Zoom meetings and virtual classes—and I also love using the corkboard to display my daughter's latest work from art class.

    Natural Recycled 3-Ring Binder

    From tracking our curriculum progress to organizing my family's paperwork, I can never have enough binders. Even better, this neutral version is pretty enough that I can display them on the bookshelf.

    Bamboo storage drawers

    The instant you start homeschooling, it can feel like you're suddenly drowning in papers, craft supplies and more. Fortunately, these simple bamboo drawers can be tucked into the cabinet or even displayed on top (seriously, they're that cute!) to keep what we need organized and close at hand.

    Laminated world map

    I love this dry-erase map for our geography lessons, but the real secret? It also makes a cute piece of wall decor for my work space.

    Rolling 7-drawer cabinet

    When you're doing it all from home, you sometimes have to roll with the punches—I strongly recommend getting an organizational system that rolls with you. On days when both my husband and I are working from home and I need to move my daughter's classes to another room, this 7-drawer cabinet makes it easy to bring the classroom with us.

    Letterboard

    From our first day of school photo to displaying favorite quotes to keep myself motivated, this 12"x18" letterboard is my favorite thing to display in our home.

    Expandable tablet stand

    Word to the wise: Get a pretty tablet stand you won't mind seeing out every day. (Because between virtual playdates, my daughter's screen time and my own personal use, this thing never gets put away.)

    Neutral pocket chart

    Between organizing my daughter's chore chart, displaying our weekly sight words and providing a fits-anywhere place to keep supplies on hand, this handy little pocket chart is a must-have for homeschooling families.

    Totable fabric bins

    My ultimate hack for getting my family to clean up after themselves? These fabric bins. I can use them to organize my desk, store my oldest's books and even keep a bin of toys on hand for the baby to play with while we do school. And when playtime is over, it's easy for everyone to simply put everything back in the bin and pop it in the cabinet.

    Looking for study solutions for older children? Hop over to Grown & Flown for their top picks for Back to School.

    Work + Money

    Cameron Diaz on having a baby at 47: 'You really have to work hard for it'

    "The only pressure for me now is I have to live to be, like, 107, you know? No pressure!"

    This is the decade that saw the face of first-time motherhood change. The number of first-time mamas under 30 is shrinking, while more and more women are becoming moms after 40.

    Cameron Diaz is one of them. The actress and businesswoman, now 48, became a mom in January at the age of 47. In a new episode of Naomi Campbell's YouTube series, No Filter, Diaz opens up about what it's like to become a mom in your fourth decade.

    "A lot of people do it the other way around ... they get married [and] have a family in their youth," says Diaz."I'm kind of doing it in the second half of my life."

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