Working moms: 3 tips to help you get back to the grind after mat leave

Returning to work after spending the last year of your life in a baby bubble can seem almost as daunting as scaling Mount Everest. As a first-time mom about to take that giant leap back into the real world, I’ve uncovered a few items I found have helped put my mind at ease.

One of my biggest worries as I head back to work is that I’m missing out on a lot of time with my daughter. This article by Olivia Nicholas, who blogs for Yummymummy.ca, helped me realize that there is ample opportunity in the short time we have together, on any given day, to make a meaningful connection.

The next piece, by Yuki Hayashi, writing for Canadian Family, helped me focus my energy and plan for my return to work, in fact it reminded me that with a little planning our family could easily navigate this transition and we’ll all be better off for it.

Ultimately, different moms will have different priorities when it comes time to get back on the career path but it’s important to remember that it’s been done before and this is an opportunity to learn from those who came before us. Here are 3 tips to consider as you wade into this new phase in your life:

  • Organize! – Whether its child care, pick ups, drop offs, extracurriculars, meals, doctor’s appointments, etc. a little planning will go a long way.
  • Make time – Figure out a way to connect with your family throughout the day through phone calls or FaceTime; if you can’t be there in person at least let them hear your voice or see your face.
  • Ask away – Ask for help if you need it. Don’t burn yourself out trying to go it alone; friends, family and even the right employer can be a wonderful source of support.

You (we!) can do this. If you’ve made it through the first year of being a mom, you can pretty much do anything. Remember to plan ahead, set aside little pockets of time for family and seek help if you need it. Now go and kill it at the office!

My name is Amy Kouniakis, I am a wife, mom, fur mom, blogger and editor based in Burlington, Ontario. I am currently pursuing a Social Media Marketing Specialization through Northwestern University via Coursera. Feel free to reach out or connect with me at @Amy_Kay8.

Power of pawsitivity

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Madison Elizabeth Freckles Kay Kouniakis

The human capacity to love is such a beautifully humbling thing and, if we’re lucky, in this life we have so many opportunities to embrace and express this emotion.

The love between family members is constant and dependable; the love in a friendship is buoyant and joyful; the love of lovers is all-consuming and earth-shattering and the love of parent and child is unconditional and never-ending. All of these relationships are life-changing and shape who we are as people. These are the relationships that make life worth living.

I’ve been incredibly lucky in love. I have the most incredible group of friends. My family is full of generous, kind, caring and supportive people. My husband is the greatest person I’ve ever met and our daughter has shown me how deeply one’s well of love can flow.

There is another kind of love whose power to transform cannot be overstated: that of a pet.

Murph

Murphy was 15 years old when this was taken.

I grew up with dogs in my life. I’ve been a cat mom for almost 14 years now. These beings have had such a profound impact on the course of my life and have been a source of comfort through some pretty dark times. I would even go so far as to say that everything I am and I have today is thanks to a dog.

My first dog was Nicky. A plucky little American Eskimo my parents rescued from an abusive situation. He was devoted to just our family and was incredibly protective. Saying goodbye to him was one of the hardest things I ever had to do in my life. He set me on my path to being an animal lover.

Then came Murphy. Another American Eskimo (my family had a type) who was perhaps the kindest most innocent soul I’ve ever encountered. He never wanted anything more than food or love. He’s the dog that set the bar for all other dogs in my life.

Mia

Mia the laser cat.

When I moved out on my own, Mia, a tabby cat, came next. She’s a tough one to love. She is not friendly. She will cuddle me when she senses I’m in distress and she’s protective of our daughter but everything is always on her terms. Shortly after she came into my life, Montgomery, the Scottish Fold cat, entered the picture. He’s the exact opposite of Mia: sweet, loves affection and playful. He keeps me company when I’m sick or very sad. He’s been a source of great comfort.

Next came Murray. A beagle-terrier mix my ex-husband and I adopted him from the SPCA. He schooled us in patience. He was a handful, to say the least. Our house was turned upside down for months as we all adjusted to this new living situation. He eventually became a wonderful dog after A LOT of hard work. He stayed with my ex after we split up because we decided he needed the consistency of his dad. He now has a lovely new mom, a beautiful little human sister and a huuuuge backyard. He’s a very happy boy.

Murray

Murray

About a year after my divorce, I adopted Hannah from a rescue. She was some sort of Spaniel cross but they really didn’t know what. She was a ray of sunshine. She breathed life into me. Unfortunately, two weeks after the adoption was finalized, the rescue called me to say her family was looking for her and they wanted her back. It was absolutely devastating. Saying goodbye to her almost killed me.

After Hannah, I hit a serious low. I was in a bad place after the divorce. I didn’t really go out much. I spent a lot of time alone, self-medicating and feeling sorry for myself. I was being consumed by shame, guilt and self-loathing. When Hannah was taken away, the life was sucked out of me again and all those negative feelings amplified. I know the people around me watched in horror as I became a shell of the person I was.

My parents came to me one day about a month after Hannah left, probably out of terror, to offer to buy me another dog – they knew I wouldn’t go the adoption route so soon after Hannah. Part of me resisted the idea of replacing her but another part of me knew I needed to fill that hole in my heart before it consumed me. I agreed.

Hannah

Hannah

That’s when Maddy came into my life.

She is a beautiful little Cavachon (Cavalier King Charles Spaniel crossed with a Bichon) who reminds me of Elizabeth Taylor from Sex in the City. The moment I laid eyes on her, I was instantly and irretrievably in love with her. I think it took her some time to return the feeling but I was devoted to her from the get-go.

She was the CUTEST puppy you’ve ever seen. I took her everywhere. Walking her was the joy of my life. Cuddling with her was heaven.

After a month or so, I realized I was becoming something resembling a human being again: I was talking to people and going places. I was laughing and enjoying parts of life that I hadn’t for some time.

She taught me how to live again. She taught me how to love again.

When Maddy was about six months old, I decided I wanted to try dating again. I figured I’d give eHarmony a try. I filled out all the questions with great care and made a promise to myself that I was going to be incredibly picky about who I would go out with.

I really lucked out: the first date I went on was with my future husband.

When we first started messaging back and forth, I remember thinking ‘this funny, smart and sexy dude is out of my league.’ But I was so filled with confidence that I went for it. I know that confidence came from the reassuring little dog I always had by my side.

My husband, who grew up without pets, likes to remind me now and then that it was in fact Maddy he fell in love with first. I don’t blame him.

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Maddy offering a ‘high’ five.

He spent about as much time wooing Maddy as he did me. He used to bring her toys that he slept with so that she got used to his smell. He would walk her all the time and take her to the park to play. In a way, she brought us both to life and bonded us together.

Now here we are with our amazing daughter and our beautiful home. Our life is by no means perfect but it’s lovely. Most of all, it’s a life. And always, there with us, is that constant little presence. Watching over us and loving us.

It’s with so much pride that I tell you my daughter’s first word was ‘Adden.’ For the longest time we couldn’t figure out what she meant. Then it dawned on me: ‘Ooooh! She means Maddy!’

Clever girl

Jurassic Baby

Photoshop skillz courtesy of Patrick Weberman

I always thought that when I became a mom it would be an effortless transition.

I’ve had pets all my life and I took pretty good care of them. Except for the time my turtle starved to death, and that other time my hamster starved to death (I was kind of forgetful in my youth), I have a pretty solid track record.

‘How much harder can a baby be than a puppy?’ I told myself.

Now that I’m in the shit, literally and figuratively, I think an apt comparison would be Jurassic Park.

Dinosaurs and babies = Samesies

You see, it all starts out the same: you read about dinosaurs/babies and they’re so fun and cool. You’re filled with all the romantic notions and you just know when you come face to face with them you’re going to know how to handle it. You’ve been to the classes, you’ve skimmed all the books and in theory, you’re an expert. Most importantly, they will just fall in step because they will feel the love emanating from you.

Then the time comes for you to get to the island/give birth: the ride is bumpy, sometimes painful and you might shit yourself but when you arrive at you destination/see your baby, you forget you almost died in a fiery helicopter crash or that your ungroomed lady bits were on display for a room full of strangers.

Seeing your baby for the first time is like when Dr. Grant and Dr. Sattler see real live dinosaurs roaming the misty countryside of Jurassic Park; it’s a dream come true and a thing of real beauty. It’s just as you imagine it and so, so much more. You cry a lot.

And the first little while after you have your baby/walk with the dinosaurs it’s like this. For the purposes of this comparison, we’ll call this the honeymoon phase. This is the time where you’re in absolute bliss. Everything seems magical and happy and you’ve never been more in love. What on earth could ever go wrong?

Where’s the poop?

About 12 to 24 hours after arriving on the island, though, tiny cracks in the facade start to appear: your baby has trouble latching and you start to worry about her starving to death or you realize they have a T-Rex at Jurassic Park. Your baby screams for approximately eight hours straight 24-48 hours after she’s born because she’s realized she’s no longer in the womb (this is a thing I didn’t find out about until I was in the middle of it – thanks world for not preparing me) or you find out JP scientists have bred raptors.

After that night of endless screaming, my enthusiasm, and I’m sure my husband’s, for the new role we’d taken on dimmed somewhat. We saw that no amount of book learnin’ can prepare you for the reality of being a first-time parent. Kind of like when the JP visitors realize like: ‘whoa, these gigantic animals have been extinct for millions of years and we really don’t know shit about them!’

Into the wild

When it came time for us to leave the hospital, we definitely had mixed emotions: we didn’t want to leave the safety net of nurses and doctors but the idea of spending a night in our own bed sounded like heaven. To be honest, it was terrifying. I really didn’t feel like we had a handle on anything and she was so damn tiny. But we did it! We strapped our little peanut into her car seat and off we went into the world/Jurassic Park!

Now, those early months with your first baby are kind of a blur. It’s really a time of discovery for all of you. There are some really incredible moments: the first time she smiles is like the first time Dr. Grant sees a living, breathing triceratops. Or the first time she grips your finger is like the excitement Tim feels when he thinks he’s going to see a T-Rex.

In many ways, those first few months are dream, at least now that I look back on it. Babies are kind of like little blobs (but way more precious, of course!). They don’t do much. They don’t go anywhere and they don’t get into shit. It’s kind of awesome.

Welcome to the jungle

The first time our girl rolled over is when it feels like shit really got real.

From the moment she knew she could do it, she never wanted to do anything else. Even when you’re trying to clean up the biggest, stinkiest and messiest poop in the history of poops, she wants to roll and roll and roll so that she’s covered in it, I’m covered in it and our dog is covered in it and eating it. It’s pretty shitty – literally. It’s like when the T-Rex eats the goat and throws the bloody leg on the Jeep; it’s bloody messy and you just know it’s going to get worse from here on out.

And it does. The more they move around the more stuff they can get into. And you can try to contain it with baby gates and electrified fences but despite your best efforts to control and protect them, they always find a way to outsmart you.

This is the time in their development when they’re most like the velociraptors in Jurassic Park. They are constantly checking the fences for weaknesses or testing the limits of your resolve. They learn and adapt quickly to their surroundings and if they’re in a pack, you better hope you have enough toys, activities and food to keep them satisfied because sister, they will eat you alive! I had a moment last week where I watched in horror as my darling girl tested a door knob; my mouth went dry and I felt faint. So much like that scene in JP where Dr. Grant watches in terror as a raptor turns a handle and opens a door. I feel, however, my real-life scenario has far more frightening consequences.

All the feels

To be fair, around this time kids can be like those super lovable veggie-eating dinosaurs too. When our daughter started laughing and doing things to get a rise out of us, our relationship took on a new dimension: it became more give and take and less give and give and give. She became more fun to hang out with and it was truly fascinating to be up close and personal with this tiny developing person who was experiencing the world for the first time.

While Jurassic Park, in theory, is a wonderful idea it sadly turns out to be disaster for all involved. The comparison to parenthood might be a little harsh in that regard. Still, it’s interesting in the sense that those ancient beasts were thrown into a situation believed to be under the thumb of their creators and yet, they found a way to evolve beyond those controls. It’s kind of like kids: despite our best intentions they will always find ways to defy expectations and remind us just how little we know about people, life and love until they charge into the picture.

You’re watching Treehouse

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Before a little person came out of me, I had lofty notions about parenting and how I was going to do it.

Never was I ever going to drive a minivan (I still don’t, but my bff just bought one yesterday and as she was describing all of its baubles and conveniences I thought my head would burst from jealousy); never would I ever co-sleep (first night home from the hospital we broke that rule); never would I ever allow my child to watch TV.

The last one was really hard to justify especially because for the first few months of her life I was parked in front of the television as I sought to distract myself from the endless cycle of breastfeeding and holding her while she slept (also something I vowed I’d never do).

When our daughter got to an age where she was aware of stuff, we decided it might be time to start watching more kid-appropriate programming. I’ll admit, I was selfish and reluctant to make the switch as my super-intellect demands to be challenged by shows like Love It or List It, Property Brothers and Real Housewives of Orange County, but I think we’ve made the most of things.

The Treehouse network has become a familiar backdrop at our house. It’s only natural that my husband and I have become kid show connoisseurs. In fact we’ve really gotten into them. Where once we debated the dark themes in Breaking Bad and Game of Thrones, we now theorize on the whereabouts of Max and Ruby‘s parents (and their sudden appearance – what’s that all about? They’re so lame!) or the ramifications of the relationship between Leah and the genies in Shimmer and Shine.

So, because I am an expert on kid TV now, I thought it would be fun to come up with a Top 5 Treehouse shows for adults. Keep in mind, this is based on adult watchability not if they’re any good for our children – who worries about that anyways?

5. Go Jetters

This show features four adventure-seeking superheroes who travel the globe under the guidance of a disco-loving unicorn named Ubercorn. They often cross paths with super villain Grand Master Glitch who, with his Grimbots, is always up to no good.

I won’t lie, I’ve actually learned a lot from the Go Jetters. Ubercorn’s Funky Top 3 is VERY informative and super funky. The reason this show is in the Top 5 is because my husband and I loooooove the theme song and also, we think Grand Master Glitch adorable and he is one of our all-time favourite villains – he really is just misunderstood.

4. Sesame Street

I feel like this show needs no introduction.

Our fondness for Sesame Street is mostly fueled by nostalgia though there are a lot of really entertaining skits. They have a segment that re-imagines popular movies or shows. Our favourites include: True Mud (True Blood), The Hungry Games: Catching Fur, Upside Downton Abbey, and many many more. Sesame Street might be a show for kids but it’s clearly written with an adult audience in mind. Love that this show is back in my life.

3. Peg + Cat

This follows a little girl Peg and her sidekick Cat as they solve problems using math.

Peg + Cat took time to grow on me. I found Peg a little grating at first but I think that was my sleep deprivation clouding my judgment. This show is HILARIOUS. The writing is so damn clever and the music is way catchy. The animation is adorable and Cat’s dry wit perfectly offsets high-strung Peg’s sweetness.

2. Peppa Pig

I absolutely adore this little English piggy and her family.

Peppa Pig is one of the very first shows we exposed our daughter to. She seriously could not care less about it. I’ve been smitten with Peppa from day one. She’s full of sass, curiosity and sweetness. In an age where princesses seem to dominate the little girl landscape, I can’t help but feel this pink angel is a breath of fresh air. Peppa’s giggle and little brother George’s cry always put me in stitches. I am going to continue to shove this show and all its merchandise down my daughter’s throat until she’s old enough to appreciate just how friggin’ cool Peppa is.

1. Ready, Steady, Wiggle!

These Aussie performers will always have a special place in my heart.

From the moment my daughter first heard The Wiggles, she was enraptured. The Wiggles are the only people who can bring her to a complete stop. The 20 minutes that Ready, Steady, Wiggle is on is the only time I can duck out of the living room to do dishes or go to the bathroom. They are a godsend.

Aside from their ability to hypnotize our daughter, my husband and I love watching the Wiggles. The music is so much fun to sing along with and we find each Wiggles’ persona silly and intriguing and there are some really funny and wacky moments. I truly believe that being a Wiggle would be one of the best jobs in the world; they make it look so fun.

Honourable mentions:

Shimmer and Shine: Zach’s unrequited love for Leah keeps me tuning in. You could cut the sexual tension with a knife.

Max and Ruby: Though this show got suckier with the introduction of their parents, I like the theme song and I think Max is cool.

Wonder Pets!: Soooooooo weird = Awesome.

Author’s note: I am in no way affiliated with Treehouse or the production of any of these shows (although if I was offered a job as a Wiggle, I’d jump at the chance). I’m just a tired lady who has nothing better to do when her exhausting toddler is napping.