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The Olympics of Returning to Work After a Baby

May 21, 2015

I had no idea what to expect when I became a parent (who does?), but I was somehow even more baffled by the balancing act/sh@t show involved in transitioning back to work after parental leave. I’m sure my experience isn’t unique, and I don’t think I was any worse off than other parents or carers, but I was not prepared. Looking back, I realize there are a few key olympic-worthy skills I needed- and attained to make this transition possible. In no particular order, here they are:

Hotel Hallway Shuffle: Pacing conference hotel halls with a jet-lagged baby in flannel pj’s and trying not to make eye contact with anyone coming off the elevator.

Day Care Dash: Dashing to childcare with grapes, elmo, child, bag, rain cover, and shoes perfectly balanced…only to discover that your kid has fallen asleep in transit. The second phase of this event requires you to try to answer emails in a coffee shop while your child sleeps because you feel too guilty to wake them up and drop them off.

10 Minute Prep Sprint: Putting a 10 minute cartoon on in the morning and trying to shower, get dressed, stuff toast in your mouth, and brush your teeth before the credits roll.

Pumpathon: Using a breast pump at your desk while you try to watch youtube videos of Jimmy Fallon.

Cold Pretzel: Taking power naps on the office floor with a yoga mat as a blanket because you’ve been up since 4am.

Big Mistake: Taking a child solo on an international flight to a conference- against everyone’s good advice- and trying to attend your panels with clean clothes, no tears, and something reasonably coherent to say (this is perhaps the hardest event).

In the end I have new skills, thicker skin, and better time management skills…and a healthy kid that finally sleeps longer than 2 hours at a time. Gold Medal!! What were/are your parenting events?

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Megan MacKenzie is a Senior Lecturer in the Department of Government and International Relations at the University of Sydney in Australia. Her main research interests include feminist international relations, gender and the military, the combat exclusion for women, the aftermaths of war and post-conflict resolution, and transitional justice. Her book Beyond the Band of Brothers: the US Military and the Myth that Women Can't Fight comes out with Cambridge University Press in July 2015.

https://www.cambridge.org/ee/academic/subjects/politics-international-relations/international-relations-and-international-organisations/beyond-band-brothers-us-military-and-myth-women-cant-fight?format=PB