WORKING MOM: Back to the Grind

I’m backkkkkk.

Well, it happened. I had my son, I muddled through maternity leave, and now I am sitting in my office- face to face with my new normal. A working mom of two.

I’ve never been so busy and so tired in my life. I’d like to have a pep talk with my 25-year-old self, or even my 30-year-old self. Literally WHAT DID I DO WITH ALL OF MY TIME BACK THEN? Today, I am so desperate for the superpower to be able to freeze time (hello, Zack Morris). I just need like 6-8 more hours in the day so I can do all of my work, be with my family, catch up with my friends, clean my house, and maybe sleep. Is that too much to ask?

As I return to my full-time job, I’m slowly trying to figure out (once again) how to juggle it all. Adding another tiny human to the mix multiplies EVERYTHING: the struggles known as the morning routine, dinner, baths, and bed time. It multiplies the happiness, but it also multiplies the stress, the laundry, and the never-ending list of tasks that don’t get done. It multiplies the doctor appointments, the birthday parties, and the Amazon purchases. It often means balancing both kids along a fine line of “am I giving each child enough attention, am I being the best mom I can be” and “can I simply keep us all going one more day.”

On top of the added workload of caring for another human being, a baby has a less than stellar sleep pattern. On the few nights when he sleeps for six hours at a clip, it’s like my toddler knows—and, not one to miss a trick, she makes sure she wakes up in the middle of the night for no reason (well, not no reason... she needs water, or her blanket fell off, or she thought of something from 6 days ago that she forgot to tell me). And, yet, sleep is so low on my list of priorities, because there’s so much to do.

There’s also this weird thing about coming back from maternity leave. Everyone asks about the baby and how you’re doing, but there’s an unspoken expectation that this life-changing event not interfere with your work in any way. With clients and with colleagues, I find myself answering the obligatory “how is the baby” with a polite “he’s great,” and moving quickly along to the task at hand. I do not want anyone in my work life to view my newborn as a weakness; I find the need to prove that I can do it all. I’m supposed to manage both my family and my job at the same time, while pretending my real life doesn’t exist at work and my work life doesn’t exist at home.

With this second baby, there’s also a whole new level of guilt. It’s bad enough that he didn’t get his own new crib, uses his sister’s barbies as teething rings, and, oftentimes, has to take a backseat when she’s fighting for our attention. (I mean, #secondkidproblems). However, since returning to work, I missed my son rolling over for the first time. I am missing his new smiles and watching as he grows into an actual baby with personality. I’ve also had to miss a few more bedtimes than I’d like to admit due to work commitments. While I hate every second of his sleep regression, I find myself relishing in the moments we’re awake and alone in the middle of the night. No distractions, just me and him. And I wonder am I doing the right thing? Or am I just the worst mom ever? Compound that with my daughter saying, “hold on mommy, I just need to call a client,” while imitating me on her pretend phone, and I just die inside.

The reality is that I have no idea what my life would be like if I didn’t have a full-time job. I don’t know what it would mean for me personally or for our family. This is the only way I know, and that’s a conscious choice I made for my family years ago. I like my job. I find fulfillment in going to work. My daughter may mock me on her play phone, but she also loves to wear my high heels and tell me she’s going to work, and I am proud to be her working mom. I don’t actually want to change anything, I just wish there were more hours in a day so I really could do it all.

So, does anyone know how Zack Morris did it?

Ashley Vallillo Manzi lives in Hoboken with her husband, three year old daughter, and newborn son. She is a family law attorney with Ziegler Zemsky & Resnick. With focus on prenuptial agreements, divorce, alimony & child custody, Ashley sees her role as "helping someone arrive at a new beginning." On the weekends, Ashley and her family love to go out for brunch, playing in Church Square Park, or chasing the birds along Sinatra Drive. With lots of friends and family (her siblings live here too!) this family is always on the go.