Mothers Returning to Work: Kate and Hattie

Kate works as a middle school English teacher. She lives in SE Portland with her husband and her daughter Hattie and now their son, Sawyer. At the time of this interview, Kate was getting ready to have her second child, and reflecting on her journey to life as a working mom. Her answers below are honest, personal and inspiring. 

What is your nationality or national identity?

Where do you live? 
Portland, OR.

What is your child's name? When was he or she born? Were you happy with your birth experience?  
Hattie was born May 19th, 2011 and Sawyer is due any day now. I was very happy with our hospital and found the staff to be incredibly supportive and progressive. I delivered (and will again soon) at Kaiser Sunnyside in Clackamas, OR, which has a World Health Organization designation of "mother/baby friendly" due to their birthing and breastfeeding philosophies. I had assumed that I would need to strongly advocate for myself and my views on birthing and it simply was not the case.  Hattie was in the posterior position (and it looks like for now, Sawyer is too) and labor went from 0-100 in a matter of minutes, so it wasn't exactly what I had anticipated from my hypnobirthing classes. After about ten hours of extreme back labor, I changed my birthing plan and decided to get an epidural.  For me, this was absolutely the right call. I felt very calm and present as Hattie was born and could still feel her coming out and move my legs. I only had about 30 minutes of pushing and a very easy recovery. I think everyone has a different birthing experience and more power to people who opt for no interventions whatsoever, but I feel 100% positive in how things turned out for me and Hattie. I haven't decided what I want to for this next labor and plan on seeing how things progress and making the right decision at the time. One thing I have learned is that my opinions on parenting can change once they are no longer just theoretical! 

What type of parenting philosophy do you follow, if any? 
I am an over-researcher. I think for most major decisions, I have read a huge amount of literature from the extreme attachment parenting view to seemingly colder approaches, dozens of internet articles, some very non-credible yahoo answers type of sources, talked to my pediatrician and then ultimately made the choice that worked best for our family and seemed to be the most common sense.  I am trying to get away from the research and focus more on the intuition because that is where I end up anyway!

Tell me about your maternity leave: How long? Paid or unpaid? Etc?
I am schoolteacher. Since Hattie was born in May, I already had the whole summer off. I then chose to take off September-January. I had a total of 8 months off, four of which were paid.  For Sawyer, who will be born any day now, I will have a little over four months off, two of which will be unpaid. 6 months would be ideal, but I can't forsee returning to a classroom in March, financially or for the good of the students. Plus, I am lucky to be in a job where both my husband and I can leave at 3:00PM and have multiple vacations and summers off. For full-time employment, I think that teaching is the most family friendly and I am so thankful that my husband and I are both teachers. 

Did you have plans to return to work in place before giving birth?
Yes, both plans were in place prior.

How comfortable were you with your return to work plan before the baby was born? Did your feelings change after birth? Did you stick to the same plan?
I stuck to the same plan with Hattie and hope to with Sawyer. I know it feels difficult to leave your baby, especially initially.  By the same token, I love my job and having a focus for a few hours a day that it a completely different world/outlet. If I wasn't a teacher, I would probably still work part-time.  It helps that Hattie has thrived in daycare, learning new skills and making friends. She never cried once when we left her and seemed to be the life of the party! 

Do you breastfeed? Did you? Did your return to work interfere? Do you fear it will?
I breastfed Hattie for 7 months until I got pregnant with Sawyer. With Sawyer, I will need to do some pumping at work.  This will be inconvenient, but doable.

What type of childcare will/do you use?
The educational service district where I work runs a daycare that is used by many teachers. It is a mile from my school and all the staff is accredited.  I like the transparency of everything there and the ease at which I understand all their policies because I work in a school as well. It is certainly more expensive than in-home, but less expensive than some of the private places I looked at too. It feels like a good compromise. 

Do you feel protected as a mother/working mother by state and/or federal laws where you live? Explain.
Yes. I think the US Family Medical Leave Act is reasonable and I have been happy with the district's support of me.  In particular, they have personally paid for my long term substitute to attend meetings and conferences outside of her contract and have been totally fine with me taking September-January off for two years in a row. It is hard to imagine that going over as well in the private sector. I know that in some other countries there would be even more support for childcare, maternity leave, etc, but of course there is tax trade off too. 

Why are you going back to work? 
I need a professional outlet as well as to contribute the income to my family.

How do you feel in general about returning to work? 
I think it is necessary, if difficult at times.

If anything were possible, what would your dream motherhood and work situation look like?
If anything were possible, I would prefer working low part-time, like 2- 4 hours a day, then having 2 hours every day to myself to run errands and work out, then the rest of the hours at home with the kids or taking them places. 

Thank you, Kate, for your thoughtful answers! xo

The final installment of this series, detailing my decision on returning to work, will run next week.

In case you haven't read them already:
Tanya and Josh
Jessica and Miles
Maria and Ferdinand