Please tell us your occupation: Psychology Professor, infant cognitive & motor development researcher
What age children do you have? 14 and 4-and-3/4
What does your child think you do all day?
The younger one thinks I “teach babies to walk” and “study babies”
(Here's a picture of Sarah and her youngest's zip-zup shoes, that they wear when they go out together)
How do you and your family benefit from your being a working mama?
I know a lot about babies! This actually helped when they were little as I knew that the range of “normal” was wide, so I had little to no worries about their development.
What are some steps (pun intended!) you took that helped make the transition back to work, work for you and your family?
When my older one was born, my university had no parental leave policy, so we started him at daycare at 3 or 4 months old, 10 hrs/week, increasing gradually. I’d have one super-long day at work (like 14 hours!) where I tried to fit in all meetings, teaching, etc. My husband stayed home with him that day. I took the baby to work with me another day each week when my schedule was more flexible. I did have a baby lab, so it was a comfortable place for him to be.
By the time the younger one was born, we had a better family leave policy and I was tenured, so I did not rush to get back to work! We didn’t start him at daycare until around 8 months.
What is one of the challenges you face as a working mama? How do you navigate this?
The classic dilemma – missing the kids when I’m at work and thinking about work when I’m with the kids. But, with experience, I’ve become much better about compartmentalizing.
A challenge that never gets easier is the mental space required to juggle everything and not letting things slip through the cracks.
In Mama’s Work Shoes, Mama and Perry establish some routines like putting each other’s shoes on in the morning, and pulling them off when they get home. Does your family have any ritual, phrases, objects, or other magic tricks that have helped your child navigate transitions or separation?
We make sure to give hugs & kisses good-bye and remind them who will be picking them up that afternoon.
What has your child done or said which indicates that, despite challenges, they are doing mighty fine?
My kids have never had trouble with transitions or meeting new people. Being in daycare from an early age was great for their socialization. They are friendly, outgoing, and good with people of all ages.
What’s one piece of advice you’d give to future working mamas? A happy mama is a good mama.
Thank you for sharing your working mama story, Sarah.
Mama’s Work Shoes (Abrams) text by Caron Levis, art by Vanessa Brantley Newton
All about the adjustment a toddler makes when her mother returns to work, this humorous picture book takes on a big emotional milestone with a light hand.
Perry knows all of Mama’s shoes. She knows that the zip-zup shoes are for park. She knows that the pat-put shoes are for the rain. And she knows that no-shoes are for bath time and bedtime. But, one morning Mama puts on click-clack shoes, and Perry wonders what these new shoes are for. When Mama drops Perry at Nan’s house, and the click-clack shoes take Mama away for the whole day, Perry decides she hates these shoes! Perry later hides the click-clack shoes . . . and all of Mama’s shoes, just in case. Mama then explains that the click-clack shoes bring her to work in the morning, and they will also bring her home to Perry every single evening—clickety-clack fast!