Being a Pumping Working Mom is Hard Work
Being a pumping working mom feels like I've got two jobs. But I wouldn't have it any other way!
When I returned to work after having my first daughter, pumping at work wasn’t a successful endeavor. I pumped twice a day, and my already dwindling breastmilk supply dropped even more. A large part of this was due to problems from the get-go, while another part was just not educating myself on breastfeeding in general. As I’m a week back to work after having my second daughter, I’m having a lot more successes and feel more confident about this undertaking. I’ve educated myself and worked my butt—well really my boobs off—to amass 400 ounces of frozen breast milk before I stepped foot back in the classroom. What this week has taught me, though, is truly how hard it is to be a pumping working momma.
My day starts early. I have to leave my house by 6 AM to be at school by 7 AM. I generally get there early, but traffic around the Seattle area starts super early. Because of how early I need to leave, I’m up at 5:15 AM to get dressed and downstairs pumping by 5:30 AM (I shower the night before to make this tight time-frame happen). I decided that waking my daughter to feed her before I leave wasn’t the best idea because if I couldn’t get her back to sleep before I left that meant the whole house would be up early.
Most days I’m pumping on my planning period at 8:30 AM. Then I pump again at lunch time around 11:00 AM. Finally, I pump one more time at 2 PM once the last bell of the school day rings. On Mondays, because of a late start for students, I’m pumping at 8:00 AM and lose my before school prep time as I’m in a meeting from 7-8 AM.
This schedule equates to a total of four pumping sessions. At 20 minutes each, that’s nearly an hour and a half a day I spend pumping. That might not seem like a lot, but for a busy working momma who works full time and does freelance writing as well, this is a huge chunk of time. This is time that could be spent sleeping in the morning. This is time that could be spent meeting with my colleagues. This is time that could be spent having some adult conversation during lunch. Ultimately, it’s a huge rush to get all of this pumping time in.
If you are a teacher, or have friends or family who are teachers, you know how much limited time we have in our work day to actually plan curriculum and grade. Planning time gets eaten up by meetings with parents and colleagues. Before and after school time that I’m allotted to be there gets eaten up by students needing support. But now, as I’m utilizing this time to pump, I’m realizing how valuable this small amount of time not spent teaching at school really is. And I’ve lost about half of this time.
On my planning period, I’m rushing to get students out of the classroom so I can pump. I’m left with about 30-35 minutes to plan curriculum, meet with staff as needed, and grade. And my lunch time is a major race against the clock. I have 30 minutes for lunch. In that amount of time I have to walk to get my lunch and pumping parts from the fridge, return to my class, eat lunch while I pump then rinse my pumping parts and store them and my pumped milk in my cooler. Most days students are knocking on my door as the bell rings to signal class is to resume. After school, I’m quickly going through the same routine and by the time I’m done, I’ve got to leave for the day. Before I had my youngest, I’d often stay at school an hour after students left to get work done. But now, with my mom taking care of the girls, I’m out of there by 2:30 PM so I can relieve her since she’s up so early to care for the girls. Pretty much I have no time after school to get any work done. And I can’t make staff meetings anymore.
As you can see, my work day is a big whirlwind of a well-oiled routine filled machine. And all of this is for the nourishment of my daughter. I can totally understand why some working moms struggle to do it and why some aren’t successful. It’s hard work! With my first daughter I struggled, and once I realized she was getting way more formula each day versus breast milk, I too decided to stop pumping when she was seven months old. Right now, though, I’m able to produce enough to replace my youngest daughter’s daily intake. All this hard work is worth it for me, especially since my daughter suffers from Allergic Colitis and can’t have your average, found on the shelf, formula.
Does this make my work day harder to manage? Of course. Does this make it harder for me to get work done? Yep. But I’m 100% committed to breastfeeding and pumping to produce sustenance for my daughter, especially as she suffers with gut problems and my breast milk coinciding with my elimination diet is best for her right now. I know that my work days will not always be filled with this rush, and really, that’s what helps me keep trudging along this pumping working momma path. This isn’t my forever, it’s just my right now.
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