This is a sponsored post written by me on behalf of 1Natural Way, a TRICARE breast pump provider. All opinions are entirely my own.
I left active duty and transitioned to the reserves for several reasons. I loved the Navy and knew I wasn’t ready to hang up my uniform for good. But I also knew I had other aspirations outside of military service, and one of them was motherhood. Having spent more time as a reservist than an active duty naval officer, I’m so thankful to say that my decision has afforded me just what I wanted: a healthy balance of loving what I do in the Navy, supporting my husband who’s an active duty naval officer, and being the most present momma I can be for our two children.
Less than two months after our daughter was born, my husband left on another deployment. I worked in my civilian position and as an active leader in my reserve unit up until I delivered our daughter. But since it wasn’t my first rodeo with deployment or motherhood, I had a growing feeling that something needed to go. So as the end of my maternity leave approached and my husband’s ship pulled away from the pier, I knew in my heart that I needed to step down from my civilian position in order to be home and focus on my children.
As a mom who LOVES to work, my decision to stay home weighed heavily on my heart, but I didn’t regret it for a minute. Staying active in the reserves kept me engaged and busy with something other than my children. But that deployment, along with my other experiences managing the house, a deployed spouse, and a part-time military career, helped me develop some motherhood tips.
When it comes to childcare, think beyond the CDC.
In my few short years as a working mom, reservist, military spouse and civilian professional, I’ve learned that childcare comes in many forms. Whether it’s a part-time sitter, an in-home provider, a civilian daycare, the CDC or a full-time nanny, make the right choice for you and your family.
Ask for help where and when you need it. Is it too stressful to get everyone dressed, fed, packed for the day and out the door to daycare or work on time? I found that evenings were the most challenging time of day for me, and so on a few occasions, I asked a sitter to pick up my son from daycare.
It made coming home that much more enjoyable. Instead of fighting traffic, racing to beat the daycare pick-up deadline and magically coming up with something mildly healthy to feed us for dinner, I walked in the door, and the kids were happily playing with the sitter after she had done some dinner prep. At that moment, I knew that with two kids, a deployed spouse and a busy work schedule, I needed more than just a traditional childcare set-up. This doesn’t even consider duty nights, TDYs, or deployments. Think really hard about what kind of care you’ll need for your little one; don’t be afraid to get creative.
Start pumping as soon as you can.
I pumped exclusively with my son for his first three months because we struggled with nursing. So after that, I felt like a pumping pro. Nursing came so easily with my daughter. However, I knew that I’d be traveling and away from her due to reserve duties in the coming months, so I started pumping immediately despite nursing around the clock.
While I was still pregnant, I ordered a second breast pump. I received my pump free via Tricare with no out of pocket expenses — and if you’re a pumping mama on Tricare, you can too through 1 Natural Way. You can find your choice of brand: Medela, Spectra and Kiinde are the most popular. Check out more Tricare breast pumps here! It seriously only takes five minutes. Fill out the insurance form, select your pump, enroll in the monthly resupply, provide your prescription (or let 1Natural Way obtain a prescription for you), and your breast pump will be on its way via UPS or USPS, compliments of Tricare. It is that easy!
By the time I had to leave my daughter for my first full day of reserve duty, she was only three months old. But I had a freezer full of pumped milk, so I left knowing that even though she hadn’t mastered taking a bottle, there was more than enough food to keep her full. (She eventually took a bottle for the first time that week — hallelujah!)
Hire a housecleaner.
Every working mother, military or not, should gift herself a regularly scheduled house cleaner. Whether it’s every week, month, or three months, if you can factor it into your family budget, it’s a worthwhile expense. I give this advice to every working mom I know.
And if you are, in fact, pumping, ask your house cleaner to clean all of your pump accessories (which are free, BTW, from 1Natural Way). Cleaning, drying and sterilizing all of those tiny parts gets old really quickly. There’s just something about walking into a freshly cleaned home after a busy work day, even if it only stays like that for 12 hours.
Self-care, self-love, self-preservation.
It goes without saying that self-care is important for moms. But it’s especially important for working moms. Do yourself a favor and recognize what you need to do to look and feel your best. For me, pumping for my daughter not only allowed me to take advantage of reserve opportunities and stay active on the professional scene; it also gave me a tiny amount of freedom. You can’t draw water from an empty well, so factor in what you need in order to preserve your own sanity and stay healthy.
Whether you’re active duty or a reservist, going back to work after a baby brings a lot of stress. And while it will take some time for both you and baby to find your routine; trust me when I say you’ll get there. I exclusively nursed my daughter for almost an entire year, but shortly after her first birthday, I was asked to come back on active duty for an extended period of time to work on a specific project. Now, a few months in, I’m not sure who’s happier that I’m back to work full-time, me or her.
You do you, momma, and know that whatever you’re doing is just fine!
By Alison Maruca