A friend of mine recently told me that she and her husband were thinking about having their first child and asked what advice I had for a young working mom. So here it goes:
Im not going to lie to you, being a working mom is definitely tough and draining. I would start figuring out your support system now. I was lucky enough to move in with my aunt and uncle temporarily when I was pregnant, so when my son was born I had them, my boyfriend, and my Mom (Mom was there on and off for about 3 months). When my son was 5 months we moved next door to my aunt and uncle. So I had 5 months of real support where my only duties were going to work, coming home and taking care of my son. My situation also allowed me to keep my son home with members of my family for his first 6 months. This is the biggest piece of advice that I can give to you: as soon as you start considering bringing a child into this world, explore your options for a support system. Talk to your family, your friends, hopefully some of whom already have children, find out not only what they did in terms of support, but also find out who would be willing and able to help out in those first couple of months.
The other thing that makes a big difference in the life of a working mother is how your work views "family life”. My office, although its small, is very understanding of what happens to your life when you have a family. Babies get sick (which is scary the first couple of times), they have quite a few doctors appointments, etc. How your office views these things doesn't change anything in the way that you care for your child, you have to take care of your child regardless, but I think it effects any stresses that might be attached to these things that happen. If you are worrying about the health of your child, you should not have to worry about how being absent is going to affect your job.
If you end up choosing to breastfeed...be aware that pumping sucks! However breastfeeding and bonding with your baby is amazing. Before I go any further, let me note now that I am not a medical professional, I am not a nutritionalist. But in my personal opinion I believe that in an ideal world breastfeeding is best, unfortunately the world we live in is far from ideal. Most women in the US are not able to stay at home with their babies and devote a majority of their time to not only feeding their baby but also feeding themselves so that they have the necessary nutrients to pass on to their baby. Breastfeeding is a full time job. As a mother you have to make the decision to do what is best for you and your baby in your current situation, only you can determine that. Keep in mind that just because breastfeeding might be best, that does not mean that formula is bad. This is not a black and white decision. But once you make whichever decision you make, surround yourself with people that support you enough to trust that you are making the best decisions for you and your baby.
Remember to take care of yourself, and find time for yourself. Im still struggling with this. After a long day at work there is truly nothing better than getting hugs and kisses from your little one, I found and sometimes still find myself getting caught up in that and forget to take some time for myself as well. So finding that balance is a way to not loose yourself in motherhood. Whoever you were before becoming a mother, is still who you are. You are still a wife, a girlfriend, a friend, an athlete, a dance, a brunch eater, a social butterfly, it is important to try to find time for those other things while still handling all the responsibilities of being a mother. For me I found that my son was changing so quickly those first couple of years, being at work all day, I felt like I was missing things that I did not want to extend the amount of time I was away from him. At the end of the day the best thing for your child is a happy and healthy you.
I hope that helps some, and didn't scare you too much. Babies really are amazing. And no matter how bad work is, a hug and a smile will make you forget everything.