Returning Back to Work After Childbirth: To Be or Not To Be? with Amena Mebane


[Photo credit: Tristan Quigley Photography]

Through the years I have witnessed many little ones make their debuts on this earth. It’s always exciting to go to a friend’s baby shower or visit a loved one to see their new bundle of joy. I can imagine being a new mother is a very exciting time in life. Though the big question often follows: “When are you returning to work?”. (At least for those who were actively employed prior to giving birth. ) And if that isn’t enough, an even bigger question may follow: “ARE you returning to work?’.

I’m sure these can be daunting yet relevant questions. Questions that one’s career, family and newest little one depend on answers to. At this point in my life I have not had to answer these questions – someday I will. For now, I thought I would pick the brain of someone who has been there, done that and has an inspirational story to share regarding the results of her decision.

In this interview I am speaking with my friend and sorority sister, Amena Mebane, about her experience with making key career decisions after giving birth to her first child. During our interview period she was expecting her second child who has since been born and is now making waves with the cutest pictures alongside his proud big sister. 🙂

I hope you enjoy hearring Amena’s story as much as I did.
9toFlyGirl: Can you tell me about your professional background?
Amena: I went to UC Berkeley as an undergrad and completed my Bachelors of Arts degree in American Studies, Honors. My focus was race, law and social movements. Right after graduating in 2007, I attended Univ of WA law school where I received my JD. During law school I worked at a law firm as a summer associate and I also worked for the King County Prosecutor’s office. I ultimately decided to start my career at the Prosecutor’s Office after graduation because I wanted the trial experience. I worked there for about 5 years before I decided not to return to work.

9TFG: What moment did you decide that you would not return to work?

Amena: My husband and I were expecting our first child in April 2014. Initially, when I became pregnant I was planning to take some time off when the baby came but I was still contemplating returning to work after my leave was over. Shortly before I took my leave, I had a domestic violence trial. I was very pregnant, maybe 39 weeks by the time the trial was over. It was incredibly stressful and I remember having high blood pressure readings, swollen feet, and not sleeping or eating properly. Whenever I was in trial, I usually would only get about 3-4 hours of sleep because of the amount of preparation it required. I took off shortly after the trial was over and I remember walking out the office my last day and thinking to myself “I’m never coming back.”

9TFG: What factors influenced the decision?

Amena: Even though I said to myself “I’m never coming back” as I walked out of the building, I didn’t make the decision right away. I wanted to make the decision after I had some time to be a mommy and when my head was clear. What if I didn’t like staying at home? What about embracing my independence? I have so much more to contribute to society than wifely and mommy duties, right? I’m pretty good at this trail stuff, I shouldn’t just let my talents go to waste, should I? What about having some adult interaction? I’m sure I’ll need a break from being a full time mom, right? These were all the questions flowing through my mind. I needed time to reflect before I made a decision about returning or not.
I took my entire 18 week leave and then ended up extending it for a year. Honestly, my ambitions and goals changed a lot after I became a wife and mother. I really enjoyed my time off and I loved being a mom and also having more time to support my husband and his work. My husband plays in the NFL and as a busy trial attorney, I rarely had the opportunity to go to my husband’s away games and take the time to enjoy the NFL experience because I was so busy with my own work. NFL careers are short compared to other careers, so it was really awesome to take time off to enjoy the games and travel with my daughter to different states to see daddy play. He will only be doing this a few more years and I didn’t want to look back and say I missed out on that experience. I really feel blessed to have the opportunity to focus on family life as I know a lot of families cannot live off of one income.

Now, we have two kids and I’m still not practicing law. But I do other things that keep me busy. We started a small online business that I manage and I also taught trial advocacy at UW Law once a week which was so fun but not too overwhelming. It still gave me an opportunity to be involved without being over worked and exhausted.
9TFG: Did you seek out any particular resources for the transition?

Amena: Looking back, I wish I had sought out more resources just to aid me in the transition. But I did speak with a number of women (both those that did return to work and a few that did not). That was incredibly helpful because I was able to get feedback from both sides of the spectrum.

9TFG: What advice would you have for a mother questioning whether or not to return to work?

Amena: I would say just remember whatever decision you make, it does not have to be a permanent decision. I like to think of my life in “seasons.” That helps my brain process change easier. For me, this is the season of being a new mom. I’m enjoying it while it is here and embracing it. I don’t think about my old job much or even miss it because I’m fully engaged in my mommy/wife/family season right now. That may not always be the case. There may come a time when I want to get back in the courtroom, when changing dirty diapers and singing the Wheels on the Bus to my toddler 100 times a day won’t be fulfilling. And that is okay. If and when that time comes, just embrace it.

Embrace the change and the need to transition into a new “season.” I think if we look at it that way, it takes some of the pressure off making the decision to return to work or not. As women, we should support each other’s decision. Oftentimes the stay at home moms criticize the working moms and vice versa. For those that decide to return to work, don’t worry about missing out on key moments in your child’s life. Your children will know you and love you and you will be an excellent mom! For women who decide to stay home, if you start feeling like you want more out of life, you can always return to the workplace and still be a great mom.

Being a mother is probably the hardest job I’ve ever had but it is by far the most fulfilling. I’m loving this season of my life right now!




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