Most parents have a lot of emotions about returning to work after having a baby, and many of them can be conflicting.
You may feel unhappy to leave your baby, or you may feel relief to let professionals be in charge of baby care while you return to work. (And then you may feel guilt over that relief!)
You might be anxious about leaving your child in the care of someone else, or maybe you’re upset that your workplace doesn’t offer more (or any) maternity leave.
Whatever you are feeling makes complete sense. This is a big transition, and the research shows that — for many parents — the return to work happens sooner than they are ready and is harder than they expect. But there are proven strategies that you can follow to help you adjust to your ‘new normal.’
1. Work on the logistics.
2. Do a childcare practice run.
3. Start back later in the week.
4. Return gradually if possible.
5. If it’s an option, consider working from home.
6. Find support among working parents.
7. Work through that feeling of “I have to quit.”
Getting to work is going to involve a whole new routine that may require added tasks — packing diaper bags, leaving sets of directions, working on a last feed, possibly carrying a breast pump to work, or even transporting a baby if your child will be attending daycare near your workplace.
Start by brainstorming how the mornings and the evenings will work and coming up with a starter plan. You will learn things right away that either work or don’t (and over time that will change), but it can make you feel more at ease to have a preliminary routine in place.
Whatever morning routine you come up with, try it out before you have to be at work. This enables you to ease into your childcare arrangement, and practice the routine to see what works and what you may need to tweak.
The bonus to the trial run is that you can get a few hours to yourself, to get a haircut or whatever else will help you feel good about entering the world of ‘no pajamas’ and of daily showers.
That first week back is going to be exhausting. Start back on a Thursday if you can. You will be that much closer to a weekend where you can rest and think about what worked in those first two days and what to tweak before your first full week.
If you can, use a little bit of your parental leave to have a few days off in the first weeks back. Consider a part-time schedule that enables you to get used to being away from your baby and to your new routine.
For instance, think about cutting your leave short by a week and then taking those five days and using them to be at home for the first five Fridays of your return.
If you ask to work from home, come up with a plan of how it will work. Show how you will meet your deliverables, make it clear that you will have childcare in place when you are at home, and include a date to reassess the arrangement. It will help your boss feel more comfortable if they don’t think it is forever.
When you return to work, find other working parents in the office to whom you can connect with. Invite them to lunches once a month or create an online discussion forum to share experiences, concerns or advice. It can really change the connection you have between your home life and work life.
For many parents, quitting is not an option. And for those who can make a change, those early months are not the best time to make that decision. Most parents feel the compulsion to quit when they are still in a developmental transition, aka the “fifth trimester,” and hadn’t yet made it to the other side to make a more settled and informed choice.
Here are a few ways to work through those initial moments when you feel like leaving your job is the only solution:
• Realize the transition you are going through is finite.
• Make a list of what you get out of your job (including the paycheck!).
• Make a list of what you bring to your workplace.
• Acknowledge your new learning curve. While you may be returning to a job you know how to do, you are now learning how to be a working parent.
• Celebrate small successes.
• Be patient and try not to make any major decisions for the first three months.
These seven tips should make transitioning back into the workplace as painless as possible. It is easy to feel apologetic about taking leave or having to cut out in time for daycare pickup or missing a meeting to pump. However, you are valuable to your workplace and will only grow more so as you settle into this new phase of your life.
(written by: Whitney)