There is that beautiful offspring – sleeping peacefully and having known the security of mom being there 24/7. Now you are facing the inevitable return to work and someone else taking your place all day. Will they understand the different cries? Will they cuddle as often as you have? Will they message you often enough so that you know things are okay? Will you ever get over this guilt you feel right now?
Your Two Lives
These are just a few of the stressors you are going to encounter. Just wait until you walk back into the door at work for the first time and try to re-acclimate yourself to the normal pace of your job and its responsibilities. And then, wait until you go home after that first day and feel you have to be “super-mom” to a baby who has been without you for the first time. Somehow, you are supposed to be a worker without children and a mother without work.
If all of this just feels too overwhelming, just remember one fact: millions of moms all over the world have successfully made this transition for years. And remember one more thing: you can now have much more control over your two “lives” than mothers did decades ago. It all comes down to some key tips – some in preparation before the big event, and some once the transition has been made.
The most important preparation is who will be caring for your precious one while you are at work.
This is something you can begin working on long before that little one arrives. Lucky moms have a relative (usually a grandparent) who is available and wants to do this. But this is a big change for an empty nester who will now be giving up her freedom. Here are other options:
- Maybe grandma could be available two-three days a week, and you can find a trusted other, even a daycare center, for the other days
- If you intend to use an outside sitter or daycare center, you need to begin your investigations very early on and never settle for just “okay.” Have some practice runs during those first few weeks, until you feel totally comfortable.
- Be sure to use technology that your parents never had – baby cams, video-conferencing tools, etc., so that you can tune in whenever you wish. Many daycare centers have this now – pick one that does. Seeing your child comfortable, happy, and cared for relieves an amazing amount of stress.
Get Your Little One on a Schedule
This is probably the most important tip for your physical well-being. And it may take a lot of work on your part. If you go back to work at 6 weeks, for example, your baby may still not be sleeping through the night. Do everything you can to make that happen, but understand it may not. In this case, you must sleep when your baby does. If you arrive home and s/he is sleeping, it’s time for you to take a nap too. Dinner can wait, or your spouse can be in charge of that. Lack of sleep makes you both a bad mom and a bad worker.
Check into Flexibility of Work Hours
This is a new age of work. Employers are finally “getting with the program.” They are allowing many employees to work from home at least part of the time and are far more amenable to flexible hours, in order to keep the talent they have. Check out your options.
Meet up with co-workers before you go back to work.
Renew that collegial relationship that you had before you left. Go into work and spend a half-day just to get a bit more re-acclimated and to see what may have changed since you have been gone. If there is new technology to learn, see if you can do it from home while you are still on leave. You will return far more confident if you have taken these few steps.
Once the Transition Has Arrived
Okay. You are now back on the job. The first emotion you will feel is guilt. You aren’t there to quell a cry or to cuddle. Accept this. Give in to it. What you will discover is that, as the days go on, it will gradually go away, as you realize that your little one is well cared for and is thriving. Here are a few things you can do:
- Hook up with other moms at work and express your feelings. They can empathize and provide emotional support.
- Identify ways and times that you can have quality time with your child when you are at home, even if it means your house will not be as clean as it used to be. Your days off are for quality time, and you will feel far less guilt when you again leave for work. If you have a spouse or partner, this is obviously much easier.
- Learn to enjoy your adult time at work. When you have been in the workforce for a time before you have a baby, relationships were important. Having those again will give you a nice balance, knowing that you are more than just a new mom. You are still an adult with needs for adult interactions. Arrange for an occasional happy hour after work as well. It’s all about making your two lives work for you.
The next thing you need to prepare for is an illness. If you are using a daycare center, you need a backup plan for that inevitable call that your child is running a fever or is vomiting. You need a trusted friend or relative in these instances, not necessarily to go and get your child (you should do that), but if an illness is a few-day event, then you may need at-home care that is trusted and reliable if that person cannot be you. You may also be able to plan for partial days at work during these times, or the ability to work from home. The point is, you need a plan.
Another important tip? Buy yourself a new outfit or two before you return to work. It’s a psychological thing. You are returning to one of your key lives and you need to feel confident and happy about doing so. So, do something special for yourself!
The Last Important Tip – Stop Sweating the Small Stuff
Do not develop guilt because you are not a stay-at-home-mom. Do not feel guilty that you love your job and what you need it to remain balanced and sane. When you have an outlet for your skills and talents, you will actually be a much better mom when you are at home with your little one. Learn to love the inconveniences, the disruptions, and the occasional dirty house – these are not important things!
Author’s bio. Daniela McVicker is a psychologist and family counselor. She is also a freelance writer and a contributor to TopWritersReview. Her passion is writing about leading a healthy family life and helping people enjoy their lives to the fullest.