It’s a golden time, a period to treasure forever…but maternity leave doesn’t last indefinitely. Sooner or later you are going to have to face up to the harsh reality of returning to work. The emotions this provokes in most women are varied, but the predominant feeling is one of guilt. Unfortunately, a permanent feeling of guilt is part of a mother’s lot, but there are ways of smoothing the path back to work after baby that will make the transition less traumatic for both of you. Read on for tips on minimising the angst and maximising the good times…
When the alarm goes off at 6am to signal the beginning of a work day, you might not feel like getting up. During maternity leave we fall into relaxed sleeping habits, so it is wise to start preparing for the early starts in advance. Arrange for child care to start a few days early so you can perform a ‘practice run’ which will enable you to gauge timings for dropping off baby then travelling on to your place of employment. Getting out of the front door on time with all of baby’s things and all of your work stuff will take some organisation and it’s best to attend to this the night before. Be open minded and flexible about child care services as many new options are becoming available. Using a nanny service such as Rock My Baby may be a better solution than more traditional child care options, offering you a more tailored response to baby’s needs. Whatever you do, make sure to tackle this most important of jobs well in advance, and make sure there is a back-up plan in place for when baby or child care provider is ill. Having peace of mind about child care is vital to a successful return to work, so do your research, listen to recommendations and word of mouth suggestions – it has to be 100 per cent rock solid.
At first, returning to work and looking after baby at home may be exhausting. Interrupted sleep and getting up for night feeds will knock your rest-schedule for six, so you’ll need to make changes. Try and get as much sleep as possible. This can be done very simply by going to bed earlier (9pm is a good time). Learn to delegate and ask others to do laundry or other domestic tasks so you can have more time to rest. Do what every other time-pressured parent is doing these days, grocery shop online and get them to deliver when it is convenient to you. Schedule ironing and other domestic drudgery for weekends when there is more time – or better still, get someone else to do it. Get the best performance out of yourself by being well fuelled with healthy foods and drinking plenty of fluids.
Don’t neglect the other new mums you met during maternity leave. Make efforts to stay in contact with these friends as they will provide essential emotional support on your child rearing journey. Keep in touch online and meet up at weekends if possible for a chat and a coffee. Not only is this good for you socially and emotionally, it is great for baby’s development to be mixing with other children. There will be other mums who have also returned to work after their maternity leave and you will be able to compare notes and coping strategies with each other.
The emotional and physical juggling act may be excruciatingly difficult at times, but try not to vent at work about how hard it may be. Once at your desk, worrying about baby is not going to help you, so try to compartmentalise and focus as much as possible. Many women find that post-baby they are far better delegators, organizers and multi-taskers; so hold that thought, and channel those uber-mums. If you do need to rant about stresses at work, save it for when you see your friends at the weekend – there you will be guaranteed a sympathetic ear from somebody with no agenda (not always a given in the workplace, unfortunately.)
Be kind to yourself
Leaving your child for the first time whilst you return to work is a big deal, so give yourself a break. Initially you will feel anxious and emotional, but these feelings should gradually subside as you learn that this new way of organising things can work. Remember that many women successfully make the same transition and come to discover that babies and the workplace are not mutually exclusive. Focus on the positives: make the most of free time in your lunch hour, have grown up conversations with people about things other than babies, have more money in your pocket – and at the end of the day, you can return to your little bundle of joy and all the rewards they bring…