Are you heading back to work after baby’s birth? This is a huge milestone for you and your baby! It’s completely natural to feel may be just a teeny bit anxious about leaving your baby for long periods and questioning yourself about your return to work. Some mums may feel pushed to return to work before they are ready due to financial commitments – there’s a mortgage and bills to pay! It’s a challenging time! Other mums feel excited to return to work for their own sanity. No matter whether your loathing or loving the thought of going back to work I bet there’s “mummy guilt” happening!
Those first few weeks back at work can be very difficult to say the least. Some Mums find that the thought of leaving their baby causes far more anxiety than the actual event itself. Things should get easier if you give them a chance and get into your groove…
We’ve come up with a list of 16 ideas to help make the transition back to work as smooth as possible! Even for Mums not looking to return back in the near future.
1. Finding a Carer
Number 1 on your list should be finding a reliable nanny, au pair, grandparent/relative, childcare or family day care that you trust and feel completely comfortable with. This will give you confidence that your child is in the best possible care. If you have your parents, parents in law or a relative wanting to help you then you need to make sure that the all important ground rules are agreed upfront. Having a relative or grandparent care for your child has good points but bear in mind that looking after a baby or toddler for 8 to 10 hours a day can be really exhausting. Maybe a compromise of a relative and childcare or a nanny may work for you. Every family’s circumstances are different so you need to find what works best for you and sometimes circumstances change.
2. A Friend to Lean On
Find someone at work who you can confide in. Hopefully there are other mums in the office who have just come back to work. They may be able to offer support or a tissue if you need one. It’s normal to feel a little sad away from your baby – especially in the early weeks. Don’t be too hard on yourself. You might also feel fantastic that you have a baby and a career and you get to go out and talk to adults again in a world that is familiar to you – every Mum is different just like every baby is different. You may find it helpful to talk to your colleagues about their experience. There is often someone just ahead of you in the parenting timeline who can offer timely advice because they’ve “been there and done that”. Just bear in mind that every person’s family situation is different.
In my circle of friends there have been situations where the husband was the stay at home parent and the wife returned to work. I know of others that have each worked part-time and shared raising their children. Then there are workers that do FIFO (fly in fly out) where one of the parents is alone for long periods of time raising the children and it’s more difficult or not feasible for them to return to work outside the home. Then there are those that have decided they want to stay at home and have a long break from the workforce. Others have no choice but to return to work due to financial reasons. Find what works for you and your family try not to compare your situation to others.
3. Importance of Partner’s or Family Support
Make sure your partner or your support person if you’re a single mum, is on board and you discuss your return to work thoroughly. It’s one thing to have the extra income coming in but if you end up working, caring for your baby and still take on the majority of the housework then it’s only a matter of time before you exhaust yourself. If you’ve been up feeding around the clock since the baby’s birth then you’ll be more rundown than usual. Work out some of the nitty gritty decisions before you start back at work. For example who will stay home if the baby is sick and can’t go to day care. Perhaps your partner could collect or drop off your baby from their carer one day a week or help with some meal prep. My husband did the drop offs on his way to work as I worked from home when my kids were younger. All these little things add up and help encourage a smoother transition back to work.
4. Stay Positive & Focussed
Try to be positive. You have reasons for going back to work so focus on them. It’s amazing how a positive attitude can lead to success and reduce stress! Recognise the positives that come with you being at work such as your child getting used to being with other people whilst away from you. Children can become more independent and thrive from the experience. I know my kids absolutely loved going to daycare and it worked for us.
Try to stay focused on the task at hand, sometimes easier said than done I know. When you’re at work, concentrate on work. When you’re at home, concentrate on home. You might find that you’re more productive at each task, even though you have more to do. It is hard to be fully focussed when you’re not getting enough sleep or getting interrupted sleep so make sure sleep is your top priority.
5. Plan Ahead
Try to get your baby into some sort of a sleep routine before you go back to work. It might make the transition easier for everyone concerned.
You will also need to work on your own sleep routine. You can’t work well if you have had no sleep yourself so make your sleep a priority too. Our blog Your Health is Your Wealth will help you get you on the right track for prioritising your sleep.
If you’re still breastfeeding and planning to express while you’re at work then your employer needs to ensure they have suitable facilities for you to express, somewhere you can store a breast pump and a fridge to store any breast milk. You can find out more about your rights on returning to work after parental leave here.
It may be worthwhile going into the office before your work start date and investigate the options. You could also take some personal items or some photos of your baby for your desk or work space to help you feel more at home.
6. Have a Practise Run
Some working mums suggest getting into the routine a couple of weeks before you go back to work. Starting daycare a few weeks ahead of time will allow time for your baby to adjust. It will also give you a chance to express milk at the times when you plan to do so at work. Also giving your baby an opportunity to get accustomed to having a bottle if still breast fed or getting accustomed to someone else giving him the bottle. All these little things can add up to a significantly easier transition on your first week back.
7. Stock Up
It’s a good idea to stock up on all your day to day items when you do your grocery shop. One big shop per week saves a lot of time and hassle during the week or one on-line order per week. Double check you have all the supplies you need:
- stockpile of expressed milk or baby formula
- parts for the expressing machine if required
- breast pads for those leaky moments (you don’t want an accident in the middle of a meeting)
- baby sleeping bags – do you have enough to rotate if one is in the wash or to keep one in the day care bag at all times. Having a few spare can be really helpful.
- meals (more on this below)
- healthy snacks for work to keep you energised and focused during your work day.
Buy new clothes! What girl doesn’t need an excuse to get some new clothes. Chances are your pre-baby work clothes might not fit you anymore and the ones you’ve been wearing post baby could be covered with poop and regurgitated milk. A couple of new items will go a long way towards boosting your morale! You’ll feel back to your old self in no time. Plan out a few outfits on the weekend so that you don’t procrastinate! Seriously I need to do this myself and my baby is now 13!
9. Prepare the Night Before
Get your clothes ready the night before and baby’s childcare bag ready too – making sure they have their Joey Swag baby sleeping bag in the bag to make it easier for your baby to settle to sleep outside of their usual home environment. You could prepare any instructions for the child care centre, Nanny or relative caring for your child! Prepare your lunch or your child’s lunch if required the night before so that mornings are easier or treat yourself to a lunch at work to get outside and take a break. In our house my husband prepares the kids lunches for school whereas I’m “Uber Mum” ferrying the kids to and from all their activities.
10. Do some Meal Prep
Meal wise you could try to prep as much as you can on the weekend. Try getting your grocery shop done on the weekend or order online. You could prepare a few meals to freeze for the week ahead. When my babies were little a friend recommended I buy a slow cooker. She was spot on! I could do all the prep in the morning and then let it bubble away for the day and come home to a delicious, healthy meal with little washing up. We also eat very simply – a piece of meat, fish or chicken and then throw together a salad or vegetables. Then on the odd night we’ll go out for a quick meal or order in take-away so we don’t have to cook or clean up!
11. Take Notes
Write things down! Keep a notepad and pen handy or use your phone in case you think of things whilst on the run or at your desk. That way you can deal with them after work. If you’re sleep deprived then it can be hard to remember things with “baby brain fog”!
12. Make a Date Night
I need to take on this advice – don’t forget to take time out with your partner as well. Being torn between work and home gives little time for leisure. Make sure you schedule in some time for a dinner out, a movie, something you both enjoy if you have someone to babysit.
13. Forget the Guilt
Don’t feel guilty if you leave work on time. Your work hours and terms should all be agreed and ironed out with your employer prior to returning to work. This means that everyone is on the same page and knows what to expect. It’s amazing how being a mum can get your priorities in order and make you more efficient at work. It can be very easy to be employed part-time but get caught up working like a full timer. Use your hours as productively as you can and then go home. This may mean skipping a “coffee meeting” mid morning. Most colleagues will understand. Just remember that you’re at work for a reason and looking forward to seeing your baby afterwards. You should also try to use your lunch break if you are entitled to one to get out and clear your head.
14. Enjoy your Break
Employees are given breaks for a very good reason – productivity. Breaks help you clear your head and come back to work raring to go! A lunch break gives you a chance to eat your lunch in peace, you can actually chew your food rather than inhaling it whilst trying to juggle a toddler or baby in a food fight frenzy!
Break time also gives you time to attend to personal matters such as buying a gift, paying a bill or making personal calls. Give your work your full attention and then enjoy your break without the guilt.
You can also use your lunch break to take some time for yourself because when you arrive home you will be in high demand! You could also get some fresh air at lunch, pack your sneakers and go for a walk or read a book in a cafe. Time for yourself will help nurture your spirit.
15. Be Realistic
One of the real challenges of going back to work is trying to be all things to all people. You may feel torn between your child and your career. If you’re going back part-time you may feel like you are a bit out of the loop coming into work for only some of the week.
If you have your own business and work from home then it’s challenging to keep work separate from personal life. This is certainly one of the challenges I’ve found.
You’re an employee/business owner and a Mum now. Try to do what is best for your family but also understand that if your employed that your employer is human and may well be facing some of the issues you’re facing too. If it’s all getting a little too hard, sit on it for a few weeks before you make any rash decisions because sometimes we need to give things a chance. Honesty is always the best policy so you may need to speak with your boss or HR to iron out any teething issues. I think I need to have a good hard talk to myself!
16. Live in the Moment
You can still enjoy the special moments and quality time with your baby! Whether it’s breakfast together, the bath time routine, a bed-time story, a walk after work together. These are great ways to bond and be present with your baby even after you head back to work.
A positive attitude is always helpful. I know it’s hard trying to do the “mummy juggle” managing work and family but remember if it’s not working for you then you can change your mind – you have options. It may work for a while but things may change if you have another child in the future or your family circumstances change. Things might also improve as your baby grows and then get challenging the older they get with homework and extra-curricular activities. One step at a time. Try to be flexible and see what works best for you. It’s always wise to make decisions based on what suits you, your baby and your family rather than what works for others.