Parenthood is magical, but it is also strenuous. Every sleep-deprived moment feels completely new when you're learning to be a parent. For some mothers, the prospect of returning to work so soon is unbearable.
Most mothers have mixed feelings about going back to work after having a baby. Many mums become saddened by the prospect of leaving their child. Others may feel relieved to delegate baby care to a nanny or house help while they return to work. Some may also be concerned about leaving their baby in the care of someone else.
And then, enters guilt.
Whatever it is you're experiencing makes complete sense. The confusion, the guilt, the uneasiness, the anticipation - all these emotions make sense. This is a significant transition. Research shows that for many women, returning to work occurs sooner than they are prepared for and is more difficult than they anticipate.
A 2020 LinkedIn study on women in the workplace, for instance, found that 57% of working mothers felt that they had no option other than to return to work with 84% of them citing money as a factor in their decision.
Despite this, there are practical things you can do as a mother to assist you in adjusting to your new normal. Let’s explore them.
Daisy Wademan Dowling, founder, and CEO of Workparent - a working parents and employers' consultancy firm - says returning to work is never simple, however, there are a lot of components of it that working mothers can navigate and prepare for.
“Consider whether you want to return gradually by working a few days a week or go back to a full-time job right away. Not everybody has a choice, but if you do, it's a good idea to weigh the benefits and drawbacks of each.”
Figuring out your child care arrangement is essential. Try out several choices in advance so that you, the caregiver, and your baby are at more ease when it's time to return to work.
Hire a reputable househelp. This is, without a doubt, the most critical aspect of the procedure. It's best to begin that while you're still pregnant since it offers you more time to assess the househelps character and skills, establish a rapport with her, and provide instructions on how you prefer things done and your baby handled.
Introduce your househelp to your family. Provide some training and instruct her on what to do in the case of an emergency.
You should also arrange for extra backup plans just in case your baby becomes ill, your child's daycare facility closes, your househelp becomes problematic or unavailable. Ensure that in case of anything, you are not caught unawares.
After you have set up your backup, make a list of their contact details and get to know their availability. Consider also keeping them in the know on your child's sleeping and eating patterns, preferences, and any vital medical or allergy concerns.
Friends, relatives, neighbours, and daycare can all be part of your plan B if you and your family trust them.
Plan up your new daily schedule and do a test run a few weeks before starting it.
You were used to being with your baby almost 100% of the time, but when returning to work, the time you have has to be split to ensure that you're giving both - your work and your baby - the best.
Make as many morning preparations as possible, such as preparing lunches and ironing the night before. Even going back to work will need a new routine, which may include planning for extra time with your baby, giving instructions to your caregiver, fitting in a meal plan, potentially purchasing a breast pump, and even preparing your baby’s items and bag if your baby will be attending daycare.
Back to Work After Baby: How to Plan and Navigate a Mindful Return from Maternity Leave author, Lori Mihalich-Levin suggests pondering on how well the mornings and evenings would work and creating a preliminary plan.
She adds that there are things you will learn immediately and those you will learn as time proceeds and that may lead to a change in your schedule over time. So having a plan in place will help you to feel more at peace.
Try out whatever morning or night routine that you come up with before heading to work.
If you want to keep breastfeeding your child, make the switch to pumping and breastfeeding bottles as gradually as possible. If feasible, start pumping in advance and build up a store of frozen milk.
Start introducing your baby to using a feeding bottle early as well before your return-to-work date. You can gradually increase the amount of pumped-milk feeding times.
Have your spouse, househelp or caregiver feed your baby once in a while so he/she can get used to being fed by somebody else. This will ease your baby's transition as well and allow you plenty of time to be comfortable pumping milk for them.
Experts recommend starting bottle feeding at 8 weeks. It's a good idea to start expressing for storage at that point.
Plan out where and when you will pump the milk either at home or at work.
Parental tribe support can really be beneficial. Reach out to other parents either at work, church, your neighborhood, etc. who have been where you are and seek advice and encouragement from them.
Find a shoulder to lean on when the going gets tough and learn from them. Confirm to see whether your workplace already has a parental self-help group. If there's not, you can start it by inviting one or more working mothers out for lunch or coffee and just have a wholesome conversation on how their transition was. And when the moment arises, pass on your wisdom to others.
If you're having trouble with pumping, which is a typical problem for many working mothers, seek assistance from your coworkers or friends who have been there. When it comes to resuming your working life, don't tackle it alone.
As you make the transition, try to seek out advice and encouragement. Form friendships with other mothers who have young kids so you can exchange ideas and learn new things.
You don't have to be flawless on your first day, the first week, or even the first month back to work. This is essential for both parenthood and your body, as well as transitioning to work.
Lauren Smith Brody, the author of The Fifth Trimester: The Working Mom's Guide to Style, Sanity, and Big Success After Baby says every woman she interviewed for her book stated that they experienced a moment in their lives when they felt like they had to resign no matter their position or level of aspiration.
Maybe you have been feeling like this for some time - you are not alone.
Quitting is not an option for many mothers. And, according to Brody, for those who can make a change, the initial stages of working-mom transition are not the greatest time to do so. Give yourself some time to make a more informed choice.
Bring out all of your workplace outfits from your closet and check which ones still fit because both pregnancy and breastfeeding may alter your body. Try on your clothes just to be sure they still fit properly.
To keep your mornings smoother and easier, place the outfits which are still suited for work in a conspicuous location in your closet and if necessary, buy new clothes.
You may feel overwhelmed and excluded when you return to work after your maternity leave. At such moments be kind to yourself. It may take some adjusting to get used to your new phase. You will be on your feet again in no time.
Mama, you've got this!