So you made it! Past the heart burn, morning sickness and swollen ankles; you’ve suffered the back ache and endured the sleepless nights, your beautiful new addition has arrived and flipped your world upside down. They’ve started smiling and gurgling, are happily weaned and aware that you are Mummy. If you’ve made the decision to return to work, you like most new Mums might be feeling mixed emotions. As a self-employed new Mum I had to leave my daughter for a couple of hours for the first time at around 8 weeks old and like most new Mums, I cried.
As a new parent returning to work, I know how nerve wracking, gut wrenching, heart breaking and downright terrifying it can be to leave your little one alone – even if it is with an extremely well briefed, doting, slightly patronised grandparent. Reconciling the guilt against the knowledge that it’s all for the “greater good” is not easy. I love what I do, enjoy flexible working and have an amazing support network but still fought back the tears the first time I left my daughter to return to work.
My job is to help people find or create a fulfilling career path and so having returned to work after giving birth to our beautiful little girl, I thought I’d take the time to offer some of the ways I made the transition to Wonder Mum (yes this is my official title; no I don’t wear my pants on the outside!), in the hope that you too can continue enjoying a fulfilling career.
- Start early. Don’t leave it to the last minute to prepare yourself, your child or your chosen childcare provider for the transition. Leave it too late and your mind will be a muddle of, ‘Is she missing me?’, ‘Did I send that email?’ And ‘What if she doesn’t feed?’
- Schedule a check in call. On the days I leave my daughter with her grandparents, I schedule a call into my day. The grandparents very patiently answer the phone and do their best to hide their frustrations at my worrying. ‘Yes she’s had her bottle’, ‘yes she’s fine’, ‘No, she’s not wistfully gazing out of the window awaiting your return!’ It helps put my mind at rest and helps me focus on the rest of my day.
- You are going to be tired at first. Accept this and move on! My whole schedule has flipped. Instead of working late, I’m in the office at the crack of dawn and in bed for 9.30pm (on a good day).
- Lists, lists, lists. You need to be super organised and extra focussed. Make a list of tasks to complete the following day. If you brain dump before you leave the office you’ll be more present at home and more productive the following day at work. This leads me to my next point.
- Prioritise family. When you’re not working, put down your phone, turn off the TV. Go for a walk, spend quality time with your loved ones. Being a great parent isn’t about quantity of time, it’s about quality. We make a point of keeping Sundays free for family time. Nobody works; we get outside then come home and cook a big meal together. Perfect!
- Remember it’s all for the greater good. Whether you have returned to work to give you and your children a better quality of life, a happier more fulfilled parent or just to feel normal a few hours a week, remember that! Reassuring yourself isn’t always easy but it helps.
- Talk to your friends and colleagues. They may have been through the same thing and have other examples of how best to cope with the transition.
It’s not easy balancing parenting with a career but if you do choose this route and find the balance both you and your child can be happy, independent and you can enjoy a fulfilling life work balance.
The key is to remember the reasons you made your choice, commit to it and really make the most of the time you do have together.
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