One year later and it’s not just the kids who struggle with the transition back to work. It’s hard on the whole family, especially the mama! Returning to work is a big transition. Everyone’s world is going to change whether you like it or not, whether your ready or not. The first day back is the worst, but trust me it does get better! I often get asked “when do you work next?” Most of the time, unless it’s the next day, I say I don’t know because I really don’t! For me its overwhelming to look to far ahead, so I just take things one day at a time!
Returning to Work
I had been dreading the day I was due to return back to work since the day my maternity leave started! Until now, I was able to tell myself “don’t worry its still a long way away” or “don’t worry you still got a few months before you have to go back”. You can reassure yourself however you want but for most of us this day comes. Try not to worry to much about it, having done this three times, I can reassure you the anticipation tends to be worse than the reality.
Canadian provinces (with the exception of Quebec) now offer the option of taking an 18-month parental leave, expanded from the usual 12 months. Employment Insurance benefits will be stretched out over the extra months, financially for some families this will not work. If it does makes sense for your family it can provide more time together and some added flexibility.
The Adjustment Period
It doesn’t matter when you return to work, its likely going to be a difficult adjustment either way. Don’t get me wrong, I know we are fortunate to get this time off with our babies and that it has not always been this way. So many people tell me stories of having to return to work when their little ones were only a few months old. I know how lucky I am to have had the opportunity to do this three times! I am also lucky to have a job to return to and continue my nursing career.
As my first day back approached, it really started to hit me, my baby is no longer a baby. He turned one and all of a sudden, he looks older and seems way more grown up! He’s crawling all over, standing up and walking along furniture, he even has some words! As I counted down the days, I found myself thinking about all the “last times” we have together before going back to work.
Anxiety & Sadness
The transition back can be incredibly tough both physically and mentally. Mentally I felt both anxiety and sadness, but once I started back these feelings soon began to fade.
I was worried I wasn’t going to remember what to do at work. I had a BUNCH of emails to filter through, I forgot passwords, I needed reminders about how to do or use certain things. Just remember to be kind to yourself, a year is a long time and a lot can change in a year. To me, going back to work like riding a bike. Even if you haven’t done it in awhile you just get back on and off you go. It’s a little rough to start but the skills come back quickly and your off! It’s strange, you just jump back in and at times it almost feels like I never even left.
I was anxious about how the little one was going to do without me. Your kids will be alright. I get it though, it’s tough when you go from spending majority of your time with your little family and then having to divide that time with work. Add in common feelings of mom guilt, the “not being there” for certain special moment’s, and it can be really hard. Your little ones will have good days and bad days and at the end of it all they will adjust and will be just fine. And in the end, you will too.
Home away from Home
I am extremely lucky to have the most amazing family watch the kids when we are working. It sure helps to know your kids are in a loving, caring home. When I drop them off before work there is crying, arms up waiting for me to pick up, pealing a child off my leg as I have to walk away. Every.Single.Time. I have fought tears back and I have cried more in my car on my way to work then anywhere else. Our sitter reassures me they settle down like two minutes later, but it definitely pulls on the heartstrings! I am lucky to get lots of messages about what the kids are doing and pictures of them having fun!
Going back to a job I love is the only thing holding this together right now. I joke about this all the time, but actually I’m serious when I say most of the time my hospital job is easier than my home job! And trust me my hospital job is NOT easy…! At work I get breaks, well maybe… I enjoy the adult conversation with my co-workers but I do miss my little ones.
Once you return to work prepare yourself for the “how is it like being back” question. Everyone asks this, and I have a generic reply… “it’s good to be back”. It’s the easiest answer, people are satisfied with it, it doesn’t cause you to dwell on things to much, and its true!
Returning to Work!?
Here are some tips to help make the transition slightly less painful! …
- If you know The Mama Coach you know we like routines so it only makes sense that my first tip is establish a morning routine. Your morning will go a lot smoother and a routine allows your little one to learn what to expect. I also try to get as much as possible ready the night before, for example, the dreaded packing of the lunches!
- Arrange childcare and allow time for a trail run, so you can encourage a bond between the caregiver and your little one!
- If your breastfeeding and are planning to continue, get a breast pump (if you don’t already have one). Also, have a conversation with your boss or the Human Resource department prior to returning to let them know of your plans. I am lucky that my workplace is VERY breastfeeding friendly, but I understand pumping at work can be tricky. Legally, you cannot be denied the opportunity to pump while at work.
- Minimize meal prep by having some freezer meals prepared!
- Realize you can’t do it all. Get the help you need, for example is it in your budget to hire a cleaning company?
- Simplify your life:
- Best thing I started doing was online shopping and getting what I needed delivered to my door! Also Click and Collect is a game changer for busy families, you place your order online, they collect your items, and you pick up or some stores even deliver! Life changing…so much time and patience saved!
- Maximize your time together now that there is a little less of it, but also allow yourself some personal time.
- Lastly, cut yourself and your little ones some slack, this adjustment period is tough and takes time.
Breastfeeding & Work
My little guy is still breastfeeding and neither of us are ready to give that up yet. However, the 12-hour shifts are long and are already effecting my milk supply. One tip I like is pumping at work for 5-10 minutes as a “catch-up” and then to feed often when you are at home.
If your breastfeeding I say try to continue to breastfeed. It is a wonderful way to reconnect after time apart. Returning to work is a huge adjustment period and studies have shown it is not the best time to wean your little one. The World Health Organization does “recommend exclusive breastfeeding for six months and then continued breastfeeding combined with solid foods for 2 years or as long as mother and baby desire.”
Quality vs Quantity
Since returning to work I am more motivated to make our time together count. The quantity of time together has decreased but the quality has increased. The old saying “absence makes the heart grow fonder” is accurate! I find my little guy is much clingier these days and that’s OK with me, this means more snuggle time!!
The Juggle is Real
I am tired, there is no downtime. I just move from one job to the next. Being a working mom means having to fit an extra eight or in my case twelve plus working hours into what you were already doing with your family, and that is a huge undertaking. But it’s the best tired, a tired that I wouldn’t trade for anything, I truly get the best of both worlds.
The work-life balance is a tricky one and this balance is one of the reasons why I became The Mama Coach in Winnipeg. Stay tuned for part two of this blog…The Business World…coming soon!
It’s going to be OK, were going to be OK…I think I say this out loud more for me than for my little ones. Its okay to struggle, it’s a difficult transition, but you got this mama and remember its only going to get easier from here. As always, please share this post if you liked it and if you have any questions about returning to work or comments please comment below or contact me here.
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