Preparing for your Return to Work

Even the most hardened career woman can’t fail to feel a wrench when first leaving her baby to return to work, and circumstances may mean that you have to return earlier than you’d like. Here are some tips to help you get ready for going back to work and for coping with the first few weeks as a working mom.

  • Going back to work doesn’t mean you have to give up breastfeeding—investigate whether you can have access to a quiet place to pump and a fridge for storing your milk while you are at work

  • Start pumping in the weeks before you return, and fill up your freezer—frozen breastmilk will last several months in a sealed container

  • Make sure you’ve got your childcare lined up well in advance , and that you’ve had several trial sessions—if your baby is used to her new routine, she won’t crumble when you leave for your first day back

  • Make contact with your boss and colleagues a week or two before your official return date, to touch base and catch up on what has been going on in your absence—you’ll feel more confident if you are prepared

  • Bring your baby in to work a few weeks before your return, during the lunch hour, perhaps—you’ll remind colleagues of why you’ve been away, and give them a chance to soften when they see your beautiful baby

  • Consider starting back at work on a Wednesday or Thursday, so that you don’t have a whole week to get through as soon as you are back

  • Once you are back, try to stick to your schedule; unfortunately, some people resent women who have had time off work to have a baby, and will be looking for opportunities to prove that you can’t juggle both

  • Try to compartmentalize—plan a regular phone call to your child’s caregiver to check on things and make sure you are reachable in case of emergency, then buckle down and focus on your work

  • Finally, take care of yourself—juggling a baby, a household, and a job can be exhausting, so make sure you take regular breaks, drink plenty of water throughout the day, and eat well

Working alternatives

Working part- or flex-time can be the ideal solution for women who want or need to work, but who also want to spend more time with their babies in the early years. Another option is, of course, working from home. In all cases, you do need to be focused on work in the hours you’ve agreed, and self-disciplined enough to ensure that you achieve everything your job entails within the appropriate hours. It’s all too easy to get bogged down in home and/or work life, and everyone suffers as a result. Define your hours clearly, and make sure you are doing the job of mom when you are with your baby, and career woman when you are at work.

Survival Tips for Working Moms

It’s not easy to get the balance between home and work life right, even at the best of times, and throwing a baby into the equation can make things downright difficult. There are, however, plenty of ways to ensure that you don’t just survive, but thrive!

  • Don’t try to be superwoman—you can’t be perfect at everything, and if the housework slides, your baby doesn’t get his bath one night, or you turn on a DVD instead of stimulating your baby, the world won’t end

  • Treat your child’s caregiver(s) with respect—you need her, and you need her to be happy when she is looking after your precious baby

  • Learn to say no—put your baby, your family, and your job at the top of the list of your priorities, and then work out what else makes sense and enhances your life; say no to anyone or anything that you don’t enjoy

  • Don’t feel guilty—many working women would choose not to work, but if that isn’t an option, embrace your situation and do the best you can

  • Take care of yourself—an exhausted, underfed, and emotionally strung-out mom isn’t any good to anyone; you’ll be capable of keeping more balls in the air if you look after yourself

  • Take care of your relationships—your partner or husband is part of the team, too, and needs lots of love, time, and respect

  • Always have a plan B—things have a habit of not going according to plan, and if you always have a contingency in place, life is a lot easier

  • Establish clear guidelines at work—you may once have been a 24-hour-a-day employee, but that is no longer possible; if everyone knows where you stand at the outset, resentment is less likely to breed

  • Find some support in other working moms—they can be a fountain of great ideas for coping with daily challenges and occasional crises; they’ll also be an invaluable support network when the going gets tough

  • Job-share at home—make sure you divvy up the chores and the childcare, so that both you and your partner get the break you need

How to Choose a Day-care Center

Places at good day-care centers get booked up very quickly, and it can take some time to find the right one for you and for your baby’s needs. Start looking into facilities that might be suitable as soon as you know you are going to return to work—if possible, during your pregnancy.

Look for:

  • A high staff-to-child ratio—there are laws about the number of little ones that can be cared for by each responsible adult

  • Separate spaces for younger and older children, meaning your baby gets the care he needs without the distractions of older kids

  • A strong, fair discipline policy that matches your own beliefs

  • Permanent staff members with good first-aid skills, as well as experience dealing with childhood illnesses and providing medical attention

  • Well-trained staff who constantly update their knowledge, and understand child nutrition, development, and common issues

  • Warm, friendly, and loving staff, who clearly show interest in the children

  • A designated staff member to be your main contact

  • A sound policy and clear evidence of safety and security

  • Plenty of age-related opportunities for your baby to be stimulated

  • A good selection of clean, tidy toys, and age-appropriate books

  • A quiet place for little ones to sleep, and a clean place for them to be fed

  • A policy of informing parents on their babies’ progress daily

  • A good open-door policy, so that you can visit unannounced, and feel that you are welcome at any time

  • A glowing inspection report, or several very good personal references: ask around—other parents won’t lie

  • Above all, trust your instincts—if you see contented babies and warm, caring staff, you are probably on to a good thing

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