women

Soothing Separation Anxiety

Separation anxiety normally rears its head at about six months of age, when your baby has developed a strong attachment to you as his primary caregiver. There are, however, plenty of ways to ease the pain of separation, and make the experience more positive for you both.

  • Don’t go out of your way to avoid separations when your baby is young—he should get used to being with other people

  • You can try to leave the room for a couple of seconds at a time, and then reappear—this will help him learn from a young age that you will always return after you go away

  • Introduce new babysitters (and childcare settings) gradually, letting your baby get to know them before being left alone with them

  • Provide transitional objects, such as a favorite teddy or blanket, which your baby will use to cope with separation; leaving behind a scarf or shirt with your scent firmly embedded can also help to ease the transition

  • Try not to make light of your baby’s distress—comfort him and reassure him; tell him that you know he is sad and that you love him and will be back soon

  • Always say good-bye—disappearing will make your baby feel insecure; if you say good-bye, he’ll soon understand that this means you are leaving and he’ll also start to remember that you always come back

  • Don’t be surprised if your baby needs lots of reassurance before and after separations—spend some time offering just that

  • Show plenty of warmth and approval for your caregiver—if your baby knows you are comfortable with her, he will feel happier in her care

  • Talk it up—show pleasure and excitement that you are going to the day care, or that your nanny is about to arrive; if you are positive about the experience, your baby will pick up the right signals and soon follow suit

  • Similarly, try not to cry or appear anxious—if he senses something is wrong, your baby may become even more distressed; you have to go to work, and he will have a wonderful, fulfilling time while you are gone

  • Try as much as possible to return on time—if you don’t turn up when your baby expects you to (in time to bathe him, for example, or to give him a nighttime feed), he may become anxious and distrustful

  • Remember that you can suffer from separation anxiety, too—reassure yourself that you have chosen a good, reliable caregiver that you trust, and that your baby will be safe and happy with her

Be kind to yourself

Bear in mind that guilt is a destructive emotion, and can undermine your self-confidence and even your relationship with your baby. All moms suffer from “bad-mother syndrome” from time to time. Accept that this is par for the course, and then make a conscious effort to pat yourself on the back for managing to juggle so many areas of your life. You are doing the best you can and most likely you are doing a wonderful job, so make sure you acknowledge that, and believe in the fact that both you and your baby are capable of being happy and fulfilled with a working-mom lifestyle.

Covering Vacations and Illness

Even the most carefully set up childcare arrangements can fall to pieces from time to time, when your baby or your caregiver is ill, or your nanny takes a vacation. It’s a good idea to have contingency plans set up in advance for emergencies, and to help get you through periods when no one is available to hold the baby.

  • All children get sick, and babies and very young children are particularly susceptible because of their immature immune systems—make sure you are aware of any sickness policies at your day-care center

  • Remember that all caregivers are entitled to vacation (and vacation pay), so it’s a good idea to establish at the outset when they might take place

  • Check with your employer to establish what their policy is about taking time off when your children are ill, so you know what to expect—you may be required to use up your personal sick days

  • You might be able to arrange to work at home when your child is ill—it’s a good idea to establish remote access with your work computer, and to have some work ready that you can do from home if you can’t get into the office

  • Working at home is a good option for longer periods of illness, or for times when your nanny is off; perhaps a babysitter or “mother’s helper” can work for you for part of the day to help make sure you get work done

  • If you need it, you may be eligible for 12 weeks of Family Leave and Medical Act unpaid leave in a 12-month period, to care for a sick child—but be prepared: just because it’s law doesn’t mean that your colleagues will like it

  • See if you can take turns with your partner to care for your child

  • Ask another mom in advance if she would be prepared to share her nanny or au pair to help you out in a pinch—you could offer the same in return, or something similar, such as an evening’s babysitting

  • Establish a strong support network at work and with any other moms at your child’s childcare facility—it’s easier to arrange swaps and ask for favors if you are on a first-name basis

  • Try not to feel guilty about asking for favors; we are all conditioned to think that asking for help is a sign of weakness, but working moms need all the help they can get

  • Set up a roster of family members or friends who can step in to help at short notice

  • Be honest with your work colleagues—they’ll appreciate the fact that you are up-front about your position, and probably be only too glad to help out

  • Check out babysitter agencies in advance—you will have to pay for having help at short notice, but it can save you a lot of hassle and concern

  • Plan for your nanny’s vacations or day-care closings in advance by arranging short-term cover—a local high-school or college student might be only too glad to earn some extra money helping out

  • Consider arranging your own vacations when your caregiver is taking a break; you’ll remove the pressure of finding cover, and you’ll enjoy the experience of sharing time as a family

Staying at Home

Staying at home with your baby may seem like a luxury to some, but it may well be the hardest job you’ll ever do. However, every ounce of patience spent and every nerve frayed will result in the most rewarding experience of your life.

  • It goes without saying that it should be financially feasible—if staying at home is going to send you into massive debt and put enormous pressure on your family relationships, you may need to rethink

  • Try living on one salary for a couple of months before or just after your baby is born, putting any maternity pay you receive in a savings account—if you can manage, then give it a try

  • Consider the benefits you may lose, too—if you depend on your employer for pension or 401K contributions, healthcare benefits, or a company car, there might be more of a financial hole than salary numbers alone suggest

  • Find out which benefits your partner can get through his job—it might be more cost-effective for your partner to stay at home with the baby

  • Make sure you establish a good network of other moms with babies—not only is the stimulation important for you both, but you’ll be party to a wealth of shared ideas, concerns, and wisdom

  • Make sure your partner appreciates your efforts and takes some responsibility for the household chores, too; don’t feel you have to be superwoman—your priority is your baby’s health and well-being

  • Take time out to read the paper and to get the housework and shopping done—little ones do need to grow up understanding that there are other things that require mom’s or dad’s attention from time to time

  • Keep up with courses or activities that will keep your work skills sharp, so that if you do go back to work you’ll be ready

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