For most new parents, the first few months spent with your newborn babies are the best and the worst months of your lives. The joys of getting to know your children and the luxury of being with them 24 hours a day are incredible. Yet the sheer exhaustion and stress of being always there, always available and always striving to be perfect are also huge.
Most women learn to adjust to their new roles within the first 2 to 3 months of having a baby. Life settles into a rhythm and they become good at this new job of being “Mummy”. And then, for many others, the need to re-adjust happens all over again.
Most women in Singapore return to work after a maternity break of between 3 to 4 months. Sometime around the 3rd month, it begins to dawn on new mothers that all the skills they’ve become great at over the last couple of months will not be very useful at work, and for some, the worry about returning to work begins to set in.
Before You Start Work Again
There are however, lots of things you can do to prepare yourself, your employer and your family for your return to work. Here are some of the things you can do before you start work again.
Arrange for Childcare
Make your childcare arrangements. If you are going to have a nanny at home to care for your child, interview several and try them out before you make your final decision. If you are lucky enough to have parents or in-laws who are willing to help, talk to them early on and get used to each other’s styles of care and routine. If you plan to place your baby in infant care, check out all the options and make sure that you secure a place early.
Clarify Your Responsibilities at Work
Talk to your boss. Be open about the challenges you might face when you first return to work again. Agree on your main responsibilities and the most important targets and goals which you will need to meet.
Discuss working hours and how you can be most effective whilst taking into account your new role as a mother. If possible, try to arrange your day so that you can leave work regularly, or take work back with you so that you can complete it in the evening after baby has gone to bed.
Discuss travel plans and whether or not they are feasible and what you and your team can do to minimise travel for the first 6 months of your return whilst still operating effectively. It is far better to get these concerns and needs out in the open before you return to work.
Plan Your New Routine
Think through how your day will begin and end. Plan your new routine. Will you and your husband need to drop baby off before work? Will your nanny, your parents or in-laws be at home before you leave the house, or do you and your husband need to make arrangements to be there until they arrive? Who will manage the daily household needs for the family? What will your routine at work and after work look like?
Being able to visualise a typical day once you return to work allows you to practice it before it happens. Much as an athlete visualises a manoeuvre before executing it, so too, will you need to visualise the details of your life before you begin working again.
Start Pumping, Storing and Bottle Feeding
If your baby has been breastfed exclusively, you will need to prepare yourself and your baby for the switch to bottle feeds. Start pumping and storing your breast milk up in the freezer. Get someone else to bottle feed baby so that your baby gets used to drinking your milk from a bottle.
Once You Start Working
Once you go back to work you will probably feel a little bit overwhelmed. In some ways, it will almost be like starting a new job all over again. Keep calm, and remember these few tips which will help you to get over the initial phase of adjustment at work.
Let Go of the Guilt
So you’ve decided to return to work. You need to overcome the natural feelings of guilt which might occur. Many women feel guilty about not being the primary caregivers for their infants once they start working again. Yet other women feel guilty because they find that they enjoy their work and the interactions they have away from home.
You shouldn’t feel guilty. If you’ve made the right childcare arrangements, and if you are good at your job and feel happy and fulfilled, you will be a better mother and parent to your baby than if you stay at home, are frustrated and unable to provide the level of care which your child needs.
In any case, if you’ve planned your return well, then you should still be able to come home at the end of the day and spend several hours in loving interaction with your baby.
Stick with the Routine You’ve Agreed To
If you’ve had an open conversation with your employer and you’ve agreed on a work routine, travel plan and responsibilities, stick to it. Don’t get carried away and start making commitments which you will have problems fulfilling. For the first 6 months at work, focus on delivering what you need to as effectively as possible.
Sheer exhaustion will make you feel miserable and discouraged. But stay positive. Your baby will grow older and sleep routines will settle down. Things will only get better with each passing month. Give yourself a pat on the back for persevering and keep your spirits up.
Be a Professional at Work
Whilst being a great mum is your latest new identity, it isn’t the one your boss hired you for and it isn’t the skill set which your co-workers and staff need from you to be an effective leader. So, refrain from talking baby matters all day long and focus on the work you need to do. Be professional and people will enjoy working with you, you will ace your job, and you’ll feel great about your reasons for returning to work too.