Navigating your return to work as a new mother isn’t a straightforward process. Similar to the process of your little one beginning preschool, you’re entering a completely different environment after being accustomed to spending time with your baby at home.
Since the COVID-19 pandemic has substantially changed the work-from-home scene, returning to work can look a number of ways. Whether you’re returning to a full-time job in the office or working remotely, here are some tips to help support your transition.
1. Communicate with your boss and co-workers
When you return to your previous job, you’ll likely need to spend some time settling back in and getting yourself up to speed. Don’t be afraid to have an honest conversation with your boss; be open about your needs as a new parent and communicate how you can be supported. If you’re not already familiar with your employer’s illness and time off policy, this is an excellent opportunity to find out.
It’s also a good idea to communicate openly with your team members. They should be aware of specific changes, such as your personal schedule. This will help your team work more efficiently with one another.
2. Arrange childcare options
For both parents that work at home and those who work in an office, you’ll inevitably need some assistance with childcare. If you don’t have a trusted caretaker yet, consider holding a “test run” before your first day back to work. You’ll feel much more reassured once you know that your caretaker is reliable and somewhat experienced with your child.
Further, it would help if you had backup babysitters in mind. For instance, this can be a family member, a neighbour, or a daycare facility. What to Expect suggests compiling a list of these contacts for emergencies. You can also create a basic “information profile” for your child, including aspects like medical concerns and sleeping/eating routines. This will ensure that all essential childcare-related information is in one place.
3. Coordinate with your partner
If you have a partner, have a discussion about your return to work. If you two work different hours, perhaps you can arrange a schedule in which you alternate watching your child. Collectively decide what works for you in terms of managing your work, household chores, and childcare. If you’re relying on a babysitter or a daycare facility, you’ll also want to consider assigning pickup and dropoff responsibilities.
Lastly, plan for the unexpected by developing an emergency plan. If your little one becomes sick or needs you for another reason, determine how you’ll manage the situation.
4. Separate your work life
Especially if you’re working from home, it can be challenging to manage a work-life balance. It’s important to take care of your well-being by keeping these two areas of your life apart. If you work from home, try to set up a designated work area that is distraction free (or as close to this as possible).
For those parents working in the office, try to shift out of your work mindset once you leave the workplace. It’s easy to bring work issues home, but it’s also crucial to be present when spending time with your little one.
5. Listen to your body
Taking care of your new baby, let alone working simultaneously, is a huge commitment. It’s completely normal to feel overwhelmed upon your return. Don’t feel discouraged if you’re unable to jump back into things immediately. Setting realistic expectations for yourself to alleviate some of the pressure is important.
If you feel you need more support or flexibility from your employer, communicate this to your boss or HR. You can even consider decreasing your hours and taking on a part-time schedule instead. However, as HBR writer Rebecca Knight acknowledges, you’ll have to weigh the advantages and disadvantages of doing so carefully.
6. Have a support network
Building a support network can look different for every parent. Some individuals seek support from family members, friends, and other loved ones in their lives. Others may prefer to join online support groups. Don’t hesitate to reach out to colleagues and other people in your life who’ve gone through a similar situation with balancing their professional life with parenthood.
No matter how you prefer to establish your network, always ask for help when you need it. There are tons of parents out there who are willing to lend a hand by sharing their experiences!
Written by: Alicia Chow
Check our other blog: 6 Tips for Easing into a School Routine