By Lisa Cohn, PHR
As a first time mom returning to work after having a baby, I had NO IDEA how much my life would be shifted, personally and professionally. No one told me that I would arrive at work wearing two different shoes, forget to put on makeup after a sleepless night, or attend a work meeting with a paci clipped to my nice pressed skirt! Also, I had no idea that my new work day would run from 6 AM to 11 PM, and that I would be lucky if I had any spare time (eventually it gets better) to watch a television show with my husband, eat dinner in less than 5 minutes, or even do laundry and wash dishes.
Initially upon my return to work I encountered conflicting feelings- uncertainty, guilt, resentment, excitement, frustration, and being overwhelmed. Honestly, I felt guilty for not staying home with my daughter because I didn’t want to jeopardize my career and also uncertain of how I could handle the transition and the possibility of missing milestones in my daughter’s life. Eventually I learned to stop overthinking the situation and trying to be perfect, to give myself a break and just do what I could in the immediate hour, day or week. It is definitely possible to transition from diaper mode to a career driven women and still be successful as both a mom and employee!
In advance of returning to work, I employed some strategies to help get me through the first day, week, month, etc. Due to a daycare scheduling issue, my supervisor graciously allowed me an extra unpaid month of maternity leave, which really helped with the transition for me. She also agreed to let me have a more flexible work schedule that better fit my needs by helping me save money on daycare, in addition to increasing the amount of quality time with my daughter and family.
If you are a parent returning to work, here are some tips that might help with the transition:
- Work Environment: Focus on the positives at work and cut yourself some slack. Also, keep your supervisor in the loop in case something comes up.
- Stay Connected: I found it really helpful to keep pictures on my phone of my daughter and husband, and to receive daily text messages and videos from my daycare provider. You could also check in with the provider for updates, or consider using your lunch break to visit your child until you get used to the transition.
- Accept Help: Get support from family and friends and cut yourself some slack. Make sure to surround yourself by positive people that want to help you succeed. Or, if needed, consider joining a support group for working moms.
- Plan Ahead: Do whatever you can the night before related to packing bottles and supplies, picking out clothes, allowing extra time in the morning for accidents (spit up, upset baby, etc.)
- Backup Plan: Consider what back up you might have in place in case your child gets sick or daycare is closed because of weather or provider vacation. For example, my parents watch my child one day a week (while she is in daycare the other days) and in case they get sick my daycare agreed to be a backup for that day upon emergency.
- Flexible Schedule: Ask for a flexible schedule, such as coming in later and leaving later, or working a half day on Fridays. Or, if feasible, ask for extra unpaid time off or if you can work from home 1-2 days/week initially.
- Importance of “Me” Time: A lot of new moms (me included), as well as experienced moms, sometimes forget to take care of ourselves, in addition to our families. I think that it’s so important to make sure you are healthy and happy, and recommend trying to carve out some time for yourself, whether it’s getting extra sleep on the weekends, working out, or meeting friends for coffee. Remember to cash in those favors from friends and family who have offered to babysit, drive your kid(s) to daycare, and/or run an errand for you!
One of my coworkers sent me an article last week called “Kids of working moms are better off” that reported “daughters of working mothers grow up to be more successful in the workplace than their peers.” Not surprisingly, I found the article very appealing because it talked about the benefits of working, including the direct positive influence that women can have on their children as role models.
It’s important to keep in mind that the work/family life balance is always a challenge for parents and it’s natural to feel torn sometimes between the two. However, we all have to learn to give ourselves a break. Working mothers need to realize that you are being a positive role model to your child, and that when it comes to time, quality is more important than quantity!
By Lisa Cohn, PHR, Account Representative, JCS Career Center
JCS provides a broad range of services that meet the diverse, multi-dimensional needs of individuals and families throughout Central Maryland. We offer guidance and support when you are seeking solutions for emotional well-being, aging and caregiving, parenting, job seeking, employers and businesses, achieving financial stability, living with special needs, and preventing risky behaviors. To learn more, please visit our home page or call 410-466-9200.