You’ve had the baby and enjoyed a glorious period of ‘baby bubble’ maternity leave. But time is ticking and it’s time to go back to work. But how do you navigate mumming and working? Here I give you working mamas some tips about how to do the transition.
EASE INTO YOUR NEW SCHEDULE
Instead of waiting for the first day of work to experiment with a new schedule, start warming up to your new routine in advance. If bub is going to start daycare for the first time when you return to work, see if you can begin the process a few weeks before you have to them drop-off with no option of an early pickup if separation anxiety rears its head. Maybe even see if they can start with a half day to get used to being away from you for a few hours, then stretch it out to the whole day once they have adapted. Another option is to ask your employer if you can begin with a ‘soft return’ when you first start back before taking on your full workload. Or you can begin with part-time hours before increasing to a full work week. Baby brain is real, so don’t freak out if it takes a month or so to dust off the mental cobwebs.
CREATE A SUPPORT NETWORK
The best way to avoid working-mama burnout is to put support systems in place so that you can reply on other people if you start to drop the ball. This includes formal childcare, your other half, grandparents, neighbours, extended family, fellow mamas and your soul tribe. Have your back-up care list on speed dial and don’t be afraid to use it if the wheels are coming off the bus. The cliché’ ‘It take a village to raise a child’ is oh-so-true, especially if that child gets sick on the morning of a professional presentation, or has an accident in the middle of a work day. Support takes many forms, and as a working mama it’s important to have sufficient emotional support as you navigate the work/life balance. So…check in with your girlfriends, get yourself a mentor, or seek counselling if you start feeling overwhelmed.
Transitional periods are always tricky…especially when you have a young baby and hormonal, sleep-deprived mama involved. So although it’s great to have an ideal scenario in mind, expect setbacks. Some nights you might be up all night with a teething toddler. Some days you’ll face challenges at work as you re-learn the ropes and re-find your groove. Your baby might go through a bout of separation anxiety or you might experience a phase of unexpected postnatal anxiety or depression. And sometimes you’ll seriously wonder why you embarked on this whole superwoman thing in the first place! One thing is certain: as a mum, you learn to expect the unexpected and learn to roll with the punches when curveballs get thrown your way. When things get tough, just remember ‘This too shall pass.'
BUY A FAMILY CALENDAR & PLAN IN ADVANCE
Even if you’re not a fan of planning in advance, preparation is a key aspect of working mama success. Map out the family schedule for all to see (including your partner & children), so you know what your weeks look like ahead of time. Pencil in important professional and personal milestones so you’re never on the backfoot and can organize logistics in advance if there’s a busy week coming up. Co-ordinate diary dates with your support network, so everyone is on the same page and manage your stress by minimizing scheduling overlaps. Along with important work events, make sure you deliberately schedule in non-negotiable ‘play time’ with your littles, so they (and you!) can look forward to consistent quality time together.
ACCEPT THAT GUILT IS A GIVEN
No matter how smooth or clunky your transition back into the workplace is, know that guilt is a realistic aspect of juggling mum/work life. When you’re home with bub, you may be a tad preoccupied with work commitments that are vying for your attention (hot tip: turn your email notifications off after work hours); and when you’re in the office, you’re inevitably going to get distracted by guilty thoughts about bub being in daycare. Since you’re only human and can only be in one place at one time, there’s no point beating yourself up for attempting to have a successful career AND be a great mum. The only thing you can offer your boss (which includes yourself if you are a self-employed entrepreneur) and your child is your best. Accept that guilt is a natural part of finding balance and that the grass is always greener. Try your best to be present in each scenario and forgive yourself when the guilts wash over you.