A return to work after months or years away can be jarring for both you and your family. Many stay at home mothers are so busy with household chores and childcare that it’s hard to imagine returning to work while maintaining the same quality of life. Still, for some the financial and personal benefits of returning to work are enormous. Ease the transition by making these changes gradually.
Before Returning To Work
Start thinking about and anticipating your return to work weeks before it happens. By getting into the mindset of starting work again, you’ll be more psychologically and physically ready when it finally happens.
- Communicate with your family about your choice to return to work. Invite them to offer their tips and express their concerns.
- Plan new roles and responsibilities for everyone in your family. Don’t expect yourself to be able to do as much housework as you did when you stayed at home full-time.
- Investigate the possibility of paying a cleaning service to maintain your house. This will allow you to enjoy more time with your family and relieve some of the pressures at home.
- Start going to bed early in order to get up earlier.
- Help your child adjust to the separation by leaving him or her for increasing periods of time with a carer or relative.
- Start your child with the carer or daycare centre a week before returning to work. Hopefully any unhappiness or unease that your child may feel about going to the daycare centre will be forgotten by the time you start your new job, allowing you to more fully concentrate on work matters while you are there.
- Look up fast and easy dinner recipes. Start preparing them ahead of time so your family will get used to these new meals.
Perfecting Your Routine
Once you start work, you’ll be busy in the mornings and evenings. Reduce some of the stress with the following tips:
- Make dinners for the coming week during the weekend, and freeze or refrigerate them until they’re needed. Remember to thaw frozen dinners the night before.
- Set up your coffee maker and clothes before going to sleep at night. Get lunches ready at night after dinner. Everything you need in the morning should be ready to grab as you walk out the door.
- Have your child — and maybe even your partner — practice the new routines to ensure that everything goes smoothly in the morning.
- Write lists of those things that need to be done in the morning or evening. Lists can prevent you from forgetting something when you’re feeling rushed, and can keep you moving quickly at a time when it’s important to be fast.
Returning To Work
Finding a work situation that is compatible with your home life is crucial.
- If possible, start part-time. This will allow you to more fully participate in normal life at home while you ease back into life at work.
- Look for a workplace close to your home. The less time you spend commuting, the more time you will spend with your family.
- Be upfront and open with your boss about your limitations. If you are unable to work evenings, weekends or over time, that should be clear when you take the position. Although this kind of openness may make it more difficult to find a job, it is better to spend a longer time searching for work if it results in finding a supportive work environment.
- Inquire at your work place about family-friendly policies that may be helpful in your personal life. Some offices provide on-site daycare and other benefits for working parents.
Balancing Work and Raising A Child
Every working parent worries about the impact their professional life might have on their relationship with their child. It is important that your bond with your child stay strong.
- Keep your child’s routines predictable. Children who feel that they can anticipate the future tend to feel more safe and secure.
- Talk to your child, separate from your partner, about your return to work. Try to assuage any fears or anxieties your child may have. Give hugs and kisses during this time so your child will feel comfortable talking to you about these matters in the future.
- Make special time in the evenings, even if only 5 or 10 minutes, to spend with your child. This could be story time or bath time.
- Look for cues that your child may be having trouble adjusting to the new situation. If your child is more clingy than usual, displaying bad behaviour, or having trouble sleeping, these are indications that your child is feeling anxious or unhappy.
- Practice leaving and coming back with your child, if you find this part is especially difficult when taking him or her to daycare.
- Visit your child during the day if the daycare centre is close enough to your workplace.
- Draw pictures or write short letters to your child and leave them in your child’s bag or pocket.
- Make a small photo album of family pictures that your child can take to daycare.
- Send your child to daycare or the carer with an attachment object like a blanket or stuffed animal.
Maintaining A Healthy Relationship With Your Partner
Your partner will be used to seeing you more often, and probably at times when your schedule felt less rushed. Maintain a healthy relationship with by spending time together over meals and in the evenings.
- Go on “dates.” Resolve to do this once a month or three to four times a year. Alternatively, if your offices or workplaces are located near to each other, take periodic lunch hours together and meet at a restaurant.
- Be sure the children are in bed on time every night, and set their bedtime before your regular bedtime, so you and your partner can be alone together in the evenings.
- Make phone calls or send text messages to your partner over the course of the day. If you packed your partner’s lunch, send a note.