Becoming a mother is one of the most overwhelming experiences in a woman’s life. Once you have popped the baby out and gone through the joys and struggles of being a new mum, the pregnancy is long forgotten. Your days and nights blend into one. Time is now measured in terms of feeding, nap and diaper changes. Amongst all this, you push one thought firmly at the back of your head – about returning to work. Are you losing sleep over it? I know I did! Returning to work after having a baby can be mentally daunting. Whether you are a full time corporate employee, an entrepreneur or a freelancer, the separation anxiety can hit you equally. Here are a few Do’s and Don’ts about returning to work after your maternity leave that will help.
Get Your Support System in Place
Plan this from the day you get the baby home. Leaving this to the last month will result in a lot of anxiety and stress. If you are going to send your baby to day care, check out the places and book the spot well in advance. Most day cares would have you leave the baby for a short while initially and slowly increase it to the entire duration. If you plan on getting a nanny, then employ one much before the time to join office comes up. You will have some help at home and both you and the baby will get used to the nanny. If it is parental support, then ensure that your baby is well used to them and that you have the logistics discussed and agreed with the elders.
The support system also consists of house help – delegate as many tasks as possible. The more help you have, the more time you will be able to pull away from mundane tasks and focus on the baby. You can still opt to do things yourself if you want to, but having the support staff to do it when you cannot will really take the pressure off chores.
Get Some Me Time
Okay, I know this sounds weird but I highly recommend getting some time out to relax yourself before you join work because believe it or not, the ride gets crazier. Your baby will not suddenly start sleeping through the night just because you have to wake up at six in the morning and leave for work at eight. The feeding time will not magically shorten because you have an important meeting coming up. It gets tougher and the stress mounts higher! Leading up to the weeks you have to resume work, while your child is getting used to the day care or the new nanny, catch up on sleep, visit a spa or even the gym. Do something that takes your mind off things and helps you relax. It is also a good idea to get yourself groomed at this point of time. Get your haircut in place, the brows done and your wardrobe organized. Don’t they say if you look good, you feel good?
Revisit Your Employee Options
Does your organisation offer a work from home or a flexi hours policy? Know it well, discuss with your manager and HR and get enrolled in it. Even if you do the 9 to 5 routine, it is good to have a legitimate option should you need one. And by jove, you will need it – be it en just for the regular vaccination schedules. Managers tend to be a little considerate of new mothers most times. So have a heart to heart with your manager and teams. Set the right expectations with them so that there is no stress. Know your holidays and optional leaves well in advance so that you can take advantage of the non-working days to spend extra time with your baby.
Don’t Let the Guilt Bugs Bite
A well-known problem with women is that each one of us thinks that we ought to do much more. I agree we are all superwomen but a lot of us buckle under the weight of our own expectations.
Anuradha Doraiswami, 36 recounts “I went back to work after a 4-month long maternity leave. I tried to overcompensate for the guilt of leaving my daughter behind by expressing milk into bottles so that it can be fed to her the next day. It was an elaborate process, twice a day starting with half hour in the office toilet to express the milk, sneaking it out in a bag, walking to my car and placing it in an ice box that kept it from getting spoilt. All this in between meetings and trying to prove to everyone at work that I don’t need any special treatment because I am a new mother. It finally got to me, stressed me out to a point where my husband had to intervene and convince me that it was OK to just give up on this complicated process and focus on work. Work became my place of solace, the only hours of sanity in a day were spent here and I looked forward to it. My advice to anyone going back to work after maternity would be to stop being so hard on yourself for doing so. If you are guilt-free and stress-free, you will be a happy loving mom and a great contributor at work with just some amount of simple planning and time management.”
Bottom line is to tell yourself that it is okay to leave the baby in someone else’s care while you work. Giving importance to your career does not mean that you are not giving any importance to your child. If you carry the guilt around, you will neither do justice to your work nor your home and can be drawn into a vicious claws of anxiety and depression.
Do Not Play The New Mother Card
While it is all right to expect the people at work to be empathic to your new mother situation, do not expect preferential treatment. Constantly playing the new mother card at work can really hurt the credibility you have built as a professional. The perception in corporate is that once a woman becomes a mother, her prime focus shifts to the baby and the career fades to the back. It is not a good idea to re-inforce that belief! Be reasonable with the expectations from others.
Don’t Hesitate to Make Career Changes
I know a lot of new mums, myself included who did not change jobs after having a child simply due to the comfort factor in the current jobs. I always told myself that a known devil was better than an unknown one. Well, that is not true. If your current job is stagnating you or is just too much pressure to handle, look for a new one. Being unhappy at work will impact your performance and you will eventually blame the baby for it.
And that is it ladies. My tips for rejoining work post having a baby. Let me know how you guys managed it, what worked for you and what did not!