Happy Summer! Take a moment to check out a recent Washington Post article that includes an interview with one of my clients on her coaching experience. Also be sure to look for my interview about the challenges facing working mothers on an upcoming episode of View from the Bay, on CBS in San Francisco.
This ezine’s featured article offers practical solutions for transitioning back to work after maternity leave and serves as a reminder for more seasoned working parents on how to achieve work/family balance.
To your health, happiness and success,
How to Transition Back to Work After Maternity Leave
If you’re like many of my clients who return to work after maternity leave, you may view your job as a welcome vacation from the exhausting responsibilities of caring for a newborn. Oh, the irony. However, as you prepare to go back to work, you may unexpectedly be faced with a whole new set of challenges, including growing feelings of anxiety and guilt about not staying home with your child. Here are a few ideas to help you through this process:
Plan Your Plan Carefully select the best back-to-work date for you and your family. Try to anticipate how much time you’ll need (and how much time you’ll get) as best as you can. Review your employer’s maternity leave policy and talk with other working mothers in your field. Work with your husband/partner to assess your personal financial situation to determine when and how (part-time, flex schedule, etc.) you’ll return to work. Also, be sure to review your Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) eligibility. As you start to explore these questions, you may also find it helpful to create a work-plan for you and your growing family that outlines what your weekly schedule will look like.
Partner with Your Partner Talk to your husband/partner about your plan and make sure you’re both on the same page. You’ll strengthen your relationship, save time and energy and build the support you’ll need throughout this transition. You might be surprised to find that your partner shares similar feelings about his or her return to work. Talk with your partner about what is going to work best for the family, as a whole. Remember that perfect options don’t exist. There will be sacrifices by both parents. Money, time, convenience and fast-paced career growth are among the biggest things that may change. The best option will include sacrifices with which you both can live. By engaging in honest, ongoing communication with your partner/husband, you’ll be able to successfully manage this transition together.
Communicate at Work Too Not everyone has the luxury of working with colleagues who are familiar with the challenges of returning to work after maternity leave. Talk regularly with your supervisor and/or your staff about your schedule, priorities and options. Only you know what you need to balance your roles as mom and professional, so speak up.
No Woman is an Island – Delegate! One of the secrets to success as a working mom is learning how to delegate to other staff, your husband/partner, your family, etc. If you’re overwhelmed with work, take a look at your to-do list and ask yourself some honest questions. What do you absolutely need to do right now? What can you postpone, delegate or say “no” to? On the personal front, hiring a cleaning person one day a week may be all it takes to make you feel in control of your home life again. Maybe it’s time for him to start ironing his own shirts or for your older children to start doing the dishes. Spread the workload around a little -small changes can make a big difference.
Find Comfort in Childcare The more comfortable you are with your childcare situation, the easier it will be for you to focus on work. Set-up a trial run with your daycare for a week before you return to work to prevent any last minute surprises about reliability, scheduling, pick-up/drop-off, etc.
Breast-pumps and Boardrooms Some larger family-friendly companies now have special rooms devoted to pumping, called lactation stations. If your company doesn’t have such a room, set-up a daily pumping schedule where you can shut your office door (or use someone else’s office when they’re in meetings). Cover the windows, lock the door and put a note on the door as to when you’ll be done. Make sure you’ve got refrigeration available (if needed) and consider how convenient your clothing is to workday pumping. Pumping at the office can be a hassle but it gives you the freedom to continue nursing for as long as you choose. As an added bonus, if you’re missing your baby, stressed, or feeling guilty, you may find that the oxytocin and endorphins released through the pumping will help alleviate some of these feelings.
Expect to Feel Guilty When you’re working a lot of hours and away from your child for long periods of time, you may be consumed with feelings of guilt. You may also feel guilty for leaving your child to go to work, guilty that going to work sometimes feels like a welcome break from your child or guilty when you have to leave work early. Guilt is a given. I work with my clients to help them manage this guilt (see the last ezine article on how to manage guilt). You can’t control guilt but you can choose what you want to do about it.
Learn How to Compartmentalize As we already established, when you’re at work, you may feel guilty. Then, when you’re with your child, you may find that you’re easily distracted by thoughts of work, household chores or a million little tasks that need attention. Do your best to be in the moment. If you’re able to be fully present when spending time with your child, you’ll feel less guilty when you’re not with them. Easier said than done, right? Read my upcoming article for tricks on how to become more present and focused when spending quality time with your baby.
Set a Trial Period Allow yourself a ninety-day trial period to see how your new weekly schedule works for you and your family. Once you’re through this trial period, assess how it’s working and change your schedule accordingly. Also, as your child grows and develops, you may need to continue to tweak your schedule.
Keep it in Perspective At the end of the day, all of this careful planning can’t account for emotions. During the post-partum period, your hormones are in huge flux and if you find yourself in tears the first day back at work, remember that you’re not alone and there’s no need to beat yourself up about it. The good news is, research shows that if you have an enjoyable job that inspires and motivates you, it’s beneficial for your health and for the health of your child. So, hang in there, give yourself a break and remember that by taking care of yourself, you’re taking care of your baby.