Going back to work after having a baby, even for those that are really excited about the prospect, can be quite physically and emotionally exhausting. There are so many things to think about. Being a new parent is lovely but exhausting, and when you add going to work on top of that, it can become a little overwhelming. Even for the most career orientated amongst you, it really can kill your drive. So, the key is to make a plan to avoid falling into the exhaustion trap.
As a mum of two boys, I know exactly what it is like to go back to a full time job. I sadly didn’t have a plan and after returning to work after my second maternity couldn’t cope with the juggle of being a working parent and left a company I had worked at for years, in fact since leaving university. At the time it seemed like a great idea, but once I’d made that leap it really didn’t. It has turned out alright in the long run, as I am now doing something that I really love, but it took a few years to start to feel like I was back in the right place. So, my aim now is to stop people falling into some of the traps that I fell into.
My advice, before you do anything else, is that you sit down with your partner and work out how you are going to make it work, now that you are both going to be working. (Some of you may be single parents and doing this on your own, but I still think a lot of the information I am going to talk to you about is useful, you just need to adjust it to one person)
The things that I think are worth considering:
What kind of parents do you each want to be? For example, do you both want to be hands on or is one of you going to take the lion’s share of responsibility? This may seem obvious, but too many new parents make their decisions based on what their parents did or what their friends or siblings have done. However, you are not them, you are you and you need to do what is right for you and your new family. It is really important that you decide all of this before you go back, because what you don’t want to find out, once you are back, is that actually your partner just wants to be the fun parent and wants to leave all the serious parenting to you.
What kind of career do you both want? – What are the short, medium, and long-term goals? What are the potential career patterns over the next 10 years for both of you? What promotions do you both want to go for? Do you just want a job that will pay the bills and not tax you too much? Is it your turn to focus on getting ahead, as you’ve had the last year off? Maybe you partner would like to slow down a bit and you be the main earner for a while? All these things are essential areas to think about before you head back. However, make sure that you both pace yourself for the long haul. If you both do it right you can both have it all, but maybe not exactly at the same time or all at once.
What’s your support network look like? I don’t mean emotional support, although that is equally important, I mean who is your back up if neither of you can get to the childminder / nursery etc or your childminder/nanny is off sick. Who will back you up and who will be the person that manages them i.e., who is the one who will sort things out when extra care or help is needed? Once you have worked that out, who will be plan B and who will be plan C? Are you lucky enough to rely on family nearby or are you going to have to call in the help of friends? It really does take a village, remember. Don’t even think you’ll survive this part of being a working parent without help. Once you have made your plan don’t forget to tell the people involved, so that they are armed and ready for the inevitable.
Parenting and Household Jobs:
Another thing that needs to be discussed is who will be doing which parenting and household jobs? I know that might sound silly, but don’t forget your partner has got used to you being at home all the time and they might have forgotten that they now have to help out more. I know that when I went back to work a second time, my husband (who I will add is very much a hands on dad and partner) was guilty of that and instead of me talking to him about it I just developed dark thoughts every time it was me loading the washing machine or sorting out the food shop. So, decide
- who will be doing the childcare run?
- the washing?
- the shopping?
- Doctors and dentist appointments?
- Who is going to be the one that takes time off if the baby is sick – this is a tough one?
Once you have made those decisions stick to them.
And finally, in an ideal world, I would highly suggest that your partner takes a few days off when you first start work, so that you don’t have to worry about anything other than getting yourself into work.
Remember it is not going to be perfect at the beginning, be patient as it will take time for you to get used to this new way of life. You might have to tweak and bend it along the way, but if you have the foundations in place then hopefully your plans will remain solid and your new life as a working parent will eventually start to seem as if you have always done it.
Maternity Leave, return to work, back to work, career, working, working parent,
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