Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Back to Work: A Survival Guide

by Guest Blogger Mama RK

As I recently mentioned to a few of my fellow new mom friends (and had been said to me before returning to work), often the anticipation of going back to work and leaving your baby is in many ways the hardest part of going back. It is certainly not the only hard part, but the idea of separating yourself from your baby—who you have to this point rarely been separated from—is hard. No matter what your situation, you can't imagine how either of you will survive the separation.

I am here to reassure you that you will both survive.

The first thing to know is that no matter who will be caring for your little munchkin, they will not replace you. Your baby will always prefer and love mama more than anyone else in the entire world. He will squeal when you come home. He will coo and smile and stare at you in awe.... it is amazing. So even if you are away, he won't forget. And generally, your baby will also adjust to your childcare provider—demonstrating excitement and ease when you transfer care and understanding the different roles you each play. It is amazing how a little person can adapt and understand this—sometimes even better than mom!

As you chose your child care, it can seem overwhelming. Everyone has an opinion (yes, this seems to be the common thread through all things of being a new mom!). You and your partner just have to trust your gut. Do what is right for you and your family. And do other mamas a favor; hold your judgment on how, where or why other families do other things. Choosing a child care provider is intensely personal, and chances are every person has their own doubts or reservations about the situation they have decided upon. There is no perfect situation.

As the big day gets closer…the impending d-day when you leave your baby for the first time to return to work, I have compiled a rant to help you through.

Part I: Allow yourself to feel sorry for yourself. Talk it out with your friends, your family, yourself (you can talk out loud to your baby). Get a manicure, a hair cut, a new outfit. Treat yourself to uninterrupted days with your baby, just enjoying each other. Layer it on thick for extra special attention from your family and friends who are able and willing to help you mentally and physically prepare for getting back out there. When you go back to work (to an office full of babies, if yours is anything like mine) you will likely be welcomed back like a hero. Bask in it. You will hear all the awful things that happened and didn’t happen while you were away, you will see how much everything is the same…nothing has changed. During your heroes welcome, you will also likely receive many praises about how skinny you look! Enjoy this too…don’t focus too much on the fact that the last time people saw you, you were probably the largest you’ve ever been in your life, so naturally you them you look skinny. Hey, and maybe you do look great, enjoy the compliments. Also, enjoy the slack people will initially grant you as a new mom. Have to leave early, no problem. Need to break away to pump, no problem. This doesn’t last too long, so enjoy it while it lasts—you’ve earned it.

Part II: Stop feeling sorry for yourself. Put your situation in perspective. According to the last census, 55% of mothers work out of the home, you are not the first, you will not be the last. Of these moms, many are returning to much more physically demanding jobs, possibly much sooner than you, and many to much less financial rewarding or mentally fulfilling.

Sure, sure, we all know someone who had a year off. Or who’s boss suggested they downgrade their hours, but keep their pay and benefits the same…but that is an urban legend. Keep focused on how lucky you were for all of the days you did have, and how fortunate you were.

When you start to cry, leaving your little baby, imagine this: there is a woman somewhere in the world that on this very same day is leaving their child in much less desirable circumstances than you, to a much more difficult and less fulfilling position. You are not alone.

Part III: Back to work. Your job is to do a good job. Good enough that no one notices or cares that you leave when you need to leave. Again, ease your way back (suggestion: do not return on a Monday). Let yourself go home early more often at the beginning. If it is slower, leave. If other people are out, leave. Do your job. And if make sure when you are not with your baby you are killing it--no one will say a word. But you have to set your expectations for everyone. No one will say, "oh don't schedule this meeting at 530 b/c YOU want to go home..." they will try to schedule it. But unless it is your Boss or someone super-senior to you, try to work around it. Don’t bother to say you want to see your baby... you can just say you can't do that time. do it enough, and people will get the drift. I make a point of getting in 30-45 mins earlier than I use to--sometimes even earlier b/c I know that I want to squeeze in as much as possible earlier than later. To miss bed time kills me. You just have to own your own time. Depending upon your industry, working late may have to happen periodically, but hopefully in a different way. For me, I walk out btw 5-530, and then if I am really busy, after I put my daughter to bed, I get back on my blackberry or computer until all the world is quiet. As much as your manager will allow, do what you can on your own schedule. You alone are the guardian of that schedule, guard your time as much as you can so that when truly urgent matters come up, you will feel okay about not being there for your baby.

I’m not going to say that now that my child is a year that it is easy, or that I have it down. In fact, I feel like a mess all day, every day. I haven’t figured out when I can exercise, cooking is something I can only manage 3 work days a week, I feel like an older, uglier and more irritated version of my former self most of the time, and I want to figure out how to be the mom that has it together. But my daughter is amazing, and for each kiss from her or new word I hear; I would be this yuckier version of myself indefinitely if it meant she would be safe and happy always.

I haven't met any moms who think any of this balancing is easy. Moms who stay home have different, also very difficult challenges. And every mom has guilt of some sort; I think it is the unwritten rule of motherhood. But the other unwritten rule is that everything your child does will be a million times more rewarding than anything else you have ever experienced, even if it is at 2 a.m. and you haven’t slept for more than 2 hours in a row for a week.


  1. i loved this blog..I am going back to work in another month and this blog makes me feel so good..thank u....

  2. Superb Post!!!! I am going back to work in 2 weeks and I cried reading this post.

  3. ohhh!! So glad to find this post....I am gearing up for my return to work and absolutely dreading it. Thanks for the good advice!

  4. Wow, thank you for this! I return to work in a few months and really feel like you were speaking directly to me and my situation.