Whether you’re coming off maternity leave (or you’re the supporting parent who’s heading back to work), having a baby in the house effects everyone. Sleep is rare, the family dynamic has shifted and normalcy has flown out the window. So how can you best handle a major life change like a newborn, the demands of work, and remain a good parent and a good partner?
No matter matter what your roll is in the house, new parents returning to work after having a baby is a tough obstacle. If you’re rolling off maternity leave, you might experience feelings of guilt about leaving your baby in someone else’s care — or you might experience guilty about wanting to go back to work. If you’re the ‘supporting’ parent, in my case, you may feel badly about putting the burden of primary caretaker on your spouse or not being as present for the first few months. Either scenario, you’re going to encounter a few bumps along the way.
5 tips to make heading back to work less stressful after having a baby: Routine!
Do a dry run of what the morning will look like. Everything from breakfast, bottles, clothes, packing up necessities for infant care, or having things ready for a nanny. Also include what the routine looks like for any other children in the house. After the kids are asleep, we make all the bottles for the night and the next morning, layout all the kids clothes, prepare breakfast for our oldest one (yes, I make eggs in the morning and put them in a bowl ready for the microwave and slice fruit). Also, do the same for yourself. Pack your bag, pick out your clothes, line up phone, keys and wallet. Having this routine down-pat not only helps with speed and efficiency, but is a huge stress reliever knowing things are in order.
Sure, easier said than done. The best advice I can give for sleep is to tighten up all the other stuff you have to do at home. Take an assessment of what the nigh time feeding schedule looks like, what time the kids are down for the evening and what the remaining chores are. Whoever is getting up in the middle of the night should be turning in early and the other (husband, wife, partner) should be carrying the household load – laundry, vacuum, morning prep for the kid(s).
One of the biggest complaints of working parents with a newborn is sheer exhaustion — and when you’re overtired everything can turn to sh*t. Try to prioritize sleep over most other things. It’s hard to relax when you feel like you’re not keeping the house up, but carving out a plan and splitting up the responsibilities should allow you to mentally rest as you know the chores have been accounted for and are covered. Sleep deprivation also lowers the immune system which can lead to illness. So get your rest!
Set Aside Time for ‘You’
Whether you’re breast feeding or you’re on the sidelines in the support crew, everyone’s schedule has been turned upside down. Talking to your partner and giving advanced notice will allow you to plan an activity that doesn’t revolve around changing diapers or burping. Put that early dinner on the books with a friend. Pick out a fitness class once a week you want to get to. With preparation and advanced notice you can carve out some time for you to mentally decompress.
Also, set some additional time aside to stay connected to your social circle. Having that outlet is paramount in helping put new parent stresses into perspective. Often times new parents can’t see the light at the end of the tunnel. Keeping connected to friends, other moms and dads, and sharing stories helps to alleviate stress and can often snap you out of a run. Shoot for a regular weekend get-together if you can. For all the dads out there… emotional support groups come in all shapes and sizes – a beer with your buddies counts!
Game face at the office!
Odds are your going to feel like a train wreck when you’re at your desk — worrying about the baby, your other kids, being physically exhausted, and climbing out from all the mounting work that’s piling up — don’t let your superior think you’re off your game. You have certain outlets at work, your boss isn’t one of them. Keep your concerns to yourself, and don’t vent to people at work. The old expression is “if you want something done, give it to someone that’s busy”. Use these new responsibilities as a badge of honor. I’m a much more productive employer, boss, and father since having a second kid. Everything I do has more purpose whether it’s from a time aspect, or the quality of work. Own it, you’re as tough as the battles you’ve been through, and having a newborn builds character and toughness!
This too shall pass
In your first few months back on the job, you will undoubtedly have days when you feel like you’ll want to resign. That’s natural. Shoot, that’s natural without kids. Push forward — get through the first 6 months of infancy and things will most likely significantly change. A routine takes time to build and get perfected. If after a few months you’re still having challenges, think about asking your boss for some flexibility in your schedule that may let you work from home one or two days a week.
From an employer standpoint, I would recommend coming up with a concrete plan before approaching whomever your report to. Bring them a mutually beneficial proposal that is viable and can offer them value too. Also, be prepared for your employer to potentially say ‘no’. At the end of the day, your mental health and happiness are what’s most important. Stay the course, be optimistic, reach out to friends and family regularly, and ultimately do what’s best for your life, career and family.