Going back to work after being a stay at home caretaker or after a pregnancy can be a huge switch. It isn’t exactly easy balancing the needs of your child while trying to be the best employee you can be. The way you think about and prioritize your day might have shifted a bit, making returning to work bittersweet.
Navigating those first few weeks takes patience, self-care, and boundary setting both at home and in the office. Your family will need to adjust to the new normal, and quite possibly will fight back because of the changes. With a bit of extra love and patience, though, your family will be able to get through the transition together. These tips will help make the change flow effortlessly.
Watch out for signs of stress.
Children tend to show stress differently than adults because they don’t know how to articulate their concerns in a mature manner. If you start to notice more misbehavior, nightmares, or changes in eating and sleeping habits, your child may be trying to tell you something. Offer as much support as you can and consider talking to your pediatrician if the problem persists. They might be having separation anxiety that needs to be addressed.
Talk as a family about the changes.
Providing a heads-up for what to expect can help make the transition a bit smoother as your child adapts. Your children will probably have many questions, especially if this is the first time you're going to an office. Try to be patient and listen carefully to their concerns, and explain to them that they will still get to see you. As you explain the situation, make sure you are respectful of your children's feelings and give them space to express their emotions. The extra reassurance will help them relax.
Learn to switch off "work-mode".
Children often need your attention most at the end of the day, just when it can be really hard for you to give it. They might want to tell you all the news of the day or ask for your help with homework. Children can have bad days too, and they might need your sympathy, advice, or your listening ear. Younger children are often tired, grumpy or hungry by the time you’re home and really just need to be cuddled.
It can be difficult to juggle the exhaustion you feel from work, the laundry that needs to done, dinner that hasn’t been made and your child who just wants to hang out with their parent. However it is always worth taking the time to stop, listen and connect with your child. It reassures children that they’re loved, safe and secure. It also helps you to relax and feel better, and forget about your own stress at work. On your commute home from work each day, switch your thoughts to your child and their needs.
Advocate for your family.
Do you need a meeting moved so you can make pickup time at daycare? Are you not as available for after-hour client events? Remind yourself that your job is only that - a job. Your family should always be your first priority, so don't be afraid to step up for your needs. When you put work first, you will make the transition much harder for your children to cope with. Come up with solutions to the problems you may have at the office instead, so that you balance both worlds effectively.
Do a trial run.
Returning to work often involves a lot of schedule changes with new tasks being added to the normal routine. Trying to get ahead of these additions will help minimize the sting to your children. For example, the first day you go back to work shouldn't be the first time your child meets their new caregiver. Consider having your sitter come a week early to get adjusted to your family. Morning routines may be quiet different too. You may have normally waited until everyone was out of the house to get ready yourself, but now you will have to get your children prepared at the same time. Practice this new procedure beforehand so the first day you go back to work things run smoothly.
Furthermore, many jobs will allow you start back slowly by letting you work from home a few days a week, or only going back to the office for three days instead of five. This will help your children get use to not seeing you as often, but in not as an abrupt way. Talk with your employer about possible options. Even starting on a Wednesday rather than a Monday just for the first week could be a huge help.
Connect with your childcare.
If you have confidence that your little one is loved and cared for while you’re not there, you’re going to be a better, more relaxed person at work. It's also incredibly important for your child to feel comfortable with the person they will spending so much time with. Start looking for childcare early and take the time to get to know the caregiver. This will help your child handle being separated from you for those long hours, because they are with someone they also trust.
Returning back to work can be very exciting, but the transition can also be hard on the family. If you prepare early and talk to your children about the big changes, the new routine will go smoothly in no time. Talk with your children about how they are adjusting and make changes as necessary.