10 Tips For Going Back To Work
Workforce, here you come!
Whether you chose to take a period of time off of work to raise your new baby, are a stay-at-home mom, or, like many of us, worked from home during the COVID-19 pandemic, returning to work outside of the house may be a challenge—both figuratively and literally. How will your little one react? And how do you both prepare for stretches of time apart? Returning to work after maternity leave or going back to work after a long time away isn’t necessarily an easy task. Unsurprisingly, more than half of all working parents say balancing their work and familial responsibilities is hard. But, trust us, it’s achievable.
The more than 50% of moms with young kids in the U.S. who work are evidence. Plus, you have us to stick to for support. Keep reading as we share what you might expect when you go back to work after baby, as well as tips for easing the transition for you both—no matter how long you’ve been out of the workforce.
Do Babies Suffer When Parents Go Back To Work?
So, you’ve decided to pull the trigger on going back to work. First and foremost, don’t let feelings of guilt trip you up. Returning to work doesn’t mean you’re any less committed to parenting, and it won’t harm your baby or young child(ren). In fact, kids of working moms may actually benefit in the long-term from their example. (More on that in a bit.)
That said, some children do experience separation anxiety, which can vary in intensity by age. This is generally dictated by what phase of development they’re in. Separation anxiety can enter the mix when a baby develops their sense of object permanence, their ability to understand that things (such as you) exist even when they’re not in sight. This can happen as early as when they’re four or five months old, but usually arises around nine months. You may be used to coming and going throughout or outside of the house without much acknowledgement from your infant. Then one day, you merely leave the room and they have a complete meltdown. It can be a jarring moment for you both but, remember, it is just a phase—it too will pass.
If your little one experiences this, it may be a good idea for you and whomever is caring for them while you’re away to read up on ways to help separation anxiety. At any age, if they’re upset when you are on your way out, it’s wise to check the basics before you leave and be sure they’re not hungry or tired, or feeling unwell. One or more of those can only exacerbate the problem.
Sometimes separation anxiety can sneak up on toddlers at around 15 or 18 months of age. Around this time, children are becoming more and more independent, which improves their awareness of the world around them—including you leaving.
Just because your kid is acting up when you leave, you shouldn’t be beholden to them. By the time they’re around three years old, it gets a little trickier; they’ve got your reactions to their separation anxiety figured out. It’s important to keep in mind that, although they may be creating a fuss, they’re not necessarily under stress. They’ve just got your number. In this case, it’s best to not feed into their actions. Be consistent, and strong! Make sure they have someone you trust to care for them, tell them you love them and will be back, and be on your way.
Of course, if they are experiencing anxiety, it may cause them to have a stress-induced tummy ache. There are many different causes of belly discomfort in kids, but emotions can certainly play a role. Stress can contribute to heartburn or acid indigestion, which is why it’s a good idea to keep a bottle of Childrens’ Mylicon Multi-Symptom Tummy Relief chewable tablets on hand. They’re safe for children two to 11, and can help quell multiple symptoms of belly ache. Only be sure they’re not just complaining of a tummy ache because they don’t want you to leave!
But don’t let these potential, yet natural, reactions deter you. There are some benefits that children gain from moms who work that may last a lifetime. Primarily, your children look up to you, so it’s beneficial to show them that you can be a good mom and succeed professionally too.
Most importantly, if feelings of guilt start reeling their ugly head, or if your child has trouble adjusting to your absence when you’re gone, remind yourself: As long as your infant or young child receives proper care and attention, they should be fine, regardless of whether you work or not. And, there may be another added bonus. Although full-time working moms spend less time overall with their kids, it’s not always about quantity, the quality of your time together is what truly matters.
How Do I Go Back To Work After a Long Break?
Returning to work after maternity leave or an extended amount of time off the clock can bring mixed emotions: excitement to get back in the game, on the one hand, but also concerns about the readiness of you and your family for such a transition. You can take your time going back if you wish and are able, but try not to go back too soon. If possible, give you and your new baby at least three or four months to get to know each other. Also, use this time to prepare you and your family for the change. Try (if you can) to time going back to work when you don’t foresee any specific stressful triggers. These could include major events such as moving, changing schools, or surgery in the family.
Separation anxiety can also be a two-way street. You may worry that you’ll miss your child when you’re at work, or miss important milestones, like their first word or steps. Know that it’s totally normal for you to feel a bit envious of the time your child’s caregiver spends with them while you're gone. Just try not to be hard on yourself. Although you play a major role in shaping your kid’s future personality, you don’t have to do 100% of the shaping. And, childcare can be beneficial to your little tyke. It can help boost their independence, and as long as their care is high-quality, stimulating, and nurturing while they’re with someone else, it can help prepare them socially and intellectually for school.
As you prepare yourself mentally for going back to work after baby, follow these tips before your start date.
Find good, reputable childcare: If you don’t have a regular babysitter that you can count on, research local childcare centers. You’ll want to find a safe, stimulating environment with qualified caregivers and good reviews. You can also look at out-of-the-box solutions too, like “nanny shares” with your co-workers. And always check references and trust your instincts—if a person or placeplace or someone isn’t sitting right with you, keep looking. Then, learn How To Prepare Your Child For Daycare.
Mommy Pro Tip: Make sure your kid’s caregiver is prepared for gassy baby bouts. Send along some Infants’ Mylicon Gas Relief drops in our dye-free or original formula. They’re safe for even the newest of newborns, and can be given after every feeding—up to 12 times a day. The active ingredient, simethicone, works quickly to gently break down gas bubbles to help your little one naturally release them. Plus, it’s not absorbed into your baby’s system like some other gas relief products are. (Get more info on the difference between gas drops and gripe water.)
Chat with your employer: You may want to double-check what your daily duties, hours, and flexible work options may be. When it comes to restarting your job or re-entering the workforce, it’s best to make sure you’re on the same page. You may also want to discuss your start date and see if it can be mid- to late-week. Or, if you can begin by only going in 3 days in your first week, then four, then five to ease into it.
Ease into it: Try and request that your start date is mid- to late-week, if possible. That way, your first week back is shorter and easier to transition into.
Create a pumping strategy: If you breastfeed and plan on continuing, make sure your workplace has a clean, private room for you to pump, and find out whether or not you have to schedule time to use it. Consider a manual pump, or buy or rent an electric pump that allows you to pump both breasts at the same time. (Speaking of which, you may want to have a second set of pump parts, so it will be easier to pack your pump bag the night before without having to wait until your only set is clean.)
Around two weeks prior to your start date, adjust your baby’s feeding schedule, so you're nursing them before and after your upcoming work hours while pumping at least once a day. Now is also a great time to encourage your infant to drink from a bottle with someone other than you to help them adapt to the change.
Pump at least as often as your baby usually eats while you’re at work, and if something comes up that throws you off schedule (and it will), just know that it’s temporary—you’ll have a chance to get back on (or close to) schedule. If you’re fortunate enough to have childcare near your work, block off a time during the day when you can stop by and feed your little one.
Keep in mind that you may have a drop in milk production when you return to work, and that’s completely normal. Make sure you’re drinking and eating enough to keep your supply up. If you get overwhelmed or frustrated while pumping at work, remember that it’s only temporary. This, too, shall pass.
Make backup plans: Life happens. Plan for it. Recruit someone who can care for your child in the event their caregiver is unavailable or sick. It will save on a last-minute scramble to find a replacement.
Once you’ve made the leap and are back on the job, expect to experience some highs and lows as you adjust. Try the following to make life easier.
Organize to-do lists: Create a daily to-do list that includes tasks you need to do at home and at work, and that your partner, family, or friends can help with. This will help you prioritize what gets done every day, allowing you to drop the less important stuff if need be.
Ensure continuity of care: Build a strong relationship with your little one’s caregiver. Regularly discuss your baby’s progress or any setbacks, as well as how they were while you were away—either in person, over the phone, or by text message. Also, be sure they’re aware of any stressors or changes in behavior you’ve noticed and vice versa.
Keep the bond going: It can be helpful to keep a picture of your infant in your workspace to spread a smile on your face throughout the day. And be sure to set aside some “baby and me” time after work so you can reconnect.
Don’t be afraid to ask for help: If something is troubling you, or you feel overwhelmed, accept and ask for help. After all, you have to take care of yourself too. Be it guilt, sadness, or frustration, don’t be afraid to reach out to someone you trust. If you’re having issues getting the pumping-while-at-work scenario down, reach out to a lactation consultant at a local hospital or clinic who should be able to help.
Go easy on yourself: Going back to work is a major transition, so be sure to be patient with yourself—there will be an adjustment period. It’s one thing to get this whole parenting thing down, and another to master your job. Doing them confidently at the same time will take some getting used to—but you’ll get there. Avoid any unnecessary commitments and stick to a regular sleep schedule. On the weekends and days off, sleep when your baby sleeps. Remember, though it may feel like it, you don’t always have to be on the go.
How Do Stay-At-Home Parents Go Back To Work?
If you’ve been a stay-at-home mom for a while, know that there are strategies and resources out there specifically to help you along the way. The key is to be proactive and prepared to tell potential employers how valuable you are!
Reassure them your skills are current: Technology transforms our world at breakneck speeds, especially when it comes to social media, which many companies rely on nowadays. Studies show that a whopping 83% of business-to-business (B2B) companies use social media today, making it their most employed marketing tactic. Business-to-consumer (B2C) companies use it nearly as much. Even if you’ve only been a stay-at-home mom until your kid started school, that’s still likely five years, which in the digital world is an eternity.
Advocate for yourself by making sure to have a thorough profile on LinkedIn, other job-related sites, and even on sites like Twitter. Post regularly about your industry to illustrate that, while you haven’t technically been working, you’ve been keeping up with the trends.
Network, network, network: Stay current with your past professional network, like meeting or catching up with former colleagues every few months. If you can make it to networking events, that would help too. After all, people who are currently in the industry are often the first to hear of openings.
Be passionate: They may not say it, but hiring managers may be suspicious if you’re really interested in the job, or if you just need the money, as well as if you have childcare in order to avoid being pulled out of work. Get ahead of them and quell their concerns. Though you may, indeed, need the extra cash, show enthusiasm for returning to work and your eagerness to make a contribution on a professional level. Lay out exactly how you can be an asset to them. Also, be sure to drop the little tidbit that your childcare is in order (assuming you’ve followed the advice we covered a little while ago). The goal is to radiate that you’re a motivated employee that won’t be distracted by familial obligations more than anyone else.
Reposition “weaknesses” as strengths: Talk up being out of work for a while as an asset, rather than a liability. Avoid apologizing for your choices. Acknowledge that getting back into the workforce can be a challenge, but not necessarily one that’s any more difficult to tackle than any other change, such as moving to a new role or switching employers.
Then, bring out the big guns: Parenting is a crash course in multitasking, persuasion, negotiations, and stress management. Those skills can actually make you an even more productive employee. You can also drop this lovely fact: Research has shown that although working moms can initially have a dip in their productivity at work, they actually outpace the productivity of their childless colleagues over the course of their careers. Being a parent is about maximizing your efficiency.
Persistence is paramount: Success isn’t always immediate. If you’re having trouble landing your dream job, or even one you’d prefer, start small. Maybe consider taking a lower-paying, or unpaid, position to get your feet wet and help you build your skillset and professional network.
Look outside-of-the-box: A growing number of companies are offering resources for helping parents re-enter the workforce. “Returnships,” for example, are becoming a popular option. Structured like internships, these programs seek to help people who have been out of the workplace for at least two years. They tend to last between eight weeks and six months, and offer you a chance to refresh your skills and be evaluated by potential employers as a prospective employee.
Other companies go straight to rehiring via coaching and mentoring programs designed specifically for “returnees,” some of which evolved from returnship programs. There have also been a few businesses that set up workshops specifically to meet and evaluate potential candidates re-entering the job market.
So, hold onto your patience and confidence. If it feels like an insurmountable challenge, check yourself. You had a kid, didn’t you?
Next: Speaking of being out and about, be sure you and your child have everything you need for some time on the town. Here’s Your Diaper Bag Checklist.