Going back to work after having a baby? No doubt you're feeling apprehension about being back on a 9-to-5 schedule, anxiety over leaving your baby and worry about balancing work and motherhood. Probably the last thing on your mind is your wardrobe or your lunch. Well, we thought of it, and came up with a sample plan to help you handle hectic work days.
The Night Before
Don't wait until the morning of to get yourself ready. There are a number of things you can do the night before that will cut down stress in the morning. The Working Woman's Baby Planner suggests
- Prepare clothes. Listen to the weather report, know what to expect, and have the proper cleaned and pressed clothes ready to go.
- Prepare for work and day care. Pack your briefcase and your baby's diaper bag. Keep the items you need near the door to avoid last-minute frantic searches.
- Mix formula.
- Fix lunches.
- Plan breakfast. Serve everyone the same breakfast to save time and dirty cooking pans.
- Prepare the table. Set out silverware, cups, bowls, etc. ahead of time.
- Prepare caregiver instructions. Write instructions down; don't plan to depend on your memory. Keep them in your briefcase or the handbag you're planning to use the next day.
In the Morning
Get up earlier. You'll be surprised what a difference in composure an hour makes. You have more time to get yourself ready and to spend with your family. What's more, you can more easily cope with the unexpected when, for example, your caregiver calls in sick or your baby spits up on your only clean blouse.
The time between leaving work and arriving home is a transition time for both you and your child. Use it wisely.
- Use the trip home to relax. On public transportation, take a book for relaxation and get your mind off responsibilities. Listen to soft music in your car, not the bad news of the day. Use your iPod to organize and store playlists consisting of calming and relaxing music, or record stand ups from your favorite comedians to listen to wherever you go to keep yourself in a good mood. Laughter is the best relaxer.
- Leave problems at the office. Prepare to meet your child again. Think of positive things; take a few deep breaths and relax. The office problems will still be there in the morning when you're better able to deal with them.
- Focus on your child. This is a high-stress, low-energy time of day for your baby also. Be understanding if your child remembers feeling anger and confusion during your morning departure and greets you with resentment.
- Talk things over with your caregiver. This is the time to go over events of the day and uncover any problems. It's also an interim time for your child to adjust to your arrival.
- Develop a good-bye ritual. Small children find it difficult to have the continuity of their lives disrupted. A good-bye ritual will make leaving a child-care center easier. For instance, a good-bye wave to the caregiver or teacher, to a favorite toy, or another child is reassuring. Bring a special toy or treat for the ride home, such as soft fruit slices or easily digested oat cereal.
In the Evening
Keeping your day organized isn't all about preparation. It's also about compartmentalizing and focusing on yourself and your family. Follow these tips to help you separate your work from your home life.
- Get comfortable. As soon as you get home, change into something comfortable. This can become a symbolic signal that it's time to stop thinking about work and to begin a family life.
- Have a dinner planned in advance. Plan your weekday evening meals so that they are simple and fast to make.
- Concentrate on your child. Plan a relaxing ritual or some activities that are done only at this reconnecting time. Be generous with hugs and kisses. Talk about the evening ahead. In other words, make homecoming a positive experience. Eat a high-protein snack at 3 or 4 p.m. so that you have enough energy for what's ahead.
- Save time for yourself. If you neglect yourself, you won't have the stamina for all the things you want to do. Read, knit; in other words, have fun!
- Avoid struggles. Quality time with your child has less to do with physical needs than with doing things you all enjoy. Don't butt heads over disliked foods or insist on a bath when your child doesn't want one.
- Limit interruptions. Let voicemail take your calls during the evening. Return the calls later.
- Make dinnertime peaceful. Set the stage for good behavior at the table. Turn off the TV, turn some quiet music on low, and make it clear that dinnertime is for pleasant conversation, not bickering.
- Clear the table together. This should be a cooperative effort. Even a toddler can carry a spoon to the sink.
- Create a peaceful sleeping environment. Help your baby go straight to sleep with the hum of a fan, ride in a car, running vacuum or rumbling dryer.
- Improvise. Organizational strategies will work one week but not necessarily the next. Be ready to improvise. When life at home goes smoothly, everyone wins.
Follow this plan exactly or modify it to fit your own and your child's needs. And remember, you've got this!