It’s a well-known fact that being a parent is the hardest job in the world – so, if you have recently welcomed a new baby into the world, you’re sure to understand this all too well. However, whether you’re faced with financial strain or simply wish to focus on your career alongside taking care of your newborn, becoming a working parent is no easy feat.
You may be filled with a mix of emotions at the thought of going back to work, including sadness, guilt, apprehension, and excitement, as well as the fear of how you’ll cope with the tiredness after sleepless nights of feeding and diaper changing.
In this guide, we’re going to provide some useful tips to take on board if you’re planning on going back to work as a new parent in the near future:
Don’t be overcome by guilt
As already mentioned, going back to work as a new parent may fill you with guilt with the false notion that you’re ‘neglecting’ your child. This is a natural reaction that all moms and dads face, so don’t be too hard on yourself. Remember - you’re a new parent with a lot of new responsibilities on your plate and the last thing you need is to blame yourself for having to go out and earn a living. Instead of concentrating on negative thoughts, have faith and remember that this is a decision you haven’t made lightly.
Ask for a flexible working schedule
Now you have a major responsibility in your life, you can no longer focus your efforts solely on your job as you once did. If you feel as though your shift patterns are going to conflict with parenting, don’t be afraid to talk to your boss. Ask whether you can switch to more flexible hours, work part-time or even work remotely, so you don’t have to worry about childcare. Be prepared to argue your reasoning so that your boss understands that you’re serious about why flexible working is the best option for you.
Find trustworthy childcare
Finding childcare is one of the trickiest aspects of going back to work. The thought of handing over your child to someone you don’t know much about is likely to fill you with anxiety, and what’s more, the financial aspect of childcare can be alarming if you’re on a tight budget.
If you’re lucky enough to have family nearby, you may be able to ask for a helping hand from time to time, but in most cases, parents may need to seek external help during their working hours, depending on their shift patterns.
Putting your trust in another individual is never easy. If in doubt, it would be wise to ask for references from friends or family or browse reviews online. If you’re panicked about leaving your child, ensure you do a few trial runs before the first day back at work to put your mind at rest.
Your current job may no longer suit your lifestyle as a working parent, so you could consider changing jobs. A mid-life career change is not an easy decision to make when your life is already filled with a whole host of drastic adjustments. Before taking that leap, it may be worth having money set aside to provide you with a comfortable buffer before starting your new role.
If you have always wanted to try a certain career but haven’t yet had the chance, going back to work after having a baby may be the right time to try it out. There is nothing to lose - and you may find that you’re happier and more content in your new role, which can impact your overall mindset and allow you to become a better parent.
In some cases, you may need certain qualifications to branch into specific fields, but the good news is that many courses can now be studied online to fit around your parenting commitments, such as the advanced standing MSW online. Therefore, you never have to worry about physically attending lectures, and all coursework can be submitted electronically from the comfort of your own home. Once your course is completed, you can search for jobs in the sector you have trained in, which broadens your horizons on the job market.
Talk to someone
Just like the days following the birth of your new bundle of joy, there will be moments when you need to lean on others for support as a working parent. Always try and express how you’re feeling – whether it be to your partner, parents, friends, or even your therapist. Don’t be afraid to admit when you’re struggling; you’re only human after all. By opening up, you’ll be able to make sense of your thoughts and emotions and find strategies to help you cope with the adjustment of going back to work.
There are also plenty of groups online and apps you could join designed for working parents who wish to share their thoughts and even gain valuable advice from one another. From these platforms, you may even discover local people who you can build new friendships with.
Make time for yourself
With balancing your job and being a doting parent, you may believe that there is very little time for self-care in your schedule. However, making quality time for your own needs is essential to prevent you from burning out. Get as much rest as possible by going to bed at a sensible time and taking naps when the baby is napping. Also ensure you’re getting enough exercise as this will make you feel more energized and positive in yourself, thanks to the release of feel-good endorphins in the brain.
What’s more, you should try and make time to see friends on occasion just for a coffee and a chat to prevent feeling isolated. With so many responsibilities on your plate, it’s natural to feel as though you have lost your identity and the ability to have fun, which no one deserves to feel.
If you have returned to work and you can already feel the pressure mounting, it’s time to do something about it. You cannot take on every single task that is asked of you – especially if it is starting to interfere with your home life. Not only will you miss valuable time with your baby, but your tolerance will also start to wear thin, and your stress levels are likely to increase.
If you feel as though you’re being taken for granted in the first few weeks back at work, it’s time to say no. You have every right to stand up for yourself for the sake of your own happiness and mental health. While you may be worried about the impact of doing so damaging your relationship with your boss, it simply may not be the company you should be working for. A good firm should understand your new parental commitments and the fact that you are going to concentrate on prioritizing your child above all else. If they cannot see your point of view, it may be time you applied elsewhere.
Make special one-on-time time with your baby
Handing over your child to someone else can be one of the most traumatizing aspects of going back to work as a new parent – even if it’s your spouse or parent. You may fear that they’ll be the person that experiences the wonderful moment your baby says his or her first word or takes his or her first step to the point that the anxiety of the situation can become overwhelming.
While you cannot control when and how such moments will occur, you can control when you spend time with your baby. Plan a set routine of when you will have special one-on-one time together, whether it be doing the night feed, reading a story, or tucking them in at bedtime. These special moments together will enhance the bonding process in the first few months of your baby’s life and help you form a stronger connection.
Be kind to yourself
If this is your very first time working as a full-time parent, you need to remember to cut yourself some slack. You’ll feel tired, run-down, emotional, and even full of self-doubt – but that’s okay, as it’s a big deal to get into a brand-new routine. At times, you may even feel like quitting your job because it all seems too much to handle in the first few days and weeks, but this sense of feeling overwhelmed will soon pass once you get into the swing of things.
Stay in the present moment
It’s natural to spend a great deal of your maternity leave worrying about the idea of going back to work, to the point of failing to appreciate the present moment. Instead of worrying about the future, aim to focus your entire attention on those special moments with your baby that you’ll never get back. You may find it useful to practice the art of mindfulness to prevent your thoughts from spiraling out of control and enable you to remain present.