Okay… your little one is now 4 months old. Finally – the first 3 months of utter hell are over. Baby is eating and sleeping regularly and growing nicely. You have literally just gotten baby’s routine down pat and he is settling into it nicely. You have taken the statutory 4 months off so it is time to return to work.
Two emotions tend to play havoc with you at this point. Usually it is excitement and fear. The first reaction is YAY! I am so bored at home – babies are cute but hey, it’s a long time until they actually interact with you properly! I am sick and tired of the Groundhog Day routine of nappy change, feed, sleep, repeat. I need some adult interaction and brain stimulation PLEASE! The second reaction is Oh my word, how do I pass the care of my little one on to someone else? Be it a day care facility or a nanny at home, leaving your baby with somebody else is a very difficult thing to do. Perhaps you also have some nerves about returning to work – how do I change focus from everything about baby, to everything about my work? Add to this that you are likely to be introducing solids to your baby’s diet, either now or in a couple months depending on your personal decisions. How on earth do you juggle all these challenges at home and still be productive at work?
I believe the answers lie in PLANNING and the tried and tested mantra, “DON’T PANIC”.
Planning – Know early on what you are going to do with baby when you go back to work. Decide on a day care facility or hire a nanny in month one. If it’s a day care facility, ensure you have good references and if it’s nanny, same goes, but also introduce your baby to the nanny early – perhaps have her come in a day or two a week closer to the time so the transition is easy. Either way, make sure the person caring for your baby has all the information they need to offer the very best possible care. That means writing day plans, keeping a feeding / sleeping / pooping diary – yes, really! Know what you plan to do about introducing solids, stock up on ice trays and invest in a good blender. Write menus and lists of foods that you will be feeding your baby in future. Make all these decisions and do all the preparation before you need to, i.e. before you start work, even if you only plan to start the solids story at 6 months. Once you start work, you will not have time to do the research or the capacity to make the decisions!
Don’t panic!– You are not alone. Every working Mom has gone through this and both she and baby have survived. Your baby is far more resilient than you think and he will adjust to you returning to work. In no time at all, baby will be happy to jump from your arms into their second ‘Mom’s’ arms. Your heart will leap a little but it should be out of joy not sadness – you want nothing but your baby’s happiness.
Now you are back at work and everyone is looking at you differently, even treating you a little differently. It feels weird – you don’t believe you have changed at all but it’s very likely you have, just a little. Becoming a Mom matures everyone to some degree. You haven’t become a boring old fuddy-duddy, but there is a further responsibility to someone else that didn’t previously exist.
So how do you make it work, at work? First of all, say thank you. What a relief to know someone else is in charge of the nappy changing, feeding and sleeping for the next few hours! Caring for a small baby is seriously hard work so appreciate the time away from your baby – it is healthy to do so! Next and most important, divide and conquer! You have to leave thoughts about your baby at home. When you hit the office your focus must be on your work. There is no need to worry about baby – you have done the planning and preparation and everything is absolutely in order. Divide your focus and conquer the appropriate challenge at the appropriate time. When at work, there’s no scrolling through baby pictures, no longwinded conversations about your baby’s hiccups last night, no sharing of each and every baby first with your colleagues. There will be plenty of time to share later – now is the time to remember what makes you good at your job and dive in head first. Plan your day at work so you are never sitting idle. Keep yourself consistently busy so your mind does not have time to wander.
When your day is over and you have been productive, you will feel like a million bucks. What an achievement – you have been mentally challenged and you have added value outside of the small realm that is your family. Fantastic! Now it’s time to change your focus from work to your baby. He will need your undivided attention and that is fine – give it to him. You have spent the past 8-10 hours giving your work your undivided attention and you can now give your baby the same attention, completely guilt-free.
It’s a challenge – no one will argue with that – but it is entirely possible to be a successful professional and good Mom, if you can manage to remain calm, not stress unnecessarily, and shift your focus fully between work and home at appropriate intervals. You will find that you get so much more out of your day as you are working hard at being fully focused all the time. It’s a very rewarding and special time in a new Mom’s life – remember to enjoy every moment of it!