When I first started DrMomND a good friend and colleague called me and suggested that I write about my personal experience of being a working mom and how I found the transition from maternity leave back to my professional life. I LOVED this idea, but something inside of me held off, I didn’t know why I wasn’t ready at that time to share my experience. I went back to work after 6 wonderful months with my son (I was supposed to go back at 5 months, but I was just not ready). At that time my spouse stayed home with C (our son) and I slowly transitioned back to work. I wasn’t all that distressed, in fact I found the part time hours away a really nice break and I came home refreshed and ready to handle whatever C was going to throw my way. I happen to love what I do and feel extremely passionate about helping people live an inspired and healthy life so it all seemed so smooth. I figured this was not the thing other moms may want to read about especially if this wasn’t their experience. So I held off, I knew that I would discuss this subject, but only when I was ready and I felt that I had a more powerful message.
When my son turned one, dad went back to work and reality of our new life with C began. We hired a nanny to be with our son while I was away at work. Dad was busy working full time hours and we began juggling our schedules, planning for babysitters/ grandparents to watch C once the nanny was done her shift and spent our evenings prepping meals and lunches for the family. Holy S#*% how was I going to make this new life work? How am I going to find the balance between mom, wife, naturopathic doctor and still have much needed me time. When was I going to sleep? Man I am soooo tired, but I must plan for the next day… And the days roll on and on.
We love our nanny she is fabulous with our son, but the adjustment period was so difficult for us. He seemed so sad that we were leaving him with someone he didn’t quite know to trust yet, even though we had done faux nanny shifts with us present so that he was familiar with her. The first day that I tried to say good-bye to him (because I read that it is better to be honest with your child rather then sneak out and leave them with their daycare provider), was excruciating. He tried to rip through her arms to get to me, it was always my job and full desire to soothe him, but I couldn’t I had to be brave and leave it to the nanny to learn to soothe my baby boy. After I left my baby I sat in my car and cried, a really ugly cry. At the same time my spouse was feeling the same heart panes, he was at work, doing everything he should to provide for his family, but all he wanted to do was be at home playing with his son. We were sure this arrangement wasn’t going to work and that we had to do something about it.
After sharing our upset with our families we were convinced to give this an honest effort and reassess after a few months. So we hung in there, I started planning for the week ahead and used Barney to distract my son while I snuck out of the door as to not leave him in distress (the image of that first day really stayed with me). Slowly we all found our groove, dad was having fun at work again, I was pleased with how much easier the mornings were if I had everything ready the night before and our son began to trust and get excited when our nanny arrived. After a few short weeks we were even able to say good-bye and our son in his nanny’s arms, happily waved good-bye.
Sound familiar? I knew I needed to go through this to share my story and my insight. I now understand the struggles of being a working parent and how difficult this transition can truly be. I wanted to share my experience with you and also share some tips I think can make your experience more positive and less stressful on everyone involved.
Here are my tips on an easier transition back to work:
- Start Slow. If at all possible go back part time and slowly ease the family into the new life.
- Select a daycare, day home or nanny that fits your family’s needs best. Most importantly select a care provider that your child feels good about. Your child will let you know how they feel about their care provider. Assess if they are calm and happy to see this person or do they absolutely refuse to go to them. If they don’t speak yet be aware of their body language.
- Ease your child into their new environment. Do trial dates with the new nanny or a couple drop off shifts or play dates at the new day care or day home. This way your child is familiar with their new environment making it less stressful for them.
- Children are very aware of your energy. Be calm and positive about the transition and they will feel safe.
- Be Positive. Only speak positively about the experience, for most of us its not an option to go back. Being that working is inevitable speak faith and positively regarding the process. First off, speaking positively usually makes us feel better about our experiences. Plus our little ones are always listening even if you don’t think they understand your language they understand your intonation, so speak kindly and you will put your wee ones at ease.
- Give them all the extra love, kisses and cuddles that they need. Attachment fosters independence.
- Plan, prep and prep some more.
- Do a weekly Sunday grocery shop and meal prep. I make sure my son has enough food for all his daily meals, I prep most of what I can for our lunches throughout the week. This consists of washing, cutting and containing all our fruits and veggies. I even try to make a big quinoa salad and put it in tupperware so that I can easily grab and pack our lunches in the morning before work.
- Eat Whole Foods. It is still very possible to eat whole foods and avoid packaged goods. You just have to prepare and plan, review my last point. 🙂 Plus whole foods contain the nourishment we need stay healthy and energized. Your new schedule can be very draining at times so what you fuel yourself with matters!
- Go to bed early. Ideally you should strive for a 10pm bedtime.
- Forgive yourself. There are going to be growing pains in the beginning, do not hold onto the negative and beat yourself up. If you have to make changes, let it go and focus on the next step and move forward.
- Redefine what you are able to accomplish daily. Accept that you may not be able to do everything that you were able to do before having a child.
- Ask for help, it takes a village to raise your child. Find your village and reach out if needed.
- Remember that it is positive and healthy for your child to be interacting with other children and adults. It helps develop their social skills and perhaps they will learn things from your care provider that you may not have been able to teach them.
- Make time for yourself. Read a little bit before bed, go for a walk or work out, try deep breathing in the shower, listen to motivational speakers in the car or to music that lifts your spirits, go sip a coffee in a coffee shop all by yourself and savor the calm and silence even if only for a moment.
- Be Flexible. Be open to changing your routine until you get it right.
Remember that your thoughts and feelings very much control your reaction and often times the reaction of your child. If going back to work is inevitable then accept this and you will be able to shift your feelings about it. Acceptance means that you let yourself truly experience your emotions about things. This may mean that you break down and cry and that is okay. When you experience the emotions rather than resisting them, they are a lot easier to release. Choose to stay focussed on the positive and be the calming energy for your child during this time. I know it can be so difficult leaving your baby at home or with someone else, but be strong because how you react will influence how they react and you can empower your child to deal positively to change because you have mirrored that behavior for them.
This is an interesting time in your life as it defines your new day to day life. Embrace it and stay focussed on the positive.
Wishing you a very smooth and easy transition back to life, back to reality…. Did I make you sing a little? Or am I really old and no one else remembers this song, either way, I am singing and smiling. 🙂
In great health & happiness,
Dr. Michelle Peris is a Naturopathic Doctor whose goal is to inspire health through educating, motivating and empowering people. She has a family based practice out of a clinic in Oakville, Ontario.
Contact Dr. Michelle today to book your 15 minute complimentary consult.