Returning to work after a maternity leave can be very stressful for a lot of women. Catching up with work and work issues after an absence of months is in anyway tough and needs a little adjusting to, so adding a new child to the mix can almost feel mentally chaotic to some. And for good reason.
Work tires all of us out, and when we reach home the only thing we want is some time to ourselves to just relax and be – but when you have a toddler at home that can’t be an option.
You want to play and take care of your child and be there for them, but at the same time you want to be fresh tomorrow morning for work so that you don’t let your employer down. How to manage all this?
While there’s no magic wand unfortunately, here are some things you can do:
Figure out Child-Care You Are Confident About
When you’re making the transition from being full time at home to managing work as well, the first thing you have to think about obviously is who is going to take care of the baby while you’re not at home. It could be that you’ve worked out a system with your partner, your parents or in-laws; or maybe you have help or you’ve decided upon a day care.
Whatever the plan is, take some time to think about the practicalities of it - the finances involved if any, the convenience etc and how you really feel about it.
Are you confident in that person’s ability to take care of your child or do you think it’s going to be a constant source of anxiety for you while you’re at work.
A little anxiety about it is to be expected but if it’s all you think about and is getting in the way of your productivity at work then you should probably think about changing plans. Be sure to build a channel of positive communication so that both sides are comfortable exchanging information about the child.
Work out What Work-Life Balance Means to You
While theoretically we all know that work-life balance is important and we must have it, we cannot endeavour to reach it until we know what it looks like.
So make a list to figure out how you would want your life to look like in terms of the balance between work, family life and time for yourself.
This would include thinking about the number of hours you want to spend your time at work, what are your priorities and how do you intend to make time for them. Start with an ideal idea, and then redo it to make it more realistic.
Reconnect with Work
It’s normal to feel a little lost when you’re back to work after a gap but make an effort to get in touch with the work you again. Read up work files, your appraisals or maybe even talk to your senior. The idea is to reconnect with where you left off.
Did you get any feedback which you need to incorporate? Or maybe you’ve forgotten how good you were with certain skills. You could even meet up with your colleagues and work friends – anything which reminds you about your work mode.
Be Honest About What You’ll Be Able to Commit To
Don’t be scared about asking for flexibility. Employers are increasingly getting more innovative and are willing to change their approach with timings and deadlines especially if it means that work is still getting done with efficiency and commitment.
It’s better to be upfront about how much you are going to be able to do; it ensures a clean channel of communication and spares you from future feelings of guilt.
Be kind to yourself; making this adjustment is not easy and it’s normal to be emotional about it and feel exhausted and guilty. So make sure to prioritize yourself every once in a while. Self-care is important to be both an efficient employee, as well as a good mother.
(Prachi Jain is a psychologist, trainer, optimist, reader and lover of Red Velvets.)