The juggling act
Swapping nappy bag for briefcase and returning to work may be one of the hardest times in a mother's life. As a working mum with two young girls, Samantha Ferreira is only too aware that the transition can be a very daunting experience. She shares her tips for reducing the stress.
For many mothers, especially in light of the current economic climate, with living costs continuing to rise, returning to work is an unavoidable reality. The timing of that return is unique to each family's situation, but the challenges of changing roles are universal. Sharon Thompson, Director of The Cutting Room and mum of two, found she was back at work a week after giving birth to her youngest daughter. "I came into work a week after my daughter was born to sort out invoicing, the payroll, and to make sure things were running smoothly. We have staff relying on us, and we cannot let them down."
Issues that concern many of the mothers I talk to on their return to work
include how they will cope with changes at work, how to balance work and home life, dealing with the opinions of others regarding their decision to go back to work, and coming home at the end of the day and switching roles from professional woman into "mum mode". "Work doesn't stop once I get home," comments Michelle Tili, teacher and mum of two preschoolers. "It's straight into mum mode - preparing dinner, organising the kids, breastfeeding my youngest, preparing the next day's lesson plan for school… The list goes on."
Just as planning is an essential part of any job outside the home, a little time spent on domestic organisation will help enhance the work/life balance. Here are some strategies that may help your household as you resume your nine-to-five.
Does your workplace have a childcare facility? Will you rely on family members for childcare, or perhaps hire a nanny? There are many options available to parents, but it is important that you have done your research, made your decision, and put your childcare arrangements firmly in place before you go back to work. Many childcare facilities have waiting lists - some a year long (or longer!). Find one that complements your family values and parenting practices, and put your child's name down soon after they are born.
If you choose daycare, ensure your child spends some time within the new environment a few months before you go to work. Drop in to the centre during the day. This will give you a good idea of how the centre is managed, and time to observe the interaction between children and carers. Children should be engaged in activities and happy with the caregivers. Take a look at the centre's policies and procedure folder, which every centre is required by law to have.
If you are breastfeeding, the timing of your return to work needs extra focus, so you can ready yourself with expressing, or dropping breastfeeds for formula feeds. This is very important so as to prevent mastitis. New employment laws require all workplaces to have breastfeeding-friendly facilities.
Partners or caregivers may be able to bring your baby in to work for some feeds. Many mothers choose to breastfeed before leaving for work in the morning, and then feed before bedtime at night. If breastfeeding is not an option, ensure baby is used to formula well before you go back to work. I suggest offering a bottle of expressed breastmilk or formula to your baby once a day from an early age, to develop their familiarity with bottle-feeding.
Quality vs quantity
If you work part-time, you may like to organise some activities that you can take your baby or toddler to when you are not working. There are many options for mid-week activities, from swimming classes to coffee groups, and with the increase in mothers returning to work, some activities now also run during the weekend. It's a matter of finding something in your area that will fit in with your schedule.
The amount of time you spend with your baby, although important, is not essential in maintaining your close bond. Rather, it is what you do with that time that matters. Simple things, like going for a walk, a picnic in the park, colouring in, or just playing together, will help your child feel secure and loved.
As mothers, we only want the best for our families. Finding the balance between work and home is paramount to successful family dynamics.
In all the hustle and bustle of everyday life, remember to take time out for yourself - your well-being depends on this. Even if you can only find a couple of spare hours each week, do something that's just for you - your mind, body, and family will thank you for it.
QUICK TIPS TO SAVE TIME
🕑 Set your alarm clock so that you wake up with plenty of time to organise yourself for work in the morning.
Samantha Ferreira is a Registered Well Child Health Nurse and mother to two girls.
AS FEATURED IN ISSUE 6 OF OHbaby! MAGAZINE. CHECK OUT OTHER ARTICLES IN THIS ISSUE BELOW