By Lisa LaMaitre
Health Writer, Wellness Presenter, Lifestyle Adviser, Business Owner
Tips for the working mum
If a mum decides it’s time to head back to work after having their bub, there are so many decisions to make and questions to ask! Plus, there may even be some factors affecting why you want to, or feel you have to, go back to work, such as financial needs or mental stimulation. All of these factors can all really affect your confidence and happiness when you do decide it’s time.
Will you work part time or full time? Will you place your child in care or have a family member help out or hire a babysitter? How will you and your bub cope not being in hands-reach of each other? And are you ready mentally and physically to head back to the professional world after time at home? Being prepared and happy with your decision will take some organisation.
It’s a long time since the cherubs I helped raise started school, so I went to my ‘mum friends’, who have recently been through this, to get their best advice for you!
Return to work tips and experiences from my ‘mum friends’:
- Talk to your partner about your return to work and discuss what needs to change to make this an easy, stress-free transition. Discuss how you can work together to keep the household, family needs, work commitments and personal needs in balance.
- A number of mums commented how investing in a new wardrobe of work clothes helped with their mindset and confidence. The investment helped them feel fabulous and connected to the ‘career woman’ in them that was behind sleepless nights, soiled bibs and sippy cups. This was particularly important to the mums who’d been home for over 12 months.
- One of my friends created a ‘two week work wardrobe’ so she was organised, felt great and wasn’t stressed out deciding what to wear each morning.
- Allow yourself to acknowledge that you will get ‘yourself back’ and have an identity separate from being a mum.
- Acknowledging that you are ‘allowed’ to want to return to your career, and there’s no need to feel guilty about wanting to return to work.
- Many mums said they really looked forward to the prospect of adult conversation and activities that stimulated their brain.
- For some mums it was encouraging to know that their family would be better off financially with their return to work.
- Trust that you have selected the best care option for your baby whether that’s sharing home time with your partner, having a family member help out, hiring a sitter or putting your child in to day care.
- Take the time to ensure baby is well settled into day care (if that’s your choice) before returning to work. Aim to have some shorter trial days to ensure that both you and bub are coping with the change. This also gives carers the time to build rapport with the baby or toddler and get to know their personality and routine.
- Have a backup plan in place if bub is sick and can’t go to day care.
- Have a plan if day care calls to say your little one is unwell.
- Try to negotiate support from your employer around having a flexible work environment that offers parent’s leave or flex time if needed.
- Schedule business meetings after 10am to ensure that you can arrive in plenty of time, in case catastrophe strikes as you head out the door!
- Have support to call upon in the form of family and friends that can help buffer the transition period. Suggestions included pre-cooking meals and freezing them. Ask friends or family to cook your family dinner to take the pressure off for an evening. Hiring a housekeeper for a few weeks may take the pressure off your to-do list too. Have your partner/friend/family member on one end of the drop off/pick up schedule if possible.
- Take time to menu plan. It reduces the risk of frequent takeaway (of course we all need a break now and then!) or unhealthy food choices that don’t energise you. The other benefit of a menu planning is that if your partner gets home before you, they know what’s for dinner and can get it started. In some households, the partner took care of the meal planning, which eased mum’s load.
Mums who had their own businesses seemed to find the return -to work transition easier, as they said that they felt that they were in control of their schedules and commitments. A few mums saw motherhood as the perfect time to retrain and undertake a course of study.
Even through all the stress and worry however, quite a few of my mum friends commented that by returning to work they felt that they were setting an example to their children – the message that they are valuable and have skills and knowledge that need to be shared.
The most important reminder that my mum friends shared was that the time they spend with their children is the most precious. So if you do happen to pick up takeaway on the way home tonight, and neglect your emails to give the kids a snuggle on the couch, I think you’ve made a successful return to work!
Rose is a Fit Busy Mum of 3 fit kids. She aims to empower mums who are time poor. She acknowledges that mums are ‘busy’ but tries to inspire them to regain their fitness through simple everyday habits that she promotes through her book ‘The Fit Busy Mum: Seven habits for success’.