People often describe the move new parents make in going back to work as a transition. But as many new parents can attest, the moment work begins again after the birth of your baby, there is little time for transition. It’s more like a plunge into the deep end! Your already chaotic life of caring for a newborn, not sleeping and feeling exhausted just got even more complex with the addition of all of your work responsibilities. Sometimes you wonder if you’re even capable of doing it all.
New Mums: Returning to Work Requires a New Approach to Your Career
Let’s first address the myth that women should be able to do it all every day of the week. There is simply not enough time to be a full-time mother and a full-time professional (not to mention all of the other responsibilities to your home, family, friends, etc.) without some form of help and support.
But there are ways to feel less overwhelmed.
Self-love and self-time is key. As a working parent you probably already know how rare time for yourself can be. Even now for me, just being a twin mum is very difficult to get that time for myself. How do you juggle work, family and time for yourself?
It’s essential to develop a plan that will work for you and give you the time that you need. Because I have twins, it’s financially impossible to put them into daycare, so we’re going to have a nanny come to work for us during the week. I have also made a change in work hours. Instead of going back 100% I’m going back to 80%. Knowing my personality, I know I will have to really work on sticking to just the 80%. It’s going to be a shift. It’s a repositioning of myself within the corporate world. In the past, I used to work much more than my 100%, simply because I loved it. I still love it, but now I need to juggle my time in a different way.
Rebrand and Reposition Yourself as a Working Parent
Before you went on maternity to have your baby, people were used to seeing you in a certain way. When you return to work, some parents will be ready to go exactly back to where they were before. And that is great. But for me and some other parents, we can’t because we cannot live the lifestyle that we had before.
I have thought a lot about how to portray myself upon my return. How I see myself is how others are going to see me. I have to, from the start, reposition myself as not the crazy girl that would say yes to everything, travel the world, take on any new projects and make them a success at any cost. I have to switch my persona to the person who will be invested and motivated, but at the same time, balanced. That’s a very important word. It’s something that we all have to learn to implement when we become working parents.
Boundaries Create Balance
In order to create that balance we have to create boundaries. Establishing these boundaries from the start is key. You may need to:
Start saying no to new projects when you know you can’t meet the deadline unless you work extra hours at home. Those hours at home will be harder to come by.
Stick to a routine from the very beginning of when your work hours start and stop.
I know this may sound awful and so different from your pre-baby work lifestyle, but it’s the reality when you’re a new parent. For instance, I have a nanny who is going to arrive at a certain time and leave at a certain time, which is fine. There will be no extra hours because a baby’s crying. The end of her work day is the end of her work day.
I have to apply the same logic with my work and I urge you to do the same. Yes, there is going to be a meeting that is running late. But we have to learn to say, ‘Well, I have to go now.” This is really going to be interesting for me and a challenge. It involves working on yourself, to value your time and all of your roles. I’ve done a lot of work on myself but this is also new for me. I never had to really put any boundaries on my professional self before.
Embrace Your New Routine
You don’t want to be afraid of setting those new boundaries. I know that can be particularly challenging especially because you have a new baby and greater financial pressure. But it’s important to keep in mind that you have options. For me, I want to remove any fear of what the implications establishing those boundaries will be or any fear of negative reactions it might create. Because if it’s not the right fit, then it means that it’s not the right company for you. If you are experiencing negative responses to establishing those boundaries, don’t blame yourself. You are still on the right path, but your company may not have the right values to support you.
If the employer does not want to support the transition back to work, then ask yourself if this is a company that you want to work hard for. Work is a give and take just like everything is in life. And if you have been giving, giving, giving at one point, you have to receive that support and investment back so you can give it again back to them. So for me, that is how I’m going to approach my return to work.
My work is balanced between home office and going back to the work office. The work office is not in my home city, so I’m going to leave my children regularly to go there and be with my team physically in the office. I’m going to commit to that. We’re organizing that with the nanny and my partner. Probably that night when I am committing to be away from home and family is where I will work beyond the normal hours to catch up with the projects. But the other nights I will be home. I want to be a career woman, but I also want to be a mum who is going to offer balance to my children with routine and ritual to create a bond that is needed now. That is not going to happen later because they need me now while they are tiny.
When you have time off you need to make sure you make that your time off. Things that you want to progress in and the rest of the time can be for your children.
For the Parent Returning to Work, A Plan Begins with a Question
You can’t be everything if you don’t give yourself the space to be certain things at certain times. Being organized and understanding who you want to be is essential to getting what you want. Take some time to ask yourself the following questions. Write down your responses. Sleep on your answers and go back in a few days and read what you have written out loud. How does it sound to you? What would you like to change or add to your answers:
What is important to you?
List your priorities. What are they and why are they important?
Based on that, you can perform the plan of how. But we often start with the how: How am I going to go back to work? How am I going to figure it out? For me, that was not the question I asked. The how I always leave for the end, because I know you can find solutions to everything in life. When we had two miscarriages, I didn’t start thinking about “How am I going to get pregnant? I started to ask myself, “What is important to me?” “What are the forces driving my life?” I started to care for myself in a different way. And by releasing control good things happened in life.
The essential question is not the how, it’s the what:
What do I want to be?
Who do I want to be?
What is important to me?
Ask the Right Question to Get the Right Back to Work Plan
It’s about going after your dream, going after what is important to you if you can make it happen. When you are clear with that it’s about forming a plan.
Is being home full-time with my child/children right for me at this time?
Is it important to me that I go back to work?
Can I financially afford to go back to work on a limited basis?
Finance is a big aspect as well of the equation. You may have dreams, but then you have reality. Sometimes you have to do things in stages to get from your current situation to where you really want to be. Still, this process is important. Because you won’t have an end goal in mind until you do this soul searching. Having the right plan can get you closer to that dream lifestyle just in incremental steps.
- Start by asking yourself the right questions.
- Rebrand and reposition from there.
- Begin creating the actionable steps that get you to that result.
- Throughout the process be kind and understanding with yourself, knowing you are stepping outside your comfort zone and doing what is best for you and your family.
- Finally, self-check-in regularly to assess where you are at and how you are doing.
- And, don’t forget to ENJOY the fruit of your Labour.