How to make returning to work as stress free as possible.

You’ve been out of the work force for some time, raising your family and working hard at home. Now you have to dust off those power suits and get your head back in the game. The work-out-of-home game.

Going back to work after having extended time away can be a stressful thought. But going back when things at home are a bit chaotic can add to this. Here are my top tips for reducing that stress as much as possible:

  1. Give yourself some credit.
    You just made a whole new human and you’ve been keeping them alive. Try not to worry about the doing of going back to work. Your skills are still there and if some things have changed, you will get across them. You also have a bunch of new skills now which will help you. It will get easier with time, even if it feels hard at the start. You managed to get across the job of being a mother; you’ll get across the job of being a working mother – after all, you’ve already done the ‘work’ part before and at least there’s a job description for that!
  2. Write a back to work plan.
    Cover off all the things you need to get done between now and returning to work. That includes finding a child care, talking to your work, working out a budget, getting your wardrobe sorted and labelling your child’s clothes for child care.
  3. Find dependable child care.
    A whole book could be written on the challenges of finding a child care. My advice is start looking early. Even if that isn’t you, don’t worry. It is possible to find child care with perseverance. Treat looking for child care like a job. Investigate centres thoroughly. Put in applications for all the ones that look reasonable. Explore family day care in your area and if it’s within your means, consider a nanny or sharing a nanny with other mothers you know. If you keep at it, usually you can find a child care that suits you and your family’s needs. But I know it isn’t easy! If you get even a couple of days at a centre, take it – even if the days aren’t perfect; you can start with a few and build or swap with others as they become available. Most women who return to work have some informal child care (a relative or partner) and if using paid care, most use a long day care at child care centres or a family day care.
  4. Talk to your workplace about their expectations.
    What sort of flexibility will there be? Will your hours be exactly the same? If you’ve decided to continue to breast feed, what are your options for using a breast pump? Try to arrange a transition day where you can pop in and understand the lay of the land before you have to go full throttle.
  5. Talk to other mothers about their return to work.
    It really is helpful to have a support network and to see what other people’s experiences of returning to work were like.
  6. Consider starting back half way through the week.
    It can be tiring and stressful going back and you might want to ease into it.
  7. Feel free to check in with your child care centre or carer at home.
    It’s normal to be concerned about your child, especially in the early days and there’s nothing wrong with a call or text to update you on how things are going.
  8. Try and find some time for you.
    It is stressful juggling work and your children – after the first week you may wonder how you will do it. See if you can get someone to help on the first weekend (or even several subsequent weekends) to give you a bit of a break. You are doing two jobs now – paid employment plus being a mother and it’s not easy.
  9. Try not to feel guilty.
    Many mothers go back to work. Many CEOs and happy creative people (maybe even the majority) had mothers who worked. Going back to your job doesn’t make you a bad mother and there’s nothing wrong with enjoying yourself at work and the mental stimulation you get from talking to adults again.

Article by Wattle Health resident expert, Paediatric Nurse, Jo Ryan.