It’s a pretty daunting venture for any parent to just hop, skip and jump straight back into the workplace. The primary carer of a child has spent weeks, if not months, waking up early, going to bed late, cooking, serving and feeding the growing bub, changing nappies, toilet training, wiping the nose four hundred thousand times, playing, kissing, cuddling and just generally being there. The chance to actually go to the bathroom uninterrupted has finally come and said carer is ready to return to the workplace. Whether you’re going back part time or full time, there are some fairly universal experiences that occur to both parent and bub.
The guilt trip is a common one – experienced by the parent, upon leaving the child in what seems to be an oversized cage called a crèche, child care or family day care. Rest assured, your child will adjust to the experience of being left in such an institution and might even make some friends. Pandora Tip 1: try and ease your child into care by taking them beforehand and spending time there with them. It may even take a few weeks, so be prepared! The first few times, parents can stay or only leave the child for an hour or so. Gradually increase the time the child spends in care.
The “don’t leave me” goodbyes – bub senses you’re off! He’s looking at you through his beautiful big teary eyes, with pouted lip and chubby cheeks thinking “oh, you’re not going anywhere!!” Some babies don’t cry at all, and others take a small amount of time to adjust. Usually though, there is a day when you need to leave because you’re already late for the train after leaving the house late because you forgot your baby’s bag, left your lunch on the kitchen bench, and in your haste to get out the door locked your keys in the house. Nevermind. You’re late, you need to leave, bub turns on the waterworks. Pandora Tip 2: research shows that saying goodbye and telling your child you will be returning soon is really important to give them a sense of security. While it may lead to tears and you having to turn around brave-faced, heart breaking, and leave, it really is the best way to teach your child that you always come back. The oldschool method was to leave when they were distracted… not a great idea. The child will turn around, expecting to see you, and you’re gone. There’s no sense of security in knowing that if you decide to play your most important person might disappear. Pandora Tip 3: Try and keep a smile on your dial when you say goodbye and say it in the same way every time. You’re allowed to break down in tears and eat three packets of Tim Tams when you’re in the car. Try not to cry or be overly stressed in front of your child though, because they sense it or see it and are more likely to feel scared.
The no-food-/only-(insert favourite food here)-at daycare – but they usually eat so well. It’s just a fact that when humans feel insecure, they’re more likely to feel anxious, and anxiety can be paired with a lack of appetite. Pandora Tip 4: Send the food anyway. Yes, I know it feels futile to send food you’re almost sure bub isn’t going to eat, and sometimes it does come home. However, if it’s there and bub starts to feel better, at least they have the chance to eat it. I’ve been surprised more than once when Mr Fussington Bailey eats the food I pack.
So, you’ve dropped bub off and you’ve had your cry (or yelled ‘hooray!’, whichever you feel more comfortable with), it’s time to head off to work. It’s probably fair to say you’ve not really had to leave the house looking ‘respectable’ in a work sense for a while right? Like, you’ve been dressed when you’ve left the house, and you’ve maybe even had a touch of makeup here or there, but not to the professional style that all the other girls will have at work. Pandora Tip 5: Be prepared! Have everything you need to get dressed into out the night before, so you save time in the morning. Once you’re dressed put a dressing gown over the type for crying out loud! Yes, you look smashing! No, you don’t want toast mashed into your stockings. This is the way of the mum. Pandora Tip 6: If you know you won’t have time to put on a full face of makeup in the morning before leaving the house, try to just put on your base foundation (yes they’ll think you look weird at the daycare, but whatever, you’re on a tight schedule girlfriend!). Take your lippy, mascara, eye liner, brushes and whatever else you feel the need to apply in a small pencil case in your bag and apply on the way or once you’ve reached work. If you genuinely don’t have time to put on a full face, lipstick and eyeliner work wonders on their own – promise! Oh, and pull your hair back. A neat ponytail is quick and easy. Having a full face of makeup and being dressed perfectly will never make up for looking like you’ve been dragged through a hedge backwards because you didn’t fix your hair.
You’re there, you’ve arrived. You’ve sorted out the new parking/train/bus payment scheme and you’re finally on your way to your office/clinic/surgery/daycare/coffee shop (mmm coffee… more about that in a minute)/wherever you work. You can expect most people to look upon you kindly for the first few days. There will be lots of questions about how you’re coping at home, how bub is coping in care, and how you’re feeling about being back at work. Pandora Tip 7: Expect these questions and if you think you might be upset, have a quick answer and a reason to leave. There will always be a person who is asking because they think they’re making it easier for you. Seeing you in distress may not stop their flow of questions. So, the best way to thwart such creatures is to have a short, quick answer and a reason to walk away, turn back to your screen, or sink into the middle of the earth. Example: “I’m not sure about this change we’re all experiencing, but I have to just check my emails I’m sure to have 1000 of them!”/ “Yes it’s interesting times! Must just duck to the loo.”/ “I think he’s going to be ok, but I’m just going to call the daycare and check, catch you later!” – or never… catch you never… stop asking me questions. After the first week or so though, you’ll only get the odd question here or there about how you’re all going and you’ll probably feel like you’re coping much better by that time.
It’s fair if you feel like crying, if you feel anxious, or if you just feel generally uncomfortable. Some workplaces will treat you like a newcomer – simply because so much has changed. Others will treat you like a member of an overgrown family – because nothing has changed. And others still will have forgotten you even existed. In fact, mine accidentally fired me instead of putting me on leave, which made for an interesting first day back. Regardless of how your work (and I say ‘work’ here, not ‘work colleagues’) makes you feel, rest assured you will be a valued employee again. I know some of you are thinking ‘hardly, I wasn’t really valued before’… best to think that this is at the very least a stepping stone to help you gain some cash (and perhaps sanity) until you make it in your dream job. Pandora Tip 8: it’s ok to feel out of place. It’s also ok to go and cry in the bathroom… just get through the first day and I promise it gets better.
Now, we all know that your baby is the cutest, most adorable, most clever, amazing little human ever in the world! BUT, that’s what all the mums think. It’s not a race, and it’s not a competition. Pandora Tip 9: Don’t be fooled. When you come back, all the mums will want to share their mum stories too, and all the grandmums will share their grandbabies’ stories! However, there is always a section of the workforce who do not understand!! Namely, those of have not had children, some fathers, rarely some mothers, and some who have step children or cats. They don’t understand what it’s like for you, and they don’t really care. They may ask the odd question just to show you that they care about you but they don’t want to hear about your baby. Pandora Tip 10: Gauge the conversation and don’t overshare. Make sure you also ask about other people and be honest when you meet someone new: tell them you’re a mum now so you have no memory and won’t remember their name. But seriously, the strange guy from IT is just setting up your computer and when he asks about your new arrival he’s just being nice. At the second his eyes glaze over, or he looks to the side, or his head starts to loll as he nods off, he’s ready to move on with the conversation. You’re in charge. Be brave, change the subject to his baby – the computer.
Good luck hard working parents!
Ps. You thought I’d forgotten about the coffee didn’t you? I didn’t… make sure you enjoy one that is hot, because you can’t do that at home 🙂