Returning to work after having a baby, especially your first, is a daunting and traumatic experience for many reasons.
The main reason, that you are leaving the human life you created with someone else all day. After months of close contact, jumping to their every need, listening for every tiny murmur and learning your baby’s cues, suddenly you are handing them over to someone else, who you know can’t possibly know your baby like you do. Fact is, they are not going to do as good a job as you. So you question yourself… how could I do this?
Enter: guilt, fear, stress.
Second, you are doubting your capabilities in the workplace. You have been the opposite of corporate you for probably best part of a year and you don’t know if you can cut it now. You’re worried what your job will look like now you can’t put in all the extra hours in the office that you used to. What will your peers think when you dart out of the door each day earlier than them?
Enter: guilt, fear, stress.
You see the pattern, right? Unfortunately part and parcel of being a woman is we have it a little harder than our male counterparts when it comes to balancing work and home-life. Not because men don’t want to help or don’t care for their kids, it’s a biological and a societal thing. Biologically, we are programmed not to want to leave our children. It’s primal. Societally, there is still a long way to go in the workplace to truly embrace women returning to work and creating positive environments in which they can thrive.
So what does this mean? For me, half the battle of combating all the emotions you are going to experience and take on is to understand them from the offset. Know you are going to feel them, give yourself permission to feel them, but also have some constructive coping mechanisms in place to help experience the emotion and release it as quickly as possible. You will experience the same emotions each and every day for quite a while, until you get your rhythm back (You 2.0, I like to call her). So for your mental health and your ability to bounce back quicker, you should try to not let them linger, as negative emotions tend to do.
It’s easier said than done, but understand you are not alone. In case it helps any, here are some home truths:
- Guilt for your little one: You are not a bad mother. Your love and guilt is testament to that. What you are is a woman that needs to earn a living and you are going to be setting an incredible example to your child. Never feel guilty for taking care of yourself and your child the best way you can.
- Guilt for not working all the hours god gives: You are more capable than you realise and you’ll find you get more done in the hours you have than you ever did with all the extra ones. It’s just a superpower we develop. It’s called, “I don’t have time for your BS, I’m a mum and I have work to do.” You’ll come to know this well.
And here’s a tip: Write down why you are going back to work, pin it to the fridge or on your bedroom/bathroom mirror. Say it out-loud every morning. Mine would have been something like,
“I’m a strong, single mother, taking care of me and my son. I am providing him a life I didn’t have growing up and one day, he’s going to know how hard I worked to give him what he needs.”
Next write down a positive affirmation about your capability at work. Something like,
“I know how to do my job and do it well. That hasn’t changed. I can handle a change of pace, I can handle anything.”
Every day you should say these allowed before you start your day, it might not seem like much, but creating positive sentiment around what is going on will help balance out some of those negative, lingering emotions that tend to stick like glue.
Trust in yourself, your strength and in the fact that everything will and does always work out