When I had Ryan, my first child, my childcare plan of action involved me trying to juggle my return to school and a desire to find someplace – any place – that would take my infant son. I look back on those days as a catch-as-catch-can childcare plan. The challenges I faced in not understanding what my care options were or having a go-to resource that could explain how to actually find them, inspired me to start Care.com.
As more and more moms return to work – full or part-time – we at Care.com find moms in various states of their childcare plans, from pregnancy to a few weeks before their return to work. And regardless of where you are, and what state of mind, we know that you want to know all of your options, and be comfortable with your ultimate care solutions, before returning to work.
Setting up a support network is critical for both your sanity and your family’s well-being during this transition time. I spoke with Lynette Fraga, our Care.com expert on early childhood, and she had some great advice.
1. Validate Your Feelings.
Whether you’ve spent 8 weeks, 8 months, or 8 years with your child at home, you will likely experience a spectrum of emotions during this transition. You may look forward to some elements – adult conversation, finishing a cup of coffee without interruption, the return of a salary. But they can compete with the sadness of leaving your child, baby or not, and missing out on the little moments you experienced together. Then there's the anxiety of still being able to do what you did before you had a child. You've undergone a major life change since you left the workplace. Instead of letting feelings of panic paralyze you, concentrate on devising a smooth transition into working motherhood – and the entire family will benefit.
2. Give yourself a logistical headstart.
Try to get yourself into a similar routine to your work schedule – as much as you can – while balancing the eating and sleeping agenda that you've established at home. And if you haven't totally established a routine, a few weeks before your return is a great time to start. Whether it's practicing giving a bottle to your breastfed baby or simply stockpiling formula, frozen breast milk, and food, the act of physically preparing for a return can facilitate the mental preparation. Try to start the work routine a week or so early. If possible, take your child into work for a visit. It's an opportunity to show off your new baby to co-workers or to show your child where you will be spending your day.
3. Set up your childcare.
When planning to leave your child in someone else's care, you have to weigh the logistical with the emotional: daycare or babysitter; a center or home care. Whatever you choose, it must make the most sense for your child…and for you. You must consider your schedule; the best environment for you; and, of course, what you can afford. Plus, every mother wonders: will this person take as good care of my child as I do? Am I prepared for my child to connect with someone new? Even as the millions of uncertainties run through your head, start the process of hiring a caregiver. Interview candidates at your local coffee shop. Check references and run background checks. But what tips the scales? A certain feeling in your gut that simply says, yes, I trust this person. Most of all, realize that you are starting a new relationship – the one with your care provider. The mother-caregiver relationship is a partnership that requires communication, comfort and a shared commitment to raising your child together.
4. Set reasonable expectations.
The return to work is an ideal time to set new rules and expectations from the beginning. The more up front and firm you are about your work and home wishes, the smoother the transition will be. No one can anticipate everything, but it's important to be realistic and flexible with your co-workers, your care provider and your spouse during this transitional time.
5. Request back up before an emergency.
While you may have a primary caregiver who comes to your home daily, line up several back up babysitters for sick days and even those luxurious date nights.
Babies are constantly picking up on cues from Mom. When Mom is happy and comfortable, so is Baby. Make sure to talk to other moms at work or within your local community. Check out our working moms group find other moms who have all made the transition back to work. And, finally, reward yourself with a pedicure or a massage. Let someone take care of you for a bit.
Check out these articles for additional tips:
Are you going to be transitioning back to work? What are you struggling with the most? Have you made the transition post-baby in the past? Share your own strategies for success.