If you are a new mother, getting back to work after your maternity break can seem quite unnerving. To ease yourself into your work environment, you will need to do a lot of planning and give considerable thought to how you will combine your roles of mother, wife and employee.
Take the case of Tanya. When her daughter was six months old, Tanya decided to get back to work. But within a week, she had to ask her team leader for permission to leave early. Her daughter’s daycare had called saying she was crying incessantly. Reluctantly granting her permission, her team leader said disapprovingly, “Well Tanya, you should have thought about this earlier. You’ve just got back to work and our team has so much work left to do.”
After finding her daughter alright, Tanya broke down. Had she made the right decision going back to work? Would her daughter ever be fine at day care? Was her team-leader right in saying she should have thought about it more? She loved her job; had worked hard to get to the position she was in. So, should she just quit? But, what about her financial independence then and the housing loan she was helping repay? The questions seemed endless.
Many new mothers face situations similar to Tanya’s. They are usually torn between taking care of the child and working. According to Dr Geeta Komar, Consultant - Obstetrics and Gynaecology, Columbia Asia Hospital, Bangalore, “After pregnancy a woman undergoes an emotional roller-coaster ride and it’s important for her to be able to deal with these mixed emotions. Woman who resume work within three months of pregnancy are at a greater risk of postpartum depression. A new mother should ideally wait for six months post-pregnancy before she considers going back to work,” she added.
Here are a few tips that have helped new mothers we know get back to work:
This probably ranks as one of the most nerve-racking decisions parents have to make. You may find yourself riddled with doubts: will they take care of my child well? Will they ignore my child’s crying? To set your mind at ease, ensure that you do a dry run with the daycare provider. Explain your child’s needs such as food, sickness, allergies and sleep times and ensure the provider works around your schedule. Seek recommendations before you start choosing your child’s care taker.
Pop into your office
Give your colleagues a phone call during your maternity leave. If you are returning to the same place of work, try and pop into the office with your baby a few months into your leave. This way, you will keep yourself abreast of what is happening at work and know what to expect when you get back.
Stock up on food /milk
Stock up on food your child likes so he can have it while you are away. If the baby is still only drinking milk, ensure that the correct formula is given to the care-giver. If he is on breast milk, ensure the milk packets are correctly dated and you have invested in a good pump.
Talk to your manager
This is essential to ensure expectations on both sides are realistic. Your manager will be aware that you are not the same person you were before you left – you have the additional responsibility now of taking care of your baby. You will also get to know whether there are any changes at your work place and in the dynamics of your team. Speak to your manager about breaks to see your child, pumping breaks and the pumping room. Also discuss working late and the work from home option. Remind her that you will also have to check your phone frequently for messages from your child’s care provider.
Your colleagues may not always relate to your problems. Especially if you are working from home, co-workers tend to think you have it easy and that you are not contributing enough. These attitudes may be frustrating for you but try and stay focused. Always remember that your co-workers too are adjusting to your new role as a mother. Also, reach out to like-minded supporters and other ‘new-mom’ communities to build relationships.
Do a dry run
A few weeks before getting back to work, try and get into the routine you’ll have to follow. Set an alarm for the time you have to wake up and take your baby out. If you are leaving your child at day-care, drop by for a few hours to see how she adjusts. You could even stop by at your workplace.
Work actively to fight the guilt that comes from leaving your child and getting to work. It helps to know that babies adjust quickly, so long as their basic needs are taken care of. It is important also to remind yourself that work helps earn the means to do your absolute best for the little one. Be kind to yourself during this period.
Dr.Geeta gives some pointers to new mothers to stay comfortable at work:
Take time off: It might take some time to become habituated to the new schedule. Therefore, new mothers can start by practising being away from the baby so that the baby also becomes familiar with the mother not being around all the time.
Wear comfortable clothes: Women who join work early after pregnancy should consider wearing loose clothes that open at the waist or are front-open tops. Keeping extra nursing pads is a good idea to prevent leaking.
Eat healthy food: For new mothers having a balanced diet is important to ensure good supply of breast milk to the baby. Since, breast milk is the only source of nutrients for the baby, working mothers should avoid processed food items and should only opt for healthy nutritious diet at work place.
Tips for the partner to help the new working mother
Divide work: As a father, it is important that men also try to involve themselves with taking care of the infant. There are various techniques that they can learn which will ensure proper care for the baby and will also give a break to the mother. Hence, divide the daily chores between both the partners equally so that it becomes easier for the woman to maintain a work-life balance.
Emotional support: “A lot of women feel guilty about joining work and leaving their newborn at home. In many cases, this can lead to stress and can also be a reason behind postpartum depression. In such scenarios, emotional support from partners can ensure better mental health for mothers,” adds Dr Geeta.
While getting back to work could be a challenge for you as a new mother, you will find that both you and your baby will soon get used to the routine. It is important not to take big decisions such as quitting work or changing your workplace during this period as you need to give yourself the time to get used to your new role.