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Mat Leave Over? 10 Tips to Keep Your Sanity When You’re Headed Back To Work

 20131019_Mother_Baby_0442It can be tough to watch the days tick away in your maternity leave.  Many moms I’ve worked with feeling a growing sense of anxiety and dread as their return-to-work date approaches.  But there’s lots you can do – before and after you’re back at work – to smooth the transition and tame those anxieties.

1. Feel confident in your day care arrangement.

This one might seem obvious, but you’d be surprised how many moms feel pressured to make a day care decision, for any number of reasons, and have a gnawing discomfort with the decision they’ve made.  You might never love the idea of being away from your little one for eight or more hours a day, but at least make sure that you’re not spending your time at work fighting the feeling that something just isn’t right.

2. Plan ahead.

If you’re like most moms, you probably took care of the bulk of the cooking, cleaning, and other home-caring while you were on maternity leave.  Many women then find themselves in the position of trying to continue to do all of it, even when they’re back at work full time, simply because they and their husbands have fallen into the habit of assuming that she’ll take care of it all.  If you can have this conversation before you even go back to work, that’s great, but it’s never too late to sit down with your husband and do some planning and problem solving about how all of these jobs will get done once you have two people out of the house for most of the day.

3. Talk to your husband – a lot.

Maybe you’ll find that your carefully laid plans just aren’t cutting it once D-Day comes and you’re back on the job.  Don’t trap yourself into feeling that you’ve got no options – at the very least, put aside some time to chat with your husband, your partner in this big game of life, and let him know how it’s going.  Don’t make assumptions about what he’s thinking or what he would or wouldn’t be willing to do; you owe it to both of you to be honest about how you’re coping and what might be falling through the cracks.  This is also the time to acknowledge just how great a man you’re with, and recognize the efforts he’s making.

4. Be prepared to compromise, and accept that you can’t do it all.

This flows from the last point.  Not only will you have to accept that you’ll probably have to cut some corners when it comes to getting things done the way you like them, but if you want to retain your sanity, you’ll have to also accept that your husband may not do things exactly the way you’d do them.  And that’s ok.  As long as what needs to be done is getting done, you’re much better off just going with the flow than trying to insist that certain protocols be followed.  Let each of you figure out the best way for you to do what you need to do, and let that be ok.

5. Don’t sweat the small stuff.

Here’s the truth about having a baby and returning to work: your life is going to be different now.  That might seem obvious, but I think we all have a tendency to try to fit our “old”, pre-baby life into our “new” baby-filled life.  You might have to readjust your priorities and simply let go of some of the assumptions or habits or preferences that just bog you down in your new schedule.

6. Make time for your marriage.

You’re going to have a lot of demands on your time, but don’t fool yourself into believing that your marriage can wait.  The number one contributor to marital breakdown today is not spending enough time together; don’t kid yourself into thinking that your marriage is the last on a long list of priorities.  Invest even just a little time now, and save yourself a lot of heartache later.  Don’t let yourselves to be reduced to just co-workers in the business of running your family.  Even a quick 10 minute daily chat over a glass of wine or cup of tea goes a long way toward keeping the two of you as more than just roommates.

7. Make time for you, build in downtime for yourself.

This is a ridiculously easy one to put at the bottom of your list, and a ridiculously hard one to make time for.  But it’s critically important.  You can’t give away what you don’t have, so if you’re burning the candle at both ends, you’re setting yourself up for a crash.  A few minutes a day of quiet time, such as reading, taking a bath, or connecting with a friend, is a long-term investment in your mental health and ability to cope with the day-to-day challenges that are thrown your way.

8. Ask for and accept help.

You don’t have to go it alone.  If someone offers to take the kids for the afternoon or to pick up some of your groceries, accept it!  We tell ourselves that everyone else seems to be able to pull off this whole working-parent thing, so we should be able to as well.  But the reality is that we never know what’s going on behind closed doors, and sometimes we need to be honest with ourselves instead of trying to live up to some lofty ideal.  We are among the first generations in recorded history to raise our kids without the benefit of a “village” of family members and neighbours to help share the load, so if someone wants to be a part of your village, let them.

9. Remember that there’s a time for everything.

We live in a land of opportunity.  From camps and lessons and experiences that our kids can have, to Zumba and book clubs and job promotions available to us, there’s a lot we could be doing.  Remember, though, that while you can do it all, you probably can’t do it all at the same time.  This might not be the time to tackle a new project; perhaps in order to feel as though you’re doing well in all of the jobs you’ve currently got, you need to not take on anything new.  That’s ok.  Don’t beat yourself up thinking that you “should” be able to do more, be more, have more.  Time is our the resource that can’t be recouped once it’s spent, so invest this precious resource in only the areas that truly matter in your life today.  Just feel good about where you are right now, and enjoy the time you have with your family as it is, right now.

10. Keep the big picture in mind.

You are stretched thin at this moment.  That’s a fact.  Raising little ones and working is a lot to juggle.  You’ve got a lot going on in your life, and it’s easy to get swept up in the day-to-day of it all.  Build in time for fun with your family and remind yourself that your best is good enough.  Take time to step back and love what you have.

By: Andrea Ramsay Speers Andrea Ramsay Speers

About Andrea Ramsay Speers

Andrea Ramsay Speers, M.A. is a Psychotherapist practicing in Oakville. Her entire practice is built around one purpose: helping people enjoy their families more, whether that means coaching parents in learning new parenting tools, increasing connection and harmony between couples, improving relationships with teenagers, or helping individuals overcome their feelings of depression, stress, or anxiety and start enjoying their lives again. She can be found online at www.OakvilleFamilyInstitute.com.


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