Circa BC (before child), you are in control.
Control of your your career, your life, when you sleep and when you wake, where you eat, when you exercise. And pretty much everything at this point you can nail. You get results, and you get a pat on the back for a job well done. Tick.
And as much as people warn you that there will be some days you won’t make it to the shower, you nod and secretly think, ‘that’s never going to happen to me.’
Circa AD (after delivery).
Hello baby! Your life instantly turns upside down. There is so much newness – of the best, most genuinely, overwhelmingly, deep love – and of the great unknown. This is a new world, where there are no rewards and your baby isn’t going to care if you hit those KPIs.
So when it comes time to go back to work after baby, there is relief in the safety of something you know how to do, and do it well. The perks aren’t what they used to be; they are new and joyous. Being able to go to the bathroom without a little person following, getting a coffee when you want to, people responding Yes instead of a flat-out NO! (at the top of their lungs).
While the perks are ace, the new world demands are challenging, at best. Here are a few tips on how to keep it together.
1. Take the wins
Relish those little things, the perks of being an independent person: walk to get a coffee down the street by yourself (even if it’s takeaway), do a gym class one lunchtime, or walk slowly on your commute during the working day. Time is poor but these moments are rich.
2. Plan your first month back
Starting back is rarely a smooth transition. While work seems like a breeze (compared to being at home), your little one is going through a huge transition. Starting daycare, they will probably be sick pretty consistently.
Three options here: (even though you are haemorrhaging money and not earning anything):
1. Try to start daycare a month before you start work, so you can care for your baby while they’re catching all the daycare germs.
2. Get a nanny instead a couple of days a week. Plus there’s the added bonus of the house being clean!
Or 3. Have a solid backup plan. Can you work from home with family to care for your baby? Websites like jugglestreet.com.au are lifesavers in finding last minute nannies.
3. Empty the ‘too hard basket’
Stop doing, delegate or outsource the stuff that will fall through the cracks – you cannot keep all life’s admin when you go back to work. Resist the temptation to be a martyr / ‘supermum’. Making dinners – what is your local ‘looks and tastes as I made it’ option? (Better still if they deliver.) If you have a partner give them a list of new ‘to-dos’ for life admin. Find a cleaner to do the basics. And if you can’t keep going to the playgroup, the music, and swimming classes every week, that’s OK. It’s better to under-promise and over-deliver.
4. Find a work arrangement which is going to give you balance, most of the time
Despite the adrenaline which will pump through your veins when you walk out of the house without nappies in your bag, the emotional pull will soon bring you down to earth. When they wail at drop off, when they cling to your leg like a handbrake on an upward hill, when you miss them walking their first steps because you were in a critical client meeting.
Your kid will tug at your heartstrings, and you will miss them. Enter: Mother’s guilt. If you can find a day or two to be with them (and get life-in-general done), it can be more sustainable on both sides. Balance is different for each person, but part-time is a sustainable way for many people to sustain their career and parenting intentions. And more companies, of the better variety, are offering part-time options to professionals. It’s just a matter of finding them.
5. Scenario plan for the lows
When (not if) the wheels fall off, being a primary carer and professional who likes to do their job well, can feel impossible. It might be you, your baby or both getting sick, a relationship or health issue, moving house, or anything which places another demand on your time. Try to have a backup plan so that you don’t need to stress about that, as well as coping with your work and baby. Asking for help is easy once you’ve done it. Call on your support network – your mother’s group, family or friends are your lifelines at this point. You will get through it!
6. Carry wipes everywhere (still)
If you are thinking positive and elect to wear anything silk, dry-cleanable, black or white, you will invariably end up with either vomit on your shoulder, poo/wee/both on your hip, and a smear of dry snot around your knee. There is NO TIME to change. So roll with it and just carry wipes.
And when (and if) baby number two arrives… well, it’s the multiplier effect.
Beam Australia is an online marketplace matching highly experienced parents looking to step back into the workforce, with businesses who value and need their skills. If you’re after a flexible part-time role that you can do while your children are at school without having to down-skill, and most importantly, want to work for a company that is aligned with your values (or a business that needs experienced staff) get in touch with Stephanie and Victoria below.