The Balancing Act: Navigating Going Back To Work After A Baby

Nothing quite prepares you for the shock of going back to work after a baby. For any working mother, they will tell you that they struggled, but you’ve already told yourself you would do things differently. It’s very easy for us all to make decisions based on other people’s mistakes until we end up going through the same thing ourselves.

For all of the grand notions we have, nothing quite prepares us for being a parent. And whether we’ve just come off maternity leave or we are fully into working but the baby is still not sleeping, we can all do with a little bit of help now and again. But what should we all do to make sure that we can balance babies and work effectively?

Going back to work after a baby
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Speak To Your Employer First

So many mothers don’t know what their rights are in the work environment. It’s important that you understand what you are entitled to. When you go back it’s likely that your child has not started to sleep through the night. And even if they have, you still may find yourself struggling with the idea that you can go back to work full-time. Ultimately, you’ve spent every day with your child and now having to go back full-time can be a massive shock to the system. Speak to your employer and see what allowances they can make. For example, you may be able to work at home for a couple of days a week or you may have accrued a lot of time off which you can use to work shorter weeks. But whatever your concerns may be, make sure that you know exactly what your rights are. 

When going back to work we may find that our working schedule is not compatible with our child. Our children can (and will) have their own sleep schedules. And this can mean that, for all of the will in the world to try to get them to sleep through the night, it just won’t happen. It’s far better for you to work with their schedule rather than trying to make them follow your own, especially when they’re going through developmental leaps. But also, think about approaches that give you a bit more downtime. For example, the 9/80 work schedule, where you work 80 hours over 9 days rather than 10 days, may seem difficult, but at the same time, if you can incorporate days to work from home and make sure you work with your partner and get extra help on these days, this can soften the blow. But ultimately it’s about working with your employer and knowing what your rights are.

Don’t Try To Fight Your Tiredness

It’s such a cliche that you “sleep when the baby sleeps” but when going back to work you may think that it’s better for you to push through, but when you feel exhaustion or you are struggling to cope, it’s far better to hold your hands up and admit that you need a nap! So many people feel they wear the tiredness as a badge of honour. But you know having struggled through the night and are potentially still going through issues with your child that you have to grab sleep wherever possible. This can mean that even if you want to keep a clean home but having 20-minutes just to close your eyes and have a bit of rest can make you feel rejuvenated and give you some energy to push through until the end of the day, prioritize this. There is no point in fighting against it. 

When we feel exhausted, our bodies are telling us to take it easy. And while you might think that there’s no time, this is when we’ve got to get into the habit of working with our bodies to make sure that we are fighting fit. This can mean that when we are exhausted the temptation to snack on sugary treats and all of those wonderful unhealthy foods rides high. Make sure that you fill yourself with the right things. And yes, this can mean having a bit more caffeine than normal but start to think about minimizing your caffeine intake after midday. This is never something any tired parent wants to hear, but even if your child goes down for a couple of hours between 8 p.m. and 10 p.m. This means that you can close your eyes and have some downtime, even if you don’t sleep.

Minimizing Your Stress Triggers

Going back to work after a baby

When we are tired and at the end of our tether, we all struggle. When going back to work it seems that we’ve got an extra bit of pressure to work to deadlines. If we’re feeling the pressure before we go back to work it’s very likely that this is going to ramp up. Learning to minimize your individual stresses will work in your favour. We could feel that there’s not enough time to do everything, combined with the fact that the baby is not sleeping and we haven’t been able to have a shower yet, but for all of these combinations of stresses, we’ve got to maintain some sense of perspective. It is always easier said than done but when we start to think about the physical components of stress when we feel on edge or anxious. But one of the best things we can do is to learn techniques to minimize these sensations. 

When we feel stressed we aren’t functioning at our best. And there are so many different techniques out there to help. One of the new kids on the block is the Havening technique. This is where you are disconnecting your brain from a terrible memory or feeling. We’ve all had those times when we feel that we’re not a good parent or that we’ve done something that we really regret. The most important thing that we can do apart from learning from this mistake is to disconnect our anxieties from memory. The Havening technique works very effectively. 

Don’t Feel You Need To Say “Yes” To Everything

Going back to work can be overwhelming, especially if you start back full-time. And you may have more professional opportunities than you did before you went on maternity leave. People may also be asking you to go for lunch and to socialize but the important thing is to get that balance right. You may feel guilty that you are going back to work because you need to leave your child with a sitter or put them into daycare. Balancing your professional and personal life with your duties as a parent is about listening to your instincts. There will be people that won’t understand that your baby goes down for a nap you’ve only got 94 minutes exactly to get a lot of work done, not to mention eat food. And we can feel the pressure to go out for a drink with colleagues or friends but we know that we’ll feel worse the next day. It’s important to take care of yourself first. 

Having a baby can bring it all into focus and make you realise that you’ve got to prioritize things that you wouldn’t have considered before. Things like sleep or food were so easy to achieve and now going back into a work environment where people don’t understand just how much of a change having a baby is can make you feel like you are a weakling for going home early. You have to remember that you’ve been in this bubble with your child and now going back to work means that you’re expected to dance to someone else’s tune. And for many parents, they can understand just what is important in life now and they can feel happier missing drinks with colleagues. But there are some people that feel the almighty pressure to conform or be left behind. And this only makes our job as a parent more stressful.

Every parent feels the stress when going back to work after a baby. There can be a shock to the system in getting back into a routine but there’s also the anxieties associated with leaving your baby for the first time. It’s not an easy thing and so many parents can feel that they have to muddle through. Whatever job you are doing, you may feel that you’ve got to go back to the way life was in a professional sense. But now you may realize that your role doesn’t match who you are as a parent. And this can mean that you may need to speak to your boss about working differently or figuring out that you need to take care of yourself in other ways. But also it’s important to think that the job you are doing might not be suitable for you anymore. It’s not an ideal time to go and look for another job, but so many parents, when they go back to work, realize that something needs to change. Having a child brings it all into focus and it makes you recognize what is important. But all the while, regardless of the anxieties you are going through, and we all go through them, it’s a balancing act that takes some time to get right. Give it time. 

Nothing quite prepares you for the shock of going back to work after a baby. What should we all do to make sure that we can balance babies and work effectively?


  • Helen Treharne

    June 1 at 6:56 am

    Great advice, particularly about learning to say no. It’s easy to expect you can do what you used to but the tiredness and the additional commitments will inevitably add limits or change the way you work.

    1. Sabina Green

      June 1 at 10:29 am

      Exactly, I only returned to work for a short period on a consultancy basis about 2 years after I had left and it took a bit of getting used to.

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