The return to work after taking parental leave is one of the most stressful times for new parents. It is a fraught time, just as you are settling into your role as a parent, things change once more and you are navigating an entirely new set of difficulties.
It’s no wonder that so many parents dread going back to work. Life changes when you give birth, no matter if it is with your first or fifth child, and old routines will no longer serve you. As you approach the end of parental leave, you might find yourself dreading the inevitable problems that will come with going back to work -- the lack of time and sleep, the disruption in your child’s schedule and the new challenges you will face at home and at work.
For each parent, the problems associated with returning to work might be unique, but the jitters and nervousness are the same. So, how do you face those fears? How do you get rid of the back-to-work worries and banish the jitters?
In Inceptive’s online course, ‘How to manage the “return to work jitters,’ a clinical psychologist, Dr. Juli Fraga speaks in depth about the underlying causes of these worries, and how parents can successfully avoid them. Primary concerns that parents have when navigating the return to their job after taking parental leave include:
- Missing milestones in their child’s life
- Worrying their child bonding more with the caregivers than with them
- Juggling work and home life, and being able to handle the new, increased workload
In the course, Dr. Fraga discusses each of these concerns, showing various coping strategies and offering approaches that parents can use to reduce the stress associated with going back to work. One strategy that Dr. Fraga suggests that parents use is the practice run. We have all done a practice run before, whether for a big presentation, a job interview, or even for a wedding - this method of working out the kinks in a plan is helpful in any area of life!
Not only does the practice run give you a chance to catch any logistical issues before they become a problem, it is helpful for you emotionally, as well. It is common, even expected, that you might feel sadness, grief or worry, which in turn will manifest as anxiety about your return to work. Completing a practice run and seeing which emotions are brought up will allow you to dispassionately observe them, reach out for assistance in the processing of the emotions, and ensure that they do not take you by surprise on the day of your actual return.
For example, let's consider child care. For this particular type of practice run, you should plan to practice your interaction with your child care provider. No matter if they are an in-home nanny or a daycare, you should have a trial run with them about two weeks before you return to work. This time frame gives you enough space to catch and work out all the kinks.
- If you are taking your child to a daycare, ask to come in and observe the routine. This is a prime opportunity to ask questions of the director and workers of the daycare. Think about things like the schedule that they keep for the babies, if there is an app you can use to keep track of how your child is doing, if it is possible to come in and nurse on your breaks, and if you can reach out to other parents to ask about their experiences at the daycare.
- If you have an in-home care provider, you should ask them to begin before your return date. This will allow you to observe the care provider and your child at home and offer feedback. This might feel overbearing, but with in-home providers, there can be blurred boundaries, so it is important to set healthy expectations through strong communication early in the relationship. This can include simple things, such as schedules, feeding times and park trips, or more complicated issues like internet use and posting photos of the child online.
One important thing to discuss with your provider is sick days. What happens if you or your child are sick? What will happen if your provider is unable to care for your child due to sickness or an emergency? No matter the type of child care you have, the practice run allows for you to observe if your planned timings will work.
A few other things to consider -- do you have enough time to get ready in the morning? What would happen if there is an unexpected delay in your commute, either to the daycare or to work? How much wiggle room do you have? If your child care provider comes to you, what is the absolute latest time they can arrive? What about getting home? What time must you leave work to be sure to be at your daycare on time?
Finally, the practice run can show you how much time you will actually have in the evening. Many people are optimistic about how much they can get done each day and how much energy they will have in the evenings to complete tasks. Will you have the energy to cook? Or should you plan on meal delivery or prepping food in advance? Could a cleaning service be helpful?
In all, a practice run does more than help you work out the route you will take and how the timings will work. It will also help you answer the questions you have and assuage your worries about this big new change. This in turn will allow you to make this step with confidence, and will free up your mind to tackling your new challenges at work. For more tips on a successful return to work, enroll Dr. Fraga’s course now.