How to Return to Work After Having a Child

How to Achieve Work/Life Balance

If you're a new parent, having a baby has probably been one of the most rewarding things you've ever done. In turn, leaving your baby to go back to work will probably be one of the most difficult things you've ever done.

Just ask working parent Dana Hundley, a career consultant and co-founder of Career Cooperative. "Going back to work after having a baby is a big career (and life) switch," Hundley writes in a recent article for The Muse. "It isn't exactly easy, balancing the needs of your child with likely way less sleep than you're used to, while trying to be the same employee you were before you left. And having a baby changes the way you think about and prioritize your day, and can potentially make you question what you thought you wanted out of your career. It certainly did for me."

If you're worried about striking the right balance between your new role as a parent and your previous role as an employee, there are several things you can do to harmonize them.

For Hundley, one of the most powerful things was building trust in childcare. "If you have confidence that your little one is loved and cared for while you're not there, you're going to be a better, more relaxed person at work. So start looking for childcare early and take the time to get to know your caregiver(s) before you go back to the office," she writes. "If you're going the nanny route, try to have the person start one to two weeks before you go back, on a reduced schedule if possible. Play and interact with the baby together and run some errands where you're only gone a couple hours to get used to the idea of being away. And take your nanny to lunch -- sans baby -- to get to know them outside of their role … If you're using a daycare, ask to shadow or observe, take advantage of the tour, and ask any and all questions. Again, have the baby start earlier than needed, potentially on a reduced schedule, so both you and baby can get used to the new setting."

Boundaries also are important. "I experienced, and have heard from quite a few of my fellow parents, that it's tough to be in both 'parent' and 'work' mode at the same time, so even at home I set boundaries with myself to try not to be both at once," Hundley says. "When I was commuting, I always checked my email and handled anything that needed immediate attention before walking into my apartment so I could be fully tuned into my family when I stepped through the door. My phone and computer go in another room so I'm not checking them in front of my child or trying to respond to a client while making dinner."

Finally, remember to make time for yourself, whether that means taking a lunch break every day or keeping up with your favorite fitness class. "When I take time for myself, I'm more present in every aspect of my life," Hundley concludes.

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