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The Return to Work Challenge: Helpful Hints for New Parents

As parents we often question ourselves with the old adage of “how am I doing?” Balancing responsibilities, expectations and relationships always brings some challenge – you are a spouse/partner, employee, friend, family member, volunteer, etc…now add parent to the mix and you might be wondering how you’ll get it all done!

I’ve felt that way many times, but never more than when I was getting ready to return to work after my maternity leave ended with my son. Not only did I have to work financially, but I also valued my career. But how was I going to handle all of this?

Something I had to acknowledge early on was that I wasn’t the same person as I was before my baby boy was born. I wasn’t the same employee, just like I wasn’t the same friend or even the same spouse. I started to think of myself as Melissa 2.0. Things needed to shift a bit.

Helpful Advice for Parents Returning to Work

Here are a few ideas that helped me along the way:

Make the Most of Your Time in the Office

Now, even though I knew that I wasn’t the same person, my employer didn’t need to have any leniency on me! They certainly weren’t going to take away any of my responsibilities because I was a new mother. And I didn’t want them to either. I needed to work smarter, not harder.

Examine your responsibilities and change the way you work, if you can. For example, meetings are overkill in many organizations. Do you need to organize a meeting or can we share the necessary information through an email? On the flip side, maybe instead of exchanging emails all day long on one topic, let’s pick up the phone and iron out the situation.

Devote yourself to your work responsibilities when you are in the office. For example, eliminate some of the time you may have spent socializing. Be social, be friendly – but you may have to cut back on some of the water cooler chats.

If It Feels Right to You, It Is Right 

That’s not what my friend does. That’s not what the baby books said to do. So how do I know if I’m doing the right thing? It’s so easy to compare ourselves to others. It’s human nature.

Advice and opinions about parenting are spewing at you from all directions! Disposable diaper vs cloth diapers; nursing vs formula feeding; sleep training; child care vs nanny; making sure baby is on a schedule, etc. It is enough to drive you batty. It’s important to make an educated decision, but I often say to new parents, “If it feels right to you, it is right.”

When my son was a baby, I had to start to think about child care options. Most of my friends went the nanny route for child care and I assumed this was my only option. I started interviewing nannies and I just wasn’t feeling it. And truth be told, I was a manager at work and the last thing I wanted to be was “manager at home” too. We started to look into child care centers and decided that this was the right decision for our family. We enrolled our son at a center and he stayed until he graduated pre-K to Kindergarten.  All of the opinions in the world didn’t matter as long as we were comfortable with our arrangement.

Shake the Guilt

I know, I know – this is entirely easier said than done! But at the end of the day, that guilty feeling isn’t going to get you anywhere. In fact, it may hinder you a bit.

Don’t beat yourself up if you have to spend an extra hour in the office and wound up missing the bedtime routine once in a while. And alternatively, don’t question taking time off from your job to take your child to their well visit.

If you need help at work or at home, please remember your support network. No one is going to think less of you for it. In many cases, asking for help is the bravest thing that you can do!

Take Care of You

My last piece of advice is to never ever forget to take care of you. A former boss told me this when my son was a baby. And I still take those words to heart all of these years later. You are important. Look after yourself the same way that you’d look after your family. Spend a little time being you. Don’t get so busy taking care of everyone and everything that you forget to do for yourself too.

We are always tougher on ourselves than anyone else will ever be, but sometimes it’s hard to believe that we are doing a great job. But you are. And your little one is all the better for it.

Remember that balance on this scale of life is never going to be perfect – and it may often change. But that’s okay….cause it’s possible that version 3.0 of yourself is fast approaching….

Written by Melissa Jacobowitz, a working mom of two:

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Care About Childcare @ Children’s Service Society is funded by the Department of Workforce Services/Office of Child Care. For more resources, visit our website at and click on Care About Childcare.

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