These days it is increasingly common for both parents in a family to work. But returning to work after having a baby is a very difficult transition for families. So, how do you go about it? Can you really have both a good family-life and work-life balance? What should you do to get it ‘right’? Surf Excel is here to support mothers, understanding the anxiety that comes along with parenthood and wanting to help your children develop the best that they can. Here is some advice about how to choose the right child care and baby care for you and your family.
Child Care and Preparing to Go Back to Work
The most important task for new families-to-be is to prepare psychologically for the changes that a child will bring. Before the birth of your child, it is also a good idea to talk as a couple about how everyday responsibilities and chores should be managed once the mother returns to work. Good communication and teamwork between parents from the outset will help avoid conflict and stress later on.
Once your baby is born, it might be harder to resist guilty feelings about going back to work, especially when friends and family start to weigh in with their opinion. But you don’t have to worry – the latest research shows there is no difference in terms of a child’s wellbeing if one parent works or if both parents work. The important thing is to stay focussed on helping your child grow and develop.
Choosing a Child Care Solution
The first few weeks with a new baby are incredibly intense! There are highs and lows, and it’s exhilarating and exhausting. Then suddenly it’s time to go back to work! But who will look after your little one, and what happens if someone gets sick? Here’s a list of factors you should take into consideration before deciding on the best solution for your family:
Timing. Babies experience particular phases of separation anxiety (at around 8 months, and near 2 years old), so try to time returning to work before or after this. Newborn care is not offered at all baby care centers (you may not be ready to go back yet anyway). Many day care centers also have long waiting lists, so be sure to sign up as early as you can.
Location. Weigh up the advantages and disadvantages of having your child looked after at home, or at a day care centre near you. Remember, you will all be tired at the end of a long day. Think about minimising journeys and maximising time spent together.
Budget. Baby care centers can be very expensive and sometimes the financial benefits of going back to work can be outweighed by the cost. Hiring an ayaa or asking relatives to help might be more affordable solutions, but you should always budget for the unexpected – you never know when you might need extra help.
Illness. Children get sick quite often in the first couple years of their lives, particularly if they are around other kids – and this means your child’s carer might get sick, or your child will not be allowed to attend day care. Be sure to find out what your work’s policy is for child care leave – can you use holidays to cover when someone is sick; if not, what is your back-up plan?
Your parenting style. This is particularly important if relatives are going to help you out, as you want to avoid conflict at all costs! Make sure your child care provider knows and respects your parenting choices, particularly when it comes to things like food, routines, nappies, and using a dummy.
Recommendations . It’s important that your child is looked after by someone you trust. If this is not a friend or relative, be sure to listen to the recommendations of people you trust, and do background checks if necessary.
Daycare Issues: Dealing with Separation Anxiety
Spending quality time with your child will help maintain a strong bond and ease your transition back to work. Routine in this new life will be important for both you and your baby – it will help you get everything done, and let your child feel secure in the knowledge of what will come next. It’s a good idea, therefore, to try to have a small adaptation period –before you go back to work – for everyone to get used to this new routine and to being apart during the day. Leaving your child will be hard at first, and you will all find it very emotionally and physically tiring until you get used to the new rhythm of things.
This will particularly be the case if your child is still getting up at night to feed, or resists sleeping at bedtime to spend more time with you. It might be helpful in the short-term to give your child a later bedtime, so that you are able to spend quality time together. This can always be changed later on. If you’re breast-feeding, consider pumping milk at work during the day, and giving comfort feeds before you leave in the morning and before your baby goes to bed.
Alternatively, make sure your child can use a bottle or sip from a cup. If your child is going to be attending daycare, consider introducing a soft toy or comforter for them to take with them that can smell of you. You might also want to provide a few pictures of yourself in a little album for your child to look at during the day. Always be sure to say goodbye to your child, and never leave when they aren’t looking. Repeatedly reassuring your child will make any case of separation anxiety shorter-lived.
Advice for Parents with Kids in Baby Care or Day Care
Being apart will get easier as time goes on, but having to juggle priorities is something that stays. Here are some tips on how to keep on top of things while helping your child develop and grow.
- Consider a refresher course before returning to work to help you feel more confident in the workplace.
- Set boundaries: leave work on time and leave ‘work talk’ in the office; make sure that your time at home is family-focussed.
- Make sure that you eat well and get the right vitamins and minerals.
- Be organised – create a weekly routine. Try to clean and do laundry throughout the week, and keep the weekend free for quality time together.
- Plan meals in advance.
- Try to share household tasks: one parent could take the children out to the park at the weekends, for example, while the other does the weekly food shopping.