Tuesday, March 22, 2011

After Maternity Leave - Getting Back to Work

Getting back to work after maternity leave is a unique experience – both for the baby and the mother. Most mothers go through a range of thoughts and human emotions – ranging from worry, to guilt, to anxiety, to indecisiveness, to happiness, to what’s really the right thing to do, to how to balance professional commitments and personal priorities, to…..

Some Learning’s below:
It’s a personal choice – Whether you resume work is a personal choice. And when you resume work is a personal choice. There’s no right or wrong. It’s only what you believe is the right thing to do both for yourself and your baby. And once you’ve made the choice, be vocal about it. Some mothers started work when their baby was a week old and some decided not to ever get back to work. And then of course, there are all possible permutations and combinations in between

Be clear on your priorities – At least on what are the top priorities in your life. You can’t have a zillion high priority items. So be mentally clear on what and who stand where on that priority list. And if this is clear, life becomes a lot easier. You may have to make a few deviations occasionally based on the circumstances. So a little give and a little take, & life becomes easier to deal with. Also, you can’t have everything all the time. Some patience, some perseverance, some sacrifices, some extra hard-work…. All are important in the long term. So try to be practical and realistic about yourself, about others and about life

Plan Plan Plan – You need to have a plan for how the day-to-day operations will work out. And especially on who will be primarily accountable for the key responsibilities. And joint accountability does not usually work! So ensure that you spend significant thought in planning. Also ensure that the plan is realistic to suit your unique lifestyle and work requirements

Recalibrate your expectations of yourself – You are not a super human. So let go of some expectations of yourself. One question which is important to constantly ask yourself is ‘Why am I doing this?’. And sometimes the answer will take you by surprise. Many times you do so many things for no real worthwhile reason – They really have no meaning, value, impact and significance on your life or the lives of those around you. And you continue doing them (sometimes for all your life) simply because you are so conditioned to doing so! It makes sense to stop doing some of these meaningless chores and invest your precious time elsewhere

Express yourself – At workplace. At home. And at any other setting where you believe it’s vital for others to know what you think, how you feel and what your priorities are. You will be surprised that many times other’s are more supportive than you can ever imagine or expect provided you express yourself and are reasonable with your requests

Get the right support network – Of friends or family or professional support. Be clear on your requirements and criteria for this support network. Be realistic to the constraints of others. Evaluate your options and then decide on what will work for you. And it always helps to have more than one fall back options (Just in case things don’t go as planned!)

Give yourself ‘Me Time’ – Ensure you consciously set aside at least an hour a week to do things you love – just for yourself. While it may be hard to practice initially, if you are determined you will be able to make this time. And this is absolutely essential for your rejuvenation and to energize you. Your life has changed in ways beyond your imagination & suddenly the little day-to-day pleasures which you almost took for granted will have a whole new meaning. Something as simple as watching a movie in the theater or having a dinner without baby talk and worries or reading the newspaper or watching your favorite program on TV or going for a walk… Whatever you do does not really matter… Just do it!

Have a plan for any unexpected circumstance / emergencies – You never know when there is a situation which is completely unexpected. For e.g.: Baby is not well, Your baby’s caretaker is absent, You are unwell, etc. etc.(And most parents will vouch for this in the first year of their kids life). Think through how you will tackle such a situation. For e.g.: Will you be able to work from home? Will you be able to take time off? Will you be able to request a friend / family to support you? etc. etc. etc.

Start the solid foods (if possible) - Starting your baby on solid foods is a definite milestone in the baby’s growth and development. And if medically your baby is ready to be introduced to solid foods, try and initiate it before you resume work. The weaning bottle is great to use for introduction of solid foods. Also try and start the solid foods a few weeks before you resume work. Just to help your baby settle down to solids and also to watch out for any food allergies that your baby might have

Converse with other mothers - Your not the first one in this world who is in this situation. There have been a zillion mothers who went through this & a zillion more who will go through it. A few conversations with mothers who have been through similar experiences are usually of great help – Not only does it make you more aware of the realistic issues, constraints and challenges; but it several times opens up options which you probably never thought of. And sometimes, just a re-iteration of what you already know and a validation of what you have decided from an experienced mother really helps! Of course your situation is personal and unique to you. But then again, how unique can it really be?

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