Mums returning to work - thoughts and advice!

Some Babies Do You Have Em… mums that return to work too quickly! Thoughts and advice

I look at the implications for mother and child when a mum feels she has to rush back to work, and offers advice to new mums torn between child and career.

Having seen the French Minister Rachida Dati return to work with breathtaking speed four days after giving birth, my heart sank. Women like Ms Dati unfortunately set a precedent for the rest of us. New mums start to think that if she can do it they must too. They worry that their employers will look at such news reports as proof that it can be done and ask why their employees aren’t rushing back to their desks straight from the maternity ward.

Babies Need Comfort after Their Birth

My first thought is, "hang on a minute, don't our babies deserve better?" And by and large research into infancy suggests they do. After all a baby knows its mother’s smell and voice - and that’s immediately comforting after birth. No one else will do as it adjusts to the big, bright world so very different to the cosy womb a baby has been used to. The baby’s adjustment needs time if it's going to start feeling secure and attached its mother and its father.

You Might Convince Yourself

But determined women convince themselves that their baby will be okay looked after by another person if that person’s been trained and vetted properly. And for some babies that will be okay and they’ll end up secure and adjusted. For most babies that’s a second rate option, though, and I'd only ever recommend it in the most extreme circumstances where there didn't seem to be any other option.

A Baby's Demands Are Massive

The reason why I always want new mothers to look carefully at their options is because the demands of a new baby are massive. No matter how streamlined a super-career woman's life is, having a demanding day and then facing demanding nights with their newborn are a tall order. A baby is a 24/7 ball of unpredictable emotions and reactions. They can get a colicky tummy, fever or tears in seconds flat. They might sleep one night and then be up all night and next. Trying to streamline your baby like your career is near impossible and adds additional stress to the woman thinking she'll be able to do it.

A Partner's Responsibility

Also from my experience most women who are so career-oriented that they’d consider going back to work shortly after giving birth tend to have high-powered partners too. Such men aren't going to be playing the happy ‘househusband’ with the new baby. And a baby needs at least one of its parents around! Thankfully of the few men who decide to become househusbands many provide a wonderful start in life for their children.

Additional Conflicts

Career women often face conflicts about additional evening and weekend work. I've never known anyone with a career who didn't have to take work home from time to time or attend a conference, etc. During a pregnancy when you're planning to get back to work very quickly it's easy to forget there’ll be such additional conflicts/demands because previous to having your baby they don't seem like conflicts!  In these situations I've known women that literally spend 15 or so minutes with their children in the evening and no more. That's incredibly lonely for a baby!

Let's Not Forget That Pesky Guilt

Then there’s the guilt to be faced because no matter how good you are at times you're going to doubt your decision. Some women even go through a daily battle with doubt as they walk out the door to work. They feel literally torn between their baby and a job. This may seem counterintuitive but in some ways it can be a more positive experience for mother and baby if the mother is decisive and makes a positive decision not to feel guilty. So that when she's around her baby, the baby doesn't absorb her internal conflict. Believe me babies are little emotional sponges and they absorb such things!

There Are Choices and Options

Thankfully most women have various choices over what happens once they have their baby and about taking all, or at least a good portion, of their maternity leave. It may not be easy making these decisions and deciding what seems like the best possible options but there are certain things you can do to optimise your situation.

Get informed: know what your rights are when it comes to your maternity leave. Check out the DWP (Department of work and pensions) website or the website for information.

There's no time like the present: as soon as you find that you're pregnant start discussing options with your partner. Don't do it so many women I know do, thinking that nine months is a long time and leaving decisions to where you’re panicked around the time of the birth.

When should you leave your baby: again you need to discuss this with your partner and perhaps any family member is like your parents who may be willing to help with childcare. Begin with complete honesty when it comes to your gut feelings. Would you, deep down, really like to be a stay-at-home mum for as long as possible? Do you think you'd like to have a few months at home and then get back to work as soon as possible? Maybe your ideal situation would be somewhere in between these two points? Take time to think things through carefully.

Part-time solutions: you may be in the fortunate position to decide that going back to work part-time after maternity leave is the ideal situation to you. There are of course pros and cons to part-time work. On the one hand it might slow down certain career paths to go part-time. On the other hand you might find being home longer and then part-time incredibly fulfilling and after a few years ready to get back into full-time work.

Flexitime: check out your rights to work flexitime as this may be a good solution to you if you feel you need to work full-time.

Your feelings about leaving your baby: you have a right to your very personal feelings about what you should do you add you have a baby. Your best friend may have had a baby and feel completely different about getting back to work or staying at home than you do. Many women I meet feel too much pressure to go with the flow of those in their peer group or what work colleagues had done. It's far more important to get the balance right in your life as a mother and worry about what others think. Please make this your most important rule that guides your choices post-pregnancy.

When you first leave your baby: however long you stayed at home, even if you're dying to get back to work, don't be surprised by the powerful feelings that surface when you first leave your baby as you head back to work. You can’t predict these and so don’t be thrown. There may be tears, guilt, regret, self-doubt. You can deal with these as they arise.

Don’t bottle it up: Share your doubt, guilt, anxieties with your partner, mum, best friends and anyone else you think will understand. It’s particularly true for new mums that a problem shared is a problem halved. Research shows that you’re less likely to develop Post Natal Depression if you’re honest about difficult feelings then if you ignore them.

Nothing’s set in stone: whatever you thought during your pregnancy, and maybe decided to do once your baby was born, may change. It may be that you want to take more time off or you want to get back to work sooner. Don't feel you have to stick with your original plan. Instead talk through your changed feelings with your partner. It’s not the end of the world to change your plans!


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