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Rejoining work after maternity leave? This working mother’s honest narrative will give you some useful tips to ease back into work.
When you are in labor or lying in the OT for a C-section, getting back to work is the last thing that comes to your mind. Though prepared, the moment your little one is in your arms, several questions hound you.
Eventually, as time progresses, one gets more settled and confident handling the baby, her timings, leaving the room and have some time for thinking about life other than ‘baby’. Though dads are more involved in parenting these days, there is some sort of pressure on the mother – an invisible pressure. To a mother, ‘baby’ becomes a priority over career and everything else.
Being sleep deprived yourself, you learn to feed, burp, change nappies, clean the poop and bring up a happy baby. This art is innate yet motherhood doesn’t come to you overnight and it is a steep learning curve for every mother. With no help, it is frustrating as well. Actually, ‘Maternity’ is not a break, as you hardly rest or relax during this break and all mothers would agree on this.
I took a career break after I pursued a Ph.D in Biochemistry. After my thesis submission, I joined my husband in the UK. With the ‘biological clock’ ticking as I was 30, this was the right time for me to plan a baby and ‘she’ happened. Being an ambitious woman myself, I always thought about my career during the pregnancy but with the arrival of Aadhya, being a mother was more than a full time job.
Finally, when she was 4 months old, I got a full time job and I started crying when I got a call that I was selected as a Research Associate. This crying was mainly due to the thought of sending a 4 month old Aadhya to the nursery/daycare. Later, I realized that this was the beginning of ‘guilt’.
I learnt some valuable ways while juggling work and parenting, and I am still learning. I may not be the best person to act as a guide on this but here are some tips from my experience.
The first and foremost task is to look out for the best child-care you can afford. Being in the UK was a positive for me to begin my career post maternity as the childcare is excellent, though expensive.
If you can arrange for your mum/mum-in-law to come over and stay with you at the beginning, till you and your little one settle, things become easier and don’t seem as impossible. Having a family member over would relieve the financial burden and will give you peace of mind about your child being in safe hands. Never feel incompetent when you ask for help – ‘Supermom’ is not reality.
Rope in your husband to help you manage and share responsibilities. Dads these days love to get involved. Take their support, there is nothing to feel ashamed about.
Being ambitious is good but not too ambitious in the early days; accept that it is hard to focus with your little one being at a daycare or with your family members. Acceptance leads to ease in living a situation.
For the initial few days, try and arrange for flexible hours of working until you are sure that your child has settled in properly. Visit the nursery/ daycare and spend some time with your child. Doing this helps you be at peace.
If possible, work part-time or from home for a bit and then switch back to full time. Unfortunately, being in Research, I never could opt for part time.
Don’t expect ‘Success’ always and immediately. I enjoyed getting back to work because I didn’t expect lots of success immediately but at the same time, I was not laid back.
5. Time management is the key. A smart phone or being tech savvy comes handy. I literally mark my important days in the calendar.
There are times when I feel hopeless and extremely guilty leaving Aadhya at the nursery. A working mother is no different from any other mother, she too has emotions.
If you are still breast feeding when you join work, ask your employer for a secluded room for milk expression. If that is not possible, then provide frozen breast milk to the daycare or nursery. Frozen milk can be stored for 3 months so your baby can get the goodness of your milk when you are at work.
Calling up at her nursery and getting her report always helps.
Share your guilt with other working mothers; they will give you some useful tips. Even if not, you know there are others juggling and it’s not only you!
Keep telling yourself that a career makes you happy and a happy you will make your child happy.
Also remind yourself that your child will be independent, confident and responsible at a young age, and will feel proud at having a mother like you.
Make the most of your free time with your little one.
Motherhood doesn’t mean abandoning your likes and hobbies.
Find time for yourself. At times, my husband takes Aadhya to the park while I am at home.
Again, a happy and relaxed you is what your child expects.
The most important and challenging part of being Indian is cooking and especially when you are abroad, there is no escape! With no hired help, one has to be multi-tasking. Don’t be grumpy about managing the house hold chores – it only aggravates the situation.
Obsessive Compulsive Disorder exists; try to get rid of that. I find it hard to see a disorganized house but I ‘give up’ sometimes which is helpful.
Cook 3-4 meals over the weekend and freeze them (though I make sure that Aadhya always eats freshly cooked food).
Household chores are a shared responsibility.
However perfectly you manage your time and mark your calendar, unanticipated illness will make you feel miserable and out of place but it is a part of a child’s growing up. There would be many who would pass nasty comments, but ignorance is bliss. You can’t please everyone, so be confident; not only for financial stability but for your own self-esteem – having a career is important.
Being a mother, I realized that I have become more efficient in multi-tasking and it has only added to my personality. I don’t try to be perfect in all my endeavours; right now it’s jack of all and master of none!
Pic credit: milla_oliiveira (Used under a CC license)
I have always loved writing and strongly believe that writing can create social awareness . I
Nice article..yes it is tough to be in Science and being a mother all at once…
I have a similar story
But then I managed, it is been 10 years now and I am glad that with little hiccups I could return to work and continued….
My daughter is my best friend and she has adapted very well with her working mother…just like her mother is a professional woman, she calls herself a professional day care goer
Thanks Chandrima Mam. It is a fine balancing act. I do try to do some good science but at times everything around is too much to handle. The crux is to keep going. I read your article and had shared it. I did my PhD from NCL, Pune…:)
Great article!!!!speaks for the trouble and miseries of all the working mothers….Being a mom of 2 month old kid i am still juggling and struggling whether I should go ahead with my career or take a break….its a tough decision to let your child(and that too a 4 month old) be in daycare but as u say,career is important for your self esteem….Good luck to you and I am sure you will emerge as a wonderful mother 🙂
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