Mums going back to work

So the babymoon is over, and you’re going back to work – how will you adjust? Will your brain still work? Will you still remember how to interact with adults, drink your coffee while it’s hot, and close the toilet door?

Whether you’ve been at home for a couple of months, or you’re dipping your toes back into the workforce after years away, everything’s changed. Work is no longer the centre of your universe; rather, it’s a side hustle, the thing you do so that you can afford to keep the main thing the main thing.

After you’ve settled on childcare plans it’s time to sit down with your significant other and figure out how it will all work, ensuring expectations are clear: What will household chores/life admin look like? Who will do the drop-offs and pick-ups? Who will the childcare phone when your little one is sick? What will happen in the school holidays?

While it’s nerve-wracking leaving your child/ren, a little bit of planning goes a very long way. I’m not naturally an organised person, but it’s definitely worth the extra effort to ensure the days and weeks run smoothly for everyone.

Prepare ahead of time

Even when it’s late at night and you just want to hit the hay, your morning self will definitely thank you for a bit of preparation:

  • Set the table for breakfast.
  • Pack as much of the lunches as you can (don’t forget your own). I have a friend who pre-makes a week’s worth of sandwiches and freezes them, pulling one out every morning.
  • Set your alarm to go off an hour before you expect the child/ren to wake, giving you time to get yourself ready, make breakfast, and finish off lunches.
  • Think about what’s for dinner the next evening – no one enjoys the 5pm panic. This could involve taking meat out of the freezer, pre-chopping the veg, or even popping everything into the crockpot in the fridge, ready to be turned on in the morning.
  • Take everyone’s clothes out, ready to put on in the morning (yes, even yours).

I look at my schedule for the week ahead to see which days are the busiest with after-school activities and other work/school commitments. To make life easier, I cook a double portion of dinner on the weekends, so all I need to do on our busy evenings is re-heat a meal. Crockpots and automatic oven timers are your friends – use them!

Have an emergency plan

It also helps to work out a contingency plan for when you or your child/ren are sick. Last winter, my children came down with the flu, one after another. With four children, it meant several weeks of quarantine. Thankfully, I have an extremely understanding and flexible workplace and boss, so I was able to work from home a lot while the children rested and recovered, but what would that situation look like for you?

Work smarter, not harder

If finances allow, hire a cleaner, subscribe to a meal delivery service, and get your groceries delivered – with depression stats at an all-time high, we need to ensure that we’re looking after our stress levels and mental load and not trying to do everything we were doing pre-work.

The new normal

Ensure you’ve done some practise runs of the morning routine, and that your child is clear about what’s happening (if they’re old enough to understand). Give yourselves time to adjust – it may take a couple of months until everyone feels comfortable with how the new days look. Above all, be kind to yourself, and your child/ren, and keep the communication lines open.

Corina Eldershaw is a mum to four children.

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