For the last several months I have been preparing to return to work after an extended leave. I started off hoping to find something that was remote or part-time with the same employer but I have been unsuccessful. I have had to consider full-time options now which has me pretty anxious. How will I manage the already busy home-life that I have with a husband and 2 kids. Kids with more special needs? It is a weight I have been carrying for awhile now. But that weight is so much less than what I am about to experience actually being out of the house for 40 hours a week. So I started to think about how I can prepare. I have already been taking with the kids and husband about my return to work and that I would like to see them helping more around the house, taking more off my plate (which is something I have needed for some time anyway). Unfortunately they are falling on deaf ears which is just making my anxiety go through the roof.
Here are five tips that I have come up with (so far) to make the transition easier:
1.Be Kind To Yourself
First and foremost we need to go easy on yourself. Returning to work no matter how long you have been away is hard. It is hard to leave the kids/household, leave the routine you have developed the expectations you had. The comfort and flexibility of being home. But on the other side there is the excitement and yearning to learn new things to use certain parts of your brain again. (Mom brain is a real thing). Getting into the right frame of mind can do a world of wonders for the soul. For those that can, returning to work part-time or easing into a gradual return to work can be helpful to many.
Determine what you want and need. Do you need or want to work full time? What are your family commitments and expectations? Does some of the commitments and expectations need to be altered for you to return to work? You don’t want to spread yourself too thin. Start talking about yourself like a professional rather than a parent. Connect with other working parents and find out how they balance work/life/home balance. Determine what hours or how many hours will work best for you and the family.
3. Get The Family On Board
Prepare the family for your return to work. Have conversations with the kids and husband about what will change, what will stay the same. What your expectations and boundaries are. Where you need help and what that looks like. Working is for the benefit of the whole family as is maintaining the household. Everyone (age appropriate) needs to take responsibility for sharing in the workload. A family is a unit that functions best when working together. It is important that everyone understands that and understands their place in the unit. Do practice runs with the family. In preparation, practice days as if you were working – get the kids to try out the childcare (if applicable), if the children are old enough to be home alone – have them practice being home by themselves. Practice your new schedule – getting up earlier and going to bed earlier with the whole family, so that everyone transitions into the new schedule together.
4. Divide Up the Household Duties
Make a list of the household duties and have a family meeting to start diving them up. If your family is used to you doing certain task and by going back to work you will have less time to get them done, it is only fair that those tasks need to be spread out amongst the family. Make it fun and offer choices when possible. ie: I wrote down extra tasks on popsicle sticks and assigned an electronic time/dollar value to each one. If my kids want to go on electronics they must earn that time. When they come home from school a certain list of standard items must be completed (ie. empty lunch kits, put jackets/shoes away, bring agendas, water bottles, lunch kits upstairs), wash hands/take a shower). Once those tasks are done, then they can do the extra items to earn time on electronics or earn chore money (they choose). Everyone has to learn how priorities work. For more information in chore charts, check out my past blog post.
5. Look For Ways To Make Your Life Easier
There are lots of things that we can all do to make our lives just a little easier a little at a time. Ways we can be more efficient with our time, streamlining our lives and getting rid of little things that we actually don’t need to do. Adjusting our schedules, adjusting your priorities etc.
- Wake up earlier and/or go to bed earlier. I have always been a night owl but that is because I like to have my peace and quiet time after the kids go to bed. I have discovered that putting my kids to sleep 30 m in earlier (730) is better for them (aged 10 & 7) and for me and hubby. It gets us that 30 extra minutes of us time or time to get things done but it is helpful to the kids. Of course this one depends on each child, their age and situation but having kids with ADHD, one of the best things for them is sleep.
- Schedule fun family days and dates. You and the family will want something to look forward to and not feel like work is taking anything fun away from the family. It is important to agree on a good balance of family outings/dates per month so that you don’t “over tax” your time and energy but still maintain a healthy amount of fun.
- Reevaluate your time – maybe there are things that you have been doing that you don’t need to spend as much time doing? Maybe there are ways to be more efficient about your time. Some examples:
- Picking certain days to do laundry and other household chores opposed to trying to “fit” them in here and there. Personally that starts to make me feel overwhelmed because I am always busy and trying to do too much. If I know that I have a certain day where I can devote time to those tasks, then they can wait.
- Making school lunches the night before might be a better use of time, and so you don’t feel rushed in the morning. Creating morning and after school lists so that everyone knows what their expectations are.
- Maybe you don’t need to stay up until midnight to catch up on your favorite shows, having “me” time is important but not at the cost of much needed sleep.
- Rearranging rooms ie. foyer or bedrooms or kitchen to be more accessible to the kids will make it so that they are able to do more things on their own.
- Maybe now is the time to start meal-planning. This can save you a lot of money and time!
- Ordering your groceries online for pick-up/delivery. Shopping takes up a lot of time especially if you go frequently to get fresh items. It can also be costly – I don’t know too many people that just buy what is on their list – we are always tempted by something else at the store. Many people also utilize meal-delivery services. Depending on your buying/waste habits this can be a smart move or a more costly one. Sometimes the mere convenience is worth the extra cost. Here is a review Modern Mama did on Hello Fresh Canada. Modern Mama has no shortage of money-saving and time-saving tips for busy parents. Just check out some of these past blog posts:
Edmonton’s Meal Prep/Pre-made Meals 2022
Saving Money With Online Grocery Shopping
5 Ways to Save Money On Groceries
More Tips on How to Make a Parents Life Easier
Check out Modern Mama’s other blog post on “Your back-to-work after maternity leave bucket list” for more useful tips and information.
You can do hard things!