Returning back to work after giving birth: How to ease the transition
As the world celebrates International Women’s Week, this year’s theme #BreakTheBias brings into question a lot of gender issues where equality is yet to be achieved.
One of these issues is the gender bias that most mums face at the workplace after taking a break to deliver.
For many women, a new baby often means taking a break from their careers or transitioning into part-time work or self-employment. In comparison, even though most companies are now offering short paternity leave to fathers, most of them tend to continue on in full-time or formal employment even after having a family.
In Kenya, only a small percentage of households have adults that work full-time. In most cases, the person who either works part-time or not at all is the woman.
Taking a break from work to raise a child often has several implications for women Including loss of skills, the motherhood wage penalty, and loss of opportunities for development and promotions. As a result, in modern society, most women choose to go back to work after the formal 3 months of maternity leave. A transition that can be very challenging.
Those first few weeks back after maternity leave can be a roller coaster of emotions but there are strategies and products that can help new mums ease into the transition.
Be kind to yourself
To begin with, try not to judge your performance as a mum with those first few weeks back at work. Be gentle with yourself. There has been a dramatic change in your life and you will probably be full of self-doubt and probably frustrated. The conflict between staying at work and quitting after maternity leave is common among many mums but this time of self-doubt does not last forever. Do not ignore your feelings but remember just like any stage in life, that this too shall pass
Have a child care plan
This is probably one of those things that you need to take care of before going back to work. Create a concrete plan on how your child will be taken care of when you go back to work. Will there be a nanny, daycare, or will a relative take care of the babysitting? Either way, have them fully trained in your child’s needs before you go back to work.
Have backup plans for emergencies. Have a good plan for when the baby gets sick, the child care facility is closed or when your babysitter cannot make it or is stuck in traffic (this will probably happen). Family members are a first-choice for many but are not the only option. There are employers who offer child-care facilities and if you use daycare, the provider can offer an alternative child care plan.
Monitor your baby’s movements and wellbeing back home from your phone using the Foscam baby monitors
Prepare for pumping and storage
If your plan is to breastfeed even after going back to work, the transition to bottle-feeding and pumping should be gradual. Pumping should begin before your maternity leave is over to create a good stockpile of frozen milk. Start bottle-feeding slowly at least 3 weeks before going back to work. Have your partner or the baby’s caregiver do the feedings as well to get the baby used to someone else feeding. Make a plan for when and where you will do the pumping at work. There are employers who offer a space for this but if you do not have that in your workplace, you can talk to your employer to see if there are facilities that can be set aside for your use when you want to pump.
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Work on your schedule
Not everyone has the option to decide whether to go back to work gradually or come back full-time from the get-go. If you do have the choice, it’s important to consider the pros and cons of each.
As you create your schedule, remember to prioritize. Managing your time is important as you now have a reason to get your work done early so you can go back home on time. Create daily to-do lists for work and home and figure out what needs to be accomplished immediately and what can wait. Create time for pumping in your schedule and start delegating to family members, partners, or coworkers. This will give you time to focus on the essential things.
Be upfront at work and set expectations
Schedule time for an honest conversation with your boss (not on the first day of work but probably sometime in the first month). Explain to them about your new realities and the challenges up ahead but be clear about your full commitment to the job and the company. Talk to your employer about what they can do to make your new situation work best for both of you. This could include projects you’d like to be considered for and work travel that you are not willing or willing to do.
Have control of your story and be realistic about what you are capable of accomplishing in the first few weeks back. You can also seek your boss’s advice on how to ensure a successful transition.
When dealing with colleagues, having the “I’ll adapt” or “I’ll figure it out” mindset can be risky. If you do not have a clear plan, your co-workers will make assumptions. Have a predictable schedule and let your co-workers know what to expect and what you require from them early on.
Seek support and create time for yourself
Just like those first few days after birth, transitioning back to work requires a lot of support from your circle. Do not be afraid to seek and accept help. Speak to your partner, family, or friends when you are feeling guilty, overwhelmed, or just sad. Many working mums struggle with pumping. You can schedule an appointment with a lactation consultant to help make the process manageable.
Lastly, remember to create time for yourself. This is easier said than done but is critical to your mental and physical health. If you are overwhelmed and exhausted emotionally or physically, you won’t have the strength for your career or your child. Get enough rest, Go to bed at a reasonable time and take naps when the baby naps during the weekends. Get an exercise routine that works for you even if it’s just a little yoga once a week. The goal is to help you towards feeling your best.
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