Finding your feet as a working parent

One of the biggest stressors for mums and dads returning to the workforce after having a baby is the worry that they are somehow neglecting their child.

This worry sits right alongside its opposite: the fear that they are not committing to their job.

Your thinking actually changes once you become a parent. It’s like the joy of parenthood comes as a package deal along with guilt, stress, anxiety and a sense of not being good enough.

It’s time to stop listening to those negative thoughts. Yes, it is possible to tune them out, but like everything worth doing, it take practice and time. Here are some tips to help you come to terms with your new persona as a Working Parent.

Look at the evidence

Is your baby happy, healthy and content? Perhaps you worry that your baby is unhappy at child care while you are away. It’s a legitimate concern and you must trust your instincts and your eyes – is the child care facility clean, calm and nurturing?

Can they send you photos of your child so you can see they aren’t spending the entire day crying their hearts out? Most child carers will do this. If your child is happy, then rest easy. You are a great parent.

Is your boss happy with your work? Are you completing your tasks on time? Are you collaborating well with your team? If you are achieving what you are being paid to do, then rest easy. You are a great worker.

Start small

Give yourself plenty of time to settle back into work life. I’m talking months, not weeks. Get your essential work done, turn up on time in reasonably neat clothes and focus on developing a new, comfortable relationship with your boss.

You have different needs now, such as unexpected absences, occasional late starts, and a need for flexibility. These needs are perfectly normal and you are protected by law. Work with your boss to reach solutions that work for everyone.

If you are ambitious and high achieving, your time will come. Once you have a familiar routine of getting up, getting yourself and the baby ready, getting to work, doing the job, getting home and getting ready for the next day, then you can start to think about adding on some new goals.

You might start to think strategically again at work, and get started on longer term projects. Perhaps you will begin to suggest initiatives which will require extra work from you after hours. Just pace yourself and pull back if you find things start to become stressful.

Remember that your baby changes every day and today’s settled routine can be turned upside down overnight as they grow and change.

Don’t expect to have complete control over your own time and energy again until your child is well into primary school. That’s not a bad thing, it’s simply the way it is. Accept it and make it work for you.

Listen to advice – and take it

You are not alone. There are millions of working parents out there. Ask them how they cope. Listen to their answers. Don’t reject any ideas out of hand. Gold nuggets can be found in the most unlikely places.

An older man once told me that if your baby is crying, remember the three Ts: Teeth, Tummy or Trousers. I laughed and dismissed this sage wisdom but by golly he was so right. That little phrase echoes round my head to this day and when I found myself at 4am with a screaming baby, tearing my hair out, knowing I needed to be up in just a couple of hours, his advice helped me to work out the problem and solve it.

Try out something new

Now is the perfect time to try yoga, meditation, massage, bushwalking, swimming or dancing. Using your body and letting your mind rest quietly is a wonderful antidote for anxious and negative thoughts.

It really is true that you have more energy when you exercise regularly than when you don’t. Those first couple of weeks of pain are worth it! Also, these practices have been proven to increase positive thoughts and calmness – and what parent doesn’t need more of that? Organise to leave your baby in child care for an extra hour or two once or twice a week and use that time purely for your own body and mind’s wellbeing. You will NEVER regret it.