As any parent knows, returning to work after maternity leave is one of the hardest things new mums and dads will have to do. The bond we form with our babies in those first few months is intense and lasts a lifetime. So, for most parents, coping with the prospect of going back to work involves a multitude of mixed emotions. It seems that just when you’ve got your head around being a full time parent, it’s time to smarten up the wardrobe, kick the brain back into gear and head back to the workplace; all the time wondering where on earth all that maternity leave has gone.
The combination of all these things, mixed with what feels like a completely different personality to the one you had before – not to mention the confusing emotions – means the first day you leave your child in someone else’s care – be it a grandparent, childminder or nursery – is bound to be a tough one. But, it doesn’t have to be as bad as you think…
No matter how much you feel you want to hug your child to your chest, with great big sobs of apology, try to keep it together!
Be happy with your decisionIt’s not easy, but hopefully you’ve done all the ground work, visited a few nurseries, asked the right questions that are important to you, chatted it through with friends and family, and finally made your decision. If you’re still anxious, ask the nursery to send you correspondence like newsletters etc, so you get a genuine feel for what’s going on – this will help you to create a positive mental image of when your child is there.
Remember – your child needs you to keep it together!
No matter how much you feel you want to hug your child to your chest, with great big sobs of apology, try to keep it together! Day one is always going to be hard, so give yourself a break. Being calm, confident, reassuring and – importantly – smiling, this will help ease your baby into it. If in the beginning that’s asking the impossible, ask your partner, grandparents or an auntie to do the drop off until you’re ready.
It’s different to home – not better or worse, just different
Nurseries advertise a ‘home-from-home’ environment, but this can sometimes be confusing. What’s truly meant by this is that your child will be cared for, thought of, considered and held in mind by those adults caring for him or her in the same way they would experience this at home.
However, unless you have three babies, four toddlers or eight pre-schoolers to look after on your own, it’s not the same as home. This doesn’t make it worse or better, it just makes it different – different experiences, relationships and routines that are all beneficial in helping your child become sociable, resilient and capable.
Book more than one settling-in visit
When the nursery offers settling-in visits, take them! These are so important – not only in helping your child settle in, but in helping you get to know the nursery and key staff better. It’s time for you to talk to your child’s key person about all the important little things that will enable them to form a strong relationship. Everything from how he likes to be held when having his bottle, to comforters, sleep times, favourite songs or rhymes… all of it.
Be prepared to take time off work when your baby is unwell
Unfortunately, it’s almost guaranteed that your child will become unwell at some point whilst at nursery, and the necessary response from the nursery is generally not popular. It’s their job to make sure your child is properly cared for, preferably on a one-to-one basis, and this usually means being at home with you.
They also have to make sure that the spread of infection is kept to an absolute minimum around the nursery – so again, that means going home. They then have to remind parents of the 48-hour exclusion policy. This is never popular, but entirely necessary. So, don’t think the nursery is being deliberately cruel when this happens to you – it’s the norm.
And don’t forget to trust them
The people who choose to work in childcare are the most thoughtful, reflective, caring, dedicated team of people you could ever wish to come across. If you’ve done your research, received recommendations, asked questions of the manager and weighed up the ‘feel’ of a nursery, then you need to believe that you’re right to place your complete trust in them.
So, relax a little, allow yourself the luxury of trusting that you know what’s best for your child. You’ve already decided that a key part of that is you returning to work for reasons of either sanity, finances or perhaps both. All that remains is for you to make the commitment to work with your nursery, in order to help you become one of many amazing and wonderful parents who strive to make sense of the work-life balance.
This may also be found on the Kids Confidential Website!