Returning to Work after Parenthood

Going back to work after any holiday is a mixed blessing but returning to work after having a baby is a fairly stressful thing to do. Of course a part of you may look forward to returning to the adult world and rediscovering your intellectual abilities. But frequently this enjoyment is overshadowed by the stress of having to leave your child. If the baby is still small then guilt can add to your problems and if you’ve waited till the child is school going, you may face the stress of wondering whether you still have what it takes to do a good job! All in all, it really isn’t an easy decision, is it?

The advantage of returning to work is, that in a paradoxical manner, you push the specter of nervous breakdown further away, even though you do substantially increase your stress quotient. Tension at home is augmented by tension at work but the very act of changing problems allows your perspective to remain largely in place. As against this, when you’re stuck in only one environment, you also run the risk of getting stuck in any negative attitudes that are associated with that environment. And no parent can dispute that too much time spent with children is a wonderful recipe for parental irritation and frustration!

The disadvantages? Even if baby doesn’t mind being left alone at home, you are definitely going to feel extremely guilty. No maid or even a family member will ever measure up to your beliefs of how your child should be brought up – even if you yourself are unable to live up to your own standards if you choose to remain at home. If the baby is still breast feeding then you might have to resort to expressing or starting top feeds. For older children there’s the worry of missing an important part of their childhood and of not providing the dominant influence in their lives.

Unfortunately in India, part time work or flexi time work options are limited. Your choices are clear – child or career. It is rare that you get to enjoy the benefits of both and it’s a fact that even then you will be pushing yourself relentlessly in an effort to put in your best on all fronts. So what can you do? First of all forget perfection and comparisons with anyone else. When you’re working and raising a child, many household chores and duties will remain undone. Accept it because otherwise you run the danger of stretching yourself too thin. So you can’t be as perfect a mom as your neighbour who stays home all day or as perfect at work as your colleague who works longer hours because she has no family to look after. Even without perfection there will be days when you feel unable to cope and desperate for a break, so don’t make things worse by trying to be everything for everyone at all times.

The next thing is to spend some time on yourself. Sounds difficult? It is, but unless you spend some time looking after yourself, you are going to be unable to maintain your centeredness and its unlikely that a screaming, tense and unhappy woman is going to make a good employee or mom! So even if it seems impossible, even if it seems selfish, you need time for yourself so that you can retaing a sense of humour about the various crises waiting in the wings.

Prioritise – not everything is equally important. There were many things you could do before you became a working mom but its time to accept your limitations now. Be ruthless about cutting out stuff from your life but take care to ensure that this ‘stuff’ doesn’t include friends and family. A little bit of socializing and friendly closeness is just what the doctor ordered for retaining a clear perspective on life. A word of caution however – don’t let friends and family psyche you out with their notions on what you should or should not do. Most importantly take the time out of your busy schedule to spend time with your spouse.

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