When maternity and paternity leave ends, and the well-wishers and casserole-bearing friends and relatives have stopped coming in droves, many new parents find themselves heading back to work. For those moms and dads, long days at the office are followed by an evening of diapers, laundry, and dinner prep.
How do you cope with the reality of juggling a busy work life with a busier-than-ever home life … especially if you aren’t getting much sleep?
“Being a new parent was a hard-enough transition on its own without throwing a full-time job into the mix,” says Kelsey Down, a new mom from Utah. Her solution: “If possible, work out a gradual transition with your employer. Not everyone will offer this choice, but it doesn't hurt to ask. I was able to ease into work by starting out with 20 remote hours each week, then increasing this time incrementally and eventually pivoting back into full time in the office.”
If you’re feeling apprehensive about your childcare arrangements, Kelsey suggests doing a practice run. “It can be nerve-wracking to leave your infant in the care of another person, even if it's someone you trust. Before it's time to return to work, leave your baby with the sitter or the daycare for a couple of hours while you run a few errands. You'll feel more at ease when it's time to head back to the office for a full eight hours.”
Other parents recommend setting up practices to help you focus on work when you’re at work, and family when you’re at home. Rather than constantly checking in on your baby during the day, set a designated time to call home or to look at the daycare webcam so you can see what’s going on there.
Connecticut dad, William Roberts let his boss know he planned to leave at a certain time each evening to be home for family dinnertime, but that he’d finish up any work once the baby was in bed. He also gave his child his undivided attention from the moment he got home until the baby went to sleep. One way to do it: “Have a ‘no phones’ period,” he suggests.
Supna Shah, Florida mother of triplets says the keyword to survival is “delegate.”
“Before babies, you may have been a master multi-tasker, the perfect employee, the best spouse and had the cleanest house," she says. "Now that you're going back to work and have a new baby, prepare and empower yourself to delegate everything."
If both parents are burned out, the whole household suffers. But if you divide and conquer, then at least one parent is always rested. “My husband and I found having one of us focus on the morning chores and (the other) on the evening chores work best for us,” says Roberts.
When friends and family ask you how they can help, "Give them a list! Assign laundry to someone twice a week, assign meal prep, and find someone else to clean your house. Don't expect anything to be done the way you do it and be completely satisfied with having the tasks completed by others, so you can spend your free time with your new little one."
Another solution, Shah says, is to simplify things. "Mornings are usually the busiest time. Getting everyone up and dressed and out the door so you're not late to work every single day can cause stress when you first go back to work. Simplify your morning by packing the car the night before; put lunches in a cooler in the car and make sure the diaper bag is fully stocked. Load up the car with an extra pair of baby clothes, diapers, socks, shoes, baby wipes and a changing pad."
And lastly, says Shah, don’t forget to schedule 15 minutes into your morning routine to spend time just with your baby and your partner. This will leave you less stressed and ready to tackle the day. “Whether it's cuddling in bed just as everyone is waking up or 15 minutes on the sofa before heading out; this will get you through the rest of your day with a smile.”