It wasn’t easy for me to go back to work. Not after any of my 3 babies. The mere thought of having to leave them for a full day was crippling me with guilt and anxiety. An hour here or there, fine - but a whole day!? What if they cried for me? Got upset? Tired? Nobody could calm them like I could and, so far, they had only ever fallen asleep in my arms. They were still so small.
But I also wanted to go to back work and be someone other than Mammy for a bit.
And I’ve learned one thing. It is possible, with a bit of preparation and support. It also doesn’t have to be traumatic for either of you.
1. If you are breastfeeding
All my babies were exclusively breastfed, one never took a bottle (he took the milk from a shot glass though!). It is certainly possible to continue breastfeeding when you work away from home, even if it’s full-time. Some women decide to pump and leave expressed milk with their baby’s crèche or childminder. Check out this link for practical tips!
Under Irish law, breastfeeding mothers who have given birth in the last six months are entitled to a total of 60 minutes additional break per day worked, without loss of pay. Employers are expected to provide facilities (not the toilet!!!!), where this is not possible the employee is entitled to reduced hours. Unfortunately, after the six months, it is at the employer’s discretion if they are willing to keep the existing arrangement going.
What if you don’t want to pump? Depending on the age of your baby, you might have to assess your breastfeeding goals. Breastfeeding works on a supply and demand principle and if the milk isn’t removed, your body will be under the impression it isn’t needed and will stop producing it. Your body is amazing, the adjustment to your new reality will likely be quite quick. This can mean more night feeds or just one or two feeds before you leave for work in the morning and again when you return home.
2. Assess your work situation
If your pre-baby work arrangements no longer suit you, it might be worth talking to your employer about changing to part time, flexible hours or flexible schedules. It might even be possible to work from home, at least some of the time. Larger companies sometimes have childcare facilities so it could be an option to bring your child along with you and work nearby.
3. Prepare and practice
If your baby is going to a childminder or into a crèche, practice the new route a few weeks beforehand so this is not new to you or baby. Do some trial runs and drop-offs so all of you, including the childminder or crèche staff, can get acquainted and used to the new situation. This way, should questions come up, you won’t be in a situation where you have to leave work to sort it out.
4. Give yourself a break
Every time I went back to work I spent the first car journey crying. How could I leave my baby??! But I adjusted, my babies adjusted and things got easier. Nobody was left traumatised. You are not a bad person or a bad parent for going back to work. Be kind to yourself. The biggest guilt factor, to this day, is that I often only get to see my babies for a few hours a day and I feel we are all missing out on quality time together. We have learned to make up for it by doing things on the days that I am home, I bring them grocery shopping with me and we get the occasional treat together. Cleaning the house has moved way back in priorities and takeaways have become a thing!
You will find your new legs. You’ve got this!