I actually don’t remember my first day back to work after each of my three maternity leaves. They must have gone really smoothly! Or I have perpetual mommy-brain (I know I do!). What I do remember, however, are the stressful weeks that followed my return to work. As much as I was looking forward to seeing my colleagues again, talking with adults, going to the bathroom alone and shopping during my lunch hour, the transition was never easy. Some of the thoughts I had on a daily basis were:
‘Maybe I should just stay at home.’
‘I can’t do this anymore!’
‘Perhaps a part-time job would be better.’
‘I am so tired and stressed all the time!’
‘OMG, I’m going to be late picking them up!’
Maybe you’ve had some of these thoughts? These feelings of overwhelm, helplessness, and stress were not doing my family or me any good. And everyday I dreaded the frenzy of the end of day pick-up. It wasn’t feasible for me to stay at home financially, so I had to find a way to make this part of the day more enjoyable – for everyone.
Here are six ways to help you manage the stressful after work frenzy:
1 – Modify your work hours
Sometimes this is possible; sometimes it’s not depending on your job and the environment you work in. But even going into work and leaving 30 minutes earlier can make a world of difference. And face it, we often dawdle and leave the office late, trying to respond to one last email or finish one last project. Leaving earlier gives you time to breathe knowing you won’t be late for pick-up. I swear those days I left late and the subway broke down almost gave me a heart attack!
2 – Breastfeed your baby and/or bring light snacks
When my eldest began daycare, he was always grumpy when I picked him up. It’s a pretty normal reaction – baby hasn’t seen you for the whole day and then let’s out all his pent up emotions when he sees you. Yeah! When his cries didn’t subside though and we were having routine meltdowns, I realized something else was up: he was hungry!! If you are breastfeeding, taking the time to breastfeed baby before leaving the daycare is a nice way for the two of you to reconnect. It may mean you’ll get home later, but for a breastfed baby, those moments are important. As the kids grow older, I always have some light snacks on hand as I find it’s a good way to keep the peace on our way home and avoid those nasty tantrums.
3 – Hire some help
After our 2nd baby was born, I found returning to work more difficult and we decided to get some help. Luckily for us, my young sister-in-law was looking for a bit of extra income and agreed to pick up the kids and make them dinner twice a week. What a relief this was! I didn’t have to rush out of the office every single day. I could run some errands or book an appointment. And the kids also loved getting to know their auntie. After a couple of months, though, she was no longer available, and boy did we miss her! Then hubby took over.
4 – Order home cooked meals from a caterer
Cooking healthy meals for my family has to be one of the top stresses in my life. I find it very difficult to do, especially when working. One of the best baby shower gifts I ever received was a gift certificate for healthy home cooked meals delivered to my doorstep. Wow! I used them immediately postpartum (who has the time or the energy to cook with a newborn!) and I used the service again when I went back to work. I cannot tell you how happy these meals made me and they are so much better than picking up fast food on the way home. I now recommend this service to all families, for those days when you just don’t have the time to cook.
5 – Meal planning
Meal planning and cooking in large batches can also be a life safer. It may take away some of that spontaneity about what your going to eat that day, but it sure can make life simpler. You can make a list and shop on the weekend, and you and your partner can do some of the preparation, such as washing and chopping, ahead of time. Fill your freezer with meals for the coming weeks, such as soups, pasta sauces, and meals for your crockpot. You’ll thank me!
6 – Stop stressing and enjoy this moment with your kids
I realized – much later on than I’d like to admit – that I was making myself crazy trying to race home as quickly as possible, and I was the reason we were all stressed out. So, I made a conscious decision to enjoy the time reconnecting with my kids at the end of the day. So what if we eat supper late. So what if we skip a bath or two (or three!). If the weather is nice, I bring extra snacks and we go to the park. It gives me time to meet other parents in the neighbourhood and realize I am not the only one feeling stressed. And the kids are always very happy to have extra time on the swings.
Being a working parent involves preparation. It may not go smoothly at first, but with some planning and help from outside sources, it can be an enjoyable part of the day.
What tips do you have for working parents? I would love to hear from you!
p.s. Please share with the parents you know.
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