Yep, the juggle is real. Going back to work after having a baby is a rude awakening when it comes to life logistics. You feel like you’re spinning a plate on every finger and every toe, while there’s a baby on your hip and a laptop in your hand. Take it from us, mums who’ve done it several times over, it will feel like chaos to start with, but you’ll soon ease into it and it will just become, well, life. Here are a few ways to make the transition go a little more smoothly…
Push for flex
Flexible working is no longer a novelty – since the pandemic, companies have realised that they don’t have to chain staff to their desks all day, all week, all year, to get the best out of them. Negotiate what you can – compressed hours (worker slightly longer days with shorter breaks can give you more quality time with the kids), regular days working from home, a four day week, term time only hours… whatever would make life easier for you and your family, push for it. It’s your legal right after all.
What you need to know is that this whole thing is a house of cards. A house of cards that can come tumbling down if an unexpected snotty nose or train delay messes up your day. If you meticulously plan, those sorts of setbacks will be easier to manage – because one day of chaos is better than 365. The main thing you need to do is get your partner, if you have one, onboard. You want to sync those calendars or even try an app like Family Wall to make sure all those drop-offs, pick-ups, parents evenings, birthday parties and meals are accounted for, so that the stuff you can’t plan for is the only bit that’s stressful.
Get your childcare right
Choosing childcare is a tricky business – nursery, childminder, nanny, kindly grandparents? So many options, many of them mind-boggling when you’ve never done it before – not to mention likely the priciest commitment of your month. Leaving your little one somewhere that ticks the boxes of being both lovely and convenient is essential – but not always easy. Even the dreamiest setting will become a grind if it adds too much time onto your commute, and likewise, if you go for somewhere just because it’s right by your bus stop even though you have misgivings about the vibes, that will be a different kind of stressful. Our number one tip is to do some trial runs before it matters, so that you can nail down the routine and feel confident that your little one is properly settled before you have to do it for real.
Outsource what you can
When you’re already paying for childcare, the thought of having to fork out more money on non-essential stuff can be galling, but if, for instance, a clean house is essential to your sanity, and you can afford a cleaner, do not hesitate to get one. Your weekends and evenings are more precious than ever, so if you can avoid spending them in domestic drudgery, go for it. The same applies to shopping – unless you’re one of the weirdos (hi! Let’s be friends) who finds supermarket shopping pleasurable and relaxing, take it online. Why wouldn’t you?
Make sure you feel equal
This is probably the most important tip of all – we’ve already said it’s important to get your partner onboard with the juggle on a practical level, but they need to engage emotionally too. No matter who earns more, who has the longer commute, or who has the loudest opinions, you are both parents here, and have an equal responsibility to feel really bloody stressed by juggling work and kids. Try and work with your personalities and natural strengths – if one of you is an early bird, and being out of the door at 7am means they can get home earlier and be in charge of pick-ups and dinner, make that the regular arrangement. And when you start to resent each other for seemingly having more time than the other, it’s a good opportunity to book in some quality time together (see previous tip about outsourcing, and remember a babysitter is cheaper than a divorce). Even if you do just talk about the kids.
Make sure you squeeze in time for yourself
This is a tough one. Werk werk werk werk werk and kids kids kids kids kids means you you you you you is left with very little time to yourself. But feeling like you’ve got windows of time to do exactly as you please is essential to your well-being. It could be going to the gym, it could be reading a book, it could be going to bed really early once a week, it could be getting riotously drunk with your mates… whatever makes you happy, make sure it is squeezed onto the calendar at some point, and ultimately the whole family will benefit from the ensuing happy vibes (well, apart from the bit where you’re hungover, if you did go for the riotously drunk option).