I started back to work full-time a week before my daughters first birthday. I was 50/50 about going back to work, I really enjoyed my time with her, but also felt like I needed to go back, but I wasn’t sure if I would want to be there when I got back. While I was pregnant I had seen interviews and read articles about mom’s who went back to work and other’s who returned part-time or not at all.
What I realized is that many women who stayed home with their children and then decided to try and go back to work after years, found it very difficult to find anything, as they weren’t sure what their employable skills were now, and employers weren’t sure either. They felt left-out and lost, and other women were advising against not working at all for so many years, saying to instead keep your foot-in-the-door with something part-time, so that it is easier to transition back to full-time once you are ready. That way you won’t feel unemployable or out of the game. But I also read and heard other women speak about working part-time and concluded that they felt all over the place. Working part-time meant they actually worked during their days off and didn’t get paid, in order to feel like they could do their jobs effectively. Meanwhile feeling guilty about work encroaching on their time with their kids. A colleague of mine just resigned after six months because she worked part-time and felt like she wasn’t a good mom or a good employee. Of course if you have a part-time job where you only work set hours, don’t have a work phone or laptop, or clients and emails to respond to, then the situation is different. However my job is not this case, as I work in advertising/branding, and I knew I would rather be good at my job and be a great mom when I do have time with my daughter, than never feeling good enough as an employee or a mom.
Additionally, I knew I needed to send my daughter to daycare. By ten months she was very active and alert, curious about everyone and everything in a room. At home we have limited space and I didn’t want to be one of those houses overflowing with toys, none of which ever seem to be played with. She had lots of books and walks outside in her pram etc. But I knew that if I stayed home with her, I alone was no longer enough stimulation. She needed to interact with babies her age, to play with different toys, and in general cultivate skills that aren’t possible without learning more about herself, others her age and the world around her. So I had no reservations about sending her to daycare – I did have reservations about her being there for 10 hours a day. If I never went back to work, I still would have needed to send her there for a half day, twice a week, to ensure she was developing, as all the mom’s I knew from maternity leave all went back to work, resulting in limited options for playdates and baby classes only lasting an hour.
So I enrolled my daughter in full-time daycare from the outset (which I highly recommend as you can always reduce your days closer to when you return to work, however it is almost impossible to add more days last minute as they will have allocated them to other children). If you’d like information about daycare’s read How I Chose A Daycare.
As I am writing this I have been back to work over three months. Upon reflection I would have done things differently, now knowing what I know, and experienced. Hopefully you will be able to apply these learnings of mine to make your transition back to work and starting daycare smoother. If you aren’t returning to work, but want to enroll your baby in daycare there are still things I would do and not do.
What I Did
So first, three weeks before starting day care she did settling sessions a couple times a week which I highly recommend.
Second, I started transitioning her to their eating schedule, to make it easier when she got there.
Third, I transitioned her from bottles to cow’s milk in a cup to make the transition smoother and less hassle for me, to avoid buying more gear for daycare, and pay for formula when I knew at one year she no longer needed formula, and therefore shouldn’t be using a bottle either. For more details read How I Transitioned From Warm Formula & Breastmilk in a Bottle to Cold Cow’s Milk in a Cup in Three Weeks.
Fourth I made sure that I bought her all the right gear –
- Shoes for the playground that aren’t soft sole and also help her learn how to walk
- Over booties for outside if she’s not walking yet – water proof world
- All-in-one weatherproof zip suit so she can crawl or walk outside in all weather without getting wet or ruining her clothes ( I bought a more expensive one that is cuter material, better features and has a removable fleece lining – otherwise you buy a shell and then buy another all-in-one for cold weather with a lining that ends up being about the cost of my muddypuddles one below)
So I thought I was on-the-ball and really prepared! Which to be honest compared to the other mom’s I was. However I didn’t anticipate what happened next.
What I Would Differently
In retrospect I would have transitioned her into daycare more gradually. The settling in sessions were great, but they weren’t long enough at a time to prepare her, or me, for her to be there all day for 10 hours a day. If I could go back in time I would enroll her part-time the month before I started back to work for two half-days a week. Why you ask would that matter so much?
- She would have not had as much of an emotional shock making it easier on her and me – it took her 5 weeks before she was happy when I dropped her off, now she loves it but the beginning was rough
- I would have felt better about leaving her for 10 hours once she was already adjusted to spending a half-day there
- I would have had less anxiety and stress about how I was going to get dressed, get her dressed, get to daycare, find parking and get to work on-time, because I would have already practiced and got this part down before I actually had to be at work
- Baby Sickness – this is a big one. Once they go to daycare they bring all kinds of germs home (for the first three months she had a cold consistently, got really sick three times and once so badly she was lethargic for five days and we had to cancel our holiday as she couldn’t get on an airplane). The first month she was either sent home or we kept her home one day each week, while I still had to work and we still had to pay. Transitioning half-days to full-time may help with the sickness, have you avoid paying for days off, and prevent you from missing days off work your first couple weeks back.
- You Sickness – because she was sick, and tired, your getting her germs, and your body is adjusting back to work, you will inevitably get sick as well. For the first three months I felt like I was coming down with something almost every day. I made sure I took an emergen-c immunity drink every day at work, which helped me to keep sickness at bay the majority of the time and still function at work.
So basically be prepared to be sick, and your baby to be sick for the first three months (I’m not sure if our September -December was worse because it’s cold and flu season, but we have heard from many parents that the first year they are sick at daycare).
Starting earlier, you get time to take off with your baby when they are sick, and you get the time-off to be sick as well, without wasting money on days you miss at daycare and not looking bad at work for taking days off your first couple weeks back!
Good luck 🙂
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