Following on from my last blog, below are my remaining 5 tips. I hope you will find them useful.
- Communicate with your partner. This is very important as you will be feeling all sorts of emotions while you are pregnant and after your have your baby. You will feel guilty for deciding to go back to work and letting someone else look after your child. My husband was extremely supportive. We had a very open mind and decided to just keep on trying until we found a solution that worked for us. Initially he did the drop off at nursery which allowed me to get to work early so I could finish early to pick up our son. This worked for us for some time until he could no longer drop off in the mornings because of new work commitments which was where an aupair was useful for us.Forgetting about school runs for a minute, let’s consider household chores! A wise person once told me that you need to begin everything as you intend to continue. So when baby arrives, involve your husband or partner in taking care of your child. From bath time to feeding to bed time. Remember that he is the father of the child and so the chances he will knowingly do anything to harm your child are slim. Let him learn how to take care of your child in his own way. This will become helpful in the long run as your child will become used to the love and comfort of the both of you, as opposed to just you. This means that on some evenings, after work, you could ask partner to do the bath time and bed time while you make dinner. This saves you time and I find that it makes us feel closer to each other instead of me secretly resenting him because I feel like I am doing it all by myself! It is never too late to find a balance with your partner, start now and ask nicely. Good luck!
- Effective childcare! I can’t emphasise this enough. If you do not have effective childcare you cannot be effective at your job. We all know nursery is very expensive, yet a number of us put our children in nursery. It is tried and tested and I guess it is relatively safe to say that the chances of going wrong with a nursery is slimmer. However, one thing to note is that nurseries have very strict rules. For example, if your child has three loose stools in a day, you will be called to pick up the child within an hour and the child would be excluded from nursery for the next three days. The same applies if the child is running a high temperature. In our nursery, any time my son ran a high temperature I was told if they adminster capol or nurofen to bring down his temperature then I will definitely have to be there within the hour or they will call the ambulance to take him to the hospital. The only way to circumvent the three days exclusion rule is to provide the nursery with a letter from the doctor saying whatever your child has got is not contagious. Of course these exclusion periods means that at no notice at all, you have to take time off work.I have on a few occasions been in the same shoes. I even went to the doctor on one occasion because I was convinced my son’s loose stool was as a result of his teething. The doctor told me she couldn’t provide me with a letter without testing his stool and by the time she takes a sample, send it to the lab and get the results, it will be a week, by which time he would be back at nursery anyway. So you see, there is really no circumventing. If you know how, please share. It can be a very frustrating time especially as your child is potentially ill, coupled with the fact that you may be in the middle of an important meeting or have a deadline. You literally have to drop everything you are doing and go and pick up your child. I have cried several times because of this because of my relatively conflicting responsibilities.
I think there are two solutions to this. The first is to accept that this is temporary and as the child gets older, the instances of you being called to pick them up will be far and inbetween. It is very hard to be effective at work in such situations. If you are unlucky, certain projects at work will pass you by because you may be tagged as the unreliable employee or even if that doesn’t happen, you begin to wonder how you are coming across to your boss.
Notwithstanding the above, the stress of it all may just begin to get to you. I was speaking to a colleague at work recently who confided in me that in the three weeks her daughter was at nursery before she came back to work full time, she was perfectly fine. However since she resumed a week and a half ago, she has been called twice to pick up her daughter and so has barely done any work. She had to call her mum to come and help temporarily. She asked me how I cope and make everything look easy and this is where the second option comes in, seek help!
If you are lucky enough to have a good support system or reliable family members living not very far away, for example retired parents or family members who work shorter hours than you do, enlist their help. They can help you pick up your child while you make you way back home to assess the seriousness of the situation. You may then ask them to help with look after them while you go to work and keep loose tabs on them or aim to finish at work early. This gives you some time to tie up loose ends. This is not suitable for everyone, but after three months of erratic attendance at work and working after I put my son to bed, I broke down and realised I just couldn’t do it. I couldn’t be effective at my job in this way. My job is very technical. It involves late hours on some days but not always. I discussed this with my husband and we decided to try enlisting the help of an au pair. For us, what we really needed was help with school runs especially on days when I have to work late. We decided to reduce the days he goes to nursery to make it more affordable for us to do both. I have to emphasis that for you decide to go down this route, it is important that you interview your prospective aupair thoroughly, ask the right questions and try to read between the lines.
We were lucky that our first aupair was very good. She made or lives very easy and our son loved her. Our second aupair has only recently started but she seems to be effective as well. If you can afford it, you may decide getting a nanny may be the right route for you. Another option could be to enlist the help of a local childminder who will do the school runs for you and then you can pick up your child from the childminder’s place on your way back for work. Once again, it is imperative that you undertake your due diligence on whoever’d help you enlist in looking after your child. I appreciate that no one can look after your child better than you, but as the old adage goes, it takes a village to raise a child.
- Set short term goals. This is particularly important if you want additional children, or at least, while your children are babies/toddlers. This is because they are in what I like to term the ‘unpredictable’ phase. As I have highlighted above, children are more susceptible to illness as babies/toddlers so you may have to leave whatever it is you are doing at work to go and attend to them. I find that short term goals are more realistic. You feel a great sense of achievement when you achieve one of your goals within a few months and it gives you the drive to look forward to the next few months. You can tick things off more quickly and some may thrive under the temporary pressure of getting things done now instead of falling into the procrastination trap and finding you underestimated the amount of time you required to meet that goal. With short term goals you are more likely to rectify mistakes in the interim and ultimately meet your long term goal without even realising it and with less pressure.
- Use up your holidays. You don’t have to go on expensive holidays or travel to a tropical island. But time off work either spent abroad or in the UK gives you quality uninterrupted family time to spend with your child(ren). For me, I find the week or two I take out of work invaluable as I bond with my son and he gets to see me round the clock. I also notice the new skills he has acquired that I may have missed as a result of rushing out for work everyday! The truth is the will always be a price to pay regardless of the decision you take. If you chose to work full time, you will miss some aspects of your child’s development but you need to be sure you can make your peace with that or somehow compromise, otherwise you will not be happy.
- Finally, do not compare. There is a likelihood for mums to either compare themselves or their children with others. Not only are you not comparing like with like, you are setting yourself up for disappointment. We are all different and we all thrive differently when faced with the same situation. In addition, we all have different access to resources but I would like to think we make the best of what we have. Comparing will make you miss out on what really makes your own child special. Provided you are giving your child the best you can afford and making the best use of the resources you have, you are doing a great job.
I hope some of these tips will come in useful.