New Mom Has to Go Back to Work

Dear Sharon,

Three months ago we had a second child and just now I have returned to my job. It hasn’t been easy leaving the baby and going back to the office, but we need the money and I need the work. Do you have any advice for a Mom like me who is battling depression at having to leave her baby and return to work? I feel so sad in the mornings and saying good-bye is breaking my heart.

I am sorry that you have to go through the emotional pain of saying goodbye to your baby before you are ready; there is nothing easy about this time for you or your family. Nevertheless it is important to remember that I know countless parents, including myself, who have remarkable relationships with wonderful children even though they had similar choices to make.

Unfortunately in these challenging economic times, many Moms and Dads have to return to work sooner and for more hours than they would like. Here are some ideas that I have suggested to people making a similar transition.

It is often useful to talk to other parents who have had to make similar decisions. Parents of older children can share strategies that made things more manageable for them. They can also be reassuring about their child’s long term health, wealth being and development under these circumstances. Finding an understanding person to commiserate with can help Moms and Dads feel less alone and can make a big difference.

I also suggest that parents make sure that they spend good quality time with their child before and after work hours. This often means organizing meals and other tasks so that the “endless” chores at home don’t rob Mom and/or Dad of their precious “baby moments.” Weekends can also be a particularly important part of parental efforts to “make up for lost time.”

It is also good to remember that play can be an excellent way to connect with a little one. It can be hard to have fun after a long workday or in the course of a busy weekend but finding time to laugh and/or smile with a loved one is often an important building block in strong relationships.

My next suggestion might not be possible in; your specific circumstances but some parents I know have successfully talked to employers about changing their work schedule. Many I know have spent a lot of time and effort sorting through more flexible work lives. Even a slight change, such as arriving home an hour earlier one day a week, can help parent and child feel less overwhelmed by the lack of choice involved in adult work lives. Moms and Dads I know have also sometimes arranged to work at home for periods of time. They are not available to their baby during “work” but don’t have to “waste” time in a commute and can sometimes spend a few minutes with their little one during “lunch hour”. I also often recommend that parents use all the sick, personal and vacation days they have if available and at all possible.

When first going back to work it can also be helpful for parents to call home for reassurance about how things are going. Some contact with child care workers can ease worries about a child’s well being in Mom’s or Dad’s absence.

Although challenging it is also important that all parents, even those in your situation, take good care of their physical and emotional well being so that they can be at their “best” when spending time with their children. It is important for working mothers and fathers to eat well and/or to get some exercise (using the stairs instead of the elevator, visiting a gym near work, or even making sure they take a minute every now and then to breathe). Parents can also think of some little things to do for themselves while away from home. This can improve adult moods and can help them find ways to lighten the hardships in their family.

Again I am sorry that you have to go through the emotional pain of leaving your baby before you are ready. Best wishes as you sort things through.