Each time I went back to work, I asked my husband to be ready to take time off if needed, in order that I could avoid that stomach-churning experience of asking my boss if I could stay at home with a sick baby during my first days back.
It isn't fair on working mothers, it's so unfair, however taking time off does tend to send a negative signal. In my case, I had no history of sick leave at all but I knew if I had to take time off in the first few weeks, my boss would think this was potentially the start of a pattern of absenses. I wanted to get back to work and prove myself a little before I had to start those occasional but inevitable requests to work from home or take an unexpected day of annual leave.
Sometimes there's just nothing you can do - maybe your partner can't take time off either, maybe you don't have family nearby to help out, but it's good to think about it in advance if even to plan how to communicate with your boss when your child comes down with creche-itis.
4. Have a cooking plan
I am not good at this bit.
I used to cook every night when we arrived home from creche with baby number one. That wasn't quality time with her, so I started leaving the cooking until after she went to bed. But dinner at midnight wasn't working out so well either, so I started to cook one "double dinner" every second night, to limit the amount of rubbish evenings. This was still rubbish.
So I started batch cooking on Saturday mornings for the week ahead, freezing meals. This was hard work but was more successful for me than any of my previous attempts.
Now I have a childminder who cooks for the kids, so I leave enough of everything and she puts us in the pot too - finally a cooking solution that works - not cooking! (which doesn't explain why I'm writing this at ten o'clock at night eating cheese on toast)
|image credit midlifebamitzvah.wordpress.com|
Lots of people are more creative and more organised at cooking than I am, so this isn't to say that whipping up a quick, healthy meal after work isn't possible, but it's worth thinking about the approach that is best for you and trying a few options, to avoid the stress of those midnight dinners.
Another option is to have dinner at lunchtime, especially if you have a canteen at work, or just have toast every night for the baby years (I love toast)
5. The domestic-goddess office mum
- Get a cleaner if you can
- Buy your groceries online
- Find inventive ways to avoid ironing
that is all.
6. Quality time with baby
My husband and I used to think we had to play with our first baby after creche each evening in order to have "quality time" - it was like we were pencilling it in. We would sit on the wooden sitting-room floor with her in the still-cold house that had been empty all day, rolling a ball over and back, building blocks into towers...I'm sure she was thinking "what are you trying to prove? Get me up to my cosy bath and bed already!".
We eventually worked out that instead of fitting in this so called quality time and then rushing bed-time, the trick was to head straight upstairs to her cosy room, and spend time on bath and stories and cuddles with no rush, no stress.
Now with three kids we still do the same - bedtime starts as soon as get home at 6.30 but it's a long, slow process and it's our chance to catch up with what went on in their lives that day.
In other families, there might be a completely different way of having quality time - the point is to think about how it might work and how to do it in the least stressful way possible for you and your children after a long day apart.
If you are breastfeeding your baby, you might consider continuing to breastfeed after returning to work (i.e. maintaining morning and evening feeds) - feeding your baby after a day at work can be a lovely way to reconnect, and a welcome chance to sit down while your partner cooks dinner or puts older children to bed!
7. Go shopping!
OK, not strictly necessary, not a life-or-death type piece of advice, but new clothes for going back to work will make you feel better on that first day.
And it's (almost) never as bad as it seems in the run up to D-day - there's a small sense of giddiness for most of us when we go back to work and catch up with friends and colleagues while having that first cup of not-cold coffee.