Having a child, especially your first, is like dealing with an alien invasion—albeit an invasion by a cute, googly-eyed alien. The home can feel like a battlefield, there’s carnage everywhere (particularly in the kitchen and bathroom) and getting more than 3 hours of sleep in a row can lead to death.
But that’s the least of your worries. The most gruelling challenge is still to come—the return to work. If you’re heading right back to your full-time job after maternity leave is up, don’t expect to be able to step right back into your old life. Here are four things to take care of.
1. Childcare or infantcare arrangements
Unless you’re lucky enough to have a good enough salary to let your husband stay home and deal with soiled diapers, childcare and infantcare arrangements must be made well in advance—and by that, we mean soon after you discover you’re pregnant.
The waitlist for childcare and infantcare facilites in certain areas can be so long that by the time you get a spot, you’ll be sending your grandkids there instead. There’s a serious childcare shortage in Singapore, and if you don’t “chope” your space in time, you could find yourself facing a long and frustrating commute to a centre far from home.
Costs are also another factor you’ll have to consider when picking an infantcare or childcare centre. The average price of childcare facilities has risen sharply due to premium centres charging very high fees, but expensive centres don’t always translate to quality, as some parents have found out the hard way.
If you’ve decided to breastfeed your baby and are going back to a full-time job, be prepared to start toting a bigger bag to work, because you’ll have to bring your breast pumping equipment with you.
Your biggest challenge will be finding somewhere to do this at your workplace. If you’re lucky, your workplace will have a lactation or nursing room. Otherwise, you’re going to have to speak to your boss about letting you use a room on the premises.
3. Taking time off to go for post-natal checkups
Even if you were the kind of person who never visited the doctor before getting pregnant, be prepared to take time off to go for post-natal checkups and to send your baby to the doctor, too.
Singaporean mothers receive 6 days of government-paid childcare leave, but companies may offer more, so make sure you check with HR. Your husband should receive at least 6 days too.
Whether you’re forced to use your childcare leave to go for post-natal medical care depends on your company policy. Some companies will allow their employees time off for medical reasons so long they only take as much time as is necessary to go for the appointment.
If that’s the case, you’ll want to ask your HR manager about it should you have to see the doctor during office hours.
4. Self care and sleep
If you thought you were surviving on too little sleep as a new mother, wait till you go back to work. Sitting at your desk and rushing to meetings from 9 to 6 after barely three hours of sleep the night before is no joke.
Don’t just tell yourself you’ll try to power through for a few years without doing anything special for your well-being. Parenting isn’t just about putting food on the table or making sure your kids get the best education money can buy. It’s also about being a gracious person so your child can learn from example.
And to do that, you need to first take care of yourself and make sure you’re not at breaking point every day. It’s all too easy to snap at the security guard at your condo or be rude to your fellow commuters when you’re barely surviving, and these are behaviours your child will observe and mimic.
So never underestimate the importance of taking care of yourself and dealing with the stress of being back at work while juggling childrearing duties.
Work out a duty roster with your spouse so you’re not always the one waking up at night. Making catching up on lost sleep a priority on weekends, enlisting the help of your spouse, parents or in-laws if necessary. Get help with the housework. Take a day off every now and then to have a coffee with a friend or get a massage. And don’t be afraid to ask for flexible work arrangements and delegate work where necessary.
What other challenges do new mothers face when returning to work? Tell us in the comments!