Returning To Work/School
Vicki Thrasher Cronin
Licensed Parent Educator, Pre-K Teacher
Going back to work or school is going to take some serious thinking, planning and problem-solving. Consider the following guidelines to help you, your child and your family experience a successful back-to-work transition.
Prior to the birth of your baby, you may have decided that you would be returning to work. You’ll find that the weeks at home after birth with your baby are likely to be a rollercoaster of emotions ranging from I can’t leave this baby, to complete confidence created to help you raise your little one. Attachment research tells us that the first year of life is a critical period of time in a baby’s life; it is the time of establishing trust and a sense of security. It is the relationships babies have with their primary caregivers that makes the difference in their successful development.
The science of early development reveals that babies are highly flexible during the early months of life while they are working to establish primary relationships with several adults. What is important is the consistency and quality of those relationships. As babies grow and become attached to their primary caregivers, they are more reluctant to be separated from their familiar adults and left with others. How smart they are!
So what does this mean to a parent returning to work? It means that during the time you are at home with your infant, you need to focus on learning about your baby: your baby’s preferences, his dislikes and his flexibilities. You need to learn how to read his cues, those signs he has of letting you know what he likes and dislikes and those things to which he is indifferent. Then you need to develop partnerships with one or two trusted adults and practice transferring or sharing your baby’s preferences. As these other trusted adults get to know your baby, they will be able to help you deepen your knowledge about your baby and increase your confidence that special adults can share in the raising of your baby. Keep a journal about your baby’s preferences. As he grows, he will continue to develop many more preferences and soon you’ll find it’s hard to remember them all! Your journal list will serve as a reminder of what is important to tell family members and/or care-providers when you are leaving your baby for short periods of time.
During these early weeks, mothers who are breastfeeding will also have opportunities to learn about pumping, storage and re-warming of milk while baby gains experience using a bottle. Success is all about the relationships: you and your baby and your baby and his other caregivers. When you are confident in your ability to choose sensitive, consistent caregivers for your baby, he will be confident in their arms. And your caregivers will return the trust you place in them…to you and your baby.
Several weeks before you are due back at work, begin visiting your baby’s care provider. Whether a family member, friend or professional child care educator, it is important for your baby to practice being with another adult in a new place! Build for success and begin by stopping in when it is convenient and a good time for your baby. Then make arrangements to establish more of a routine for leaving home, going to the providers and staying a while. Try different times of the day too. You, your baby and your provider all need to gain a sense of the whole day. After you have experienced several schedules for visiting, choose a time that is good for your baby and the provider and leave your baby; you will want to plan to come back before your baby has had too much, becomes over-tired or over-stimulated. Always aim to end your baby’s visit on a positive note.
As you make your plan to return to work, consider thinking about the overall task as a coach might: Approach the team, let them know what needs to be done, who does what, when and how much! Then set out the schedule, by the day, the week and the month. Everyone will need to carry their load, but there will always need to be the coach, the family coordinator. And if the coach isn’t there, is sick, or goes on vacation, who will pick up the slack? Successful teams don’t just happen. They recruit the right people for needed positions. Then train, practice, drill, practice, adjust, practice and celebrate the win! Consider your family a team.
Working families are busy families. Your busy family will be successful because of your leadership and your loving commitment to everyone’s well-being.