When I agreed to write a little something about being a working-out-of-the-home mom with young kids, life was good. No, it was great. Family, kids, friends, work were all running smoothly. Thought I had really figured out this work-life balance thing. No joke, two days later the rug was pulled out from under us – our nanny gave her 30 day notice. Nooooooo!!!!!! As a working mama, there is nothing worse than losing exceptional childcare.
After quickly progressing through all 5 stages of grief – hey, no time for self-pity since I had to get to work – I realized that we had been down this path before and survived. The childcare and return-to-work path (I have done it twice) has never been a bump-free ride. Here we are yet again without childcare. I have had to remind myself of the following:
· Take a breath. Another exceptional childcare option is right around the corner.
· Team up with your spouse/partner if you have one – make sure you are on the same childcare page and work together. It is both working parents’ responsibility to find childcare.
· Investigate traditional child care options thoroughly (centers, schools, nannies), but also look for options in your own backyard like having a friend temporarily (or permanently) provide childcare
· Get on waiting lists at centers and schools ASAP
· Enlist help from friends – countless times I have relied on dear friends to watch my kids when my childcare fell through
· Social media is your friend – exhaust online resources like working parent and childcare groups. Advertise your childcare needs and use services if needed.
· Trust your gut – mama’s intuition will guide your childcare choice.
Once finding childcare, tackle the rest of the transition of going back to work. I have found that the rest falls into place once securing the childcare I want for my kids:
· Do not be afraid to ask for changes to your work schedule – from changing your work hours, taking longer lunches so you can nurse/pump, reducing your time. Figure out what works for you and your family and ask for it – all your boss can say is no. You may be pleasantly surprised.
· Communicate with your co-workers about your needs – pumping, alternative schedule, talking with your childcare provider, longer lunch/breaks to nurse, etc.
· If you pump, get a high quality, efficient one. Pump whenever you can and get used to doing it in weird places (not everyone has easy access to nursing rooms). Schedule pump appointments.
· Get organized. Take care of as much as you can the night before rather than wait until the work morning – prep your work bag, lunch, pump supplies – prep your kids’ things as well
· Most of the time you will want to just rush right home after work to see your kids. But don’t forget to make sure you occasionally have some time to yourself – stop off at your favorite coffee shop, call a friend, do something that makes you smile – and don’t feel guilty about it! A little downtime will help the transition from a workday back to your home life.
· Learn to accept that as a working mama you will likely never be completely happy with your work life….or your home life. At times you may think you are a rock star – you have got this whole working mama thing figured out. But then your kid says how much she misses you during the day, you have a crummy or uninspiring day at work, and your nanny gives her notice. Time to model flexibility and tolerating uncertainty for our children and soldier on. You will feel like a working mama rock star again.
Hoping I do too. Hugs mamas.
Autumn Watson, PhD: Mama to 3 inspiring young girls, wife to a true partner, oh yeah, for my work I’m a clinical health psychologist