When you give birth to a baby you give birth to a new identity, a mom. Then your identity changes again when you return to work after maternity leave. Now you are a new working mom. You are going to feel overwhelmed by emotions such as excitement, sadness, and anxiety, to name a few. You’ll ask yourself, “Can I really do this?” And the answer is if you play this Jedi mind trick you have the opportunity to thrive as a working mom.
Pack “It” Up in the Mommy or Work Box
The Jedi mind trick can also be called compartmentalizing. There're two ways you can do this. You can either pack up your emotions into your Mommy Box or your Work Box. You play this trick when you need to think clearly to succeed at whatever it is you are trying to accomplish. Emotions about your family and work can creep up at inopportune times and can cause you, even more, stress than you already may be under. This is the moment where you can “pack it up” into whatever box it needs to go in so you can get your focus back. The tricky part may be when you “unpack it”. Let’s go over both.
When you return to work after maternity leave, you’ll be emotional. Yes, crying at your desk may occur but this is when you can play your Jedi mind trick and pack up these emotions into your Mommy Box. You can’t change reality at the moment so pack “it” up so you can get back to your work. During other parts of the day you may need to pack it up is before, during, or after daycare drop off, or when you check in with your childcare provider. You really want to hear about your baby’s day but it can get you off track at work.
On the flip side, when you are home with your baby you don’t want to be thinking about work. You know the time you have with your baby is precious and that quality is key. Packing up emotions like stress, anxiety, even excitement about work can help you bring your focus back to your baby. This strategy can help you connect more with your husband after the baby is asleep and it can also help you relax for the night.
Strategies for Unpacking the Mommy Box
So here’s the tricky part. You need to complete the Jedi mind trick in order for this strategy to work. You need to unpack your emotions at some point. Ignorance is bliss but if you do not unpack your Mommy Box and Work Box this can hurt you later on.
Let's go back to when you were emotional at work during your first week back. On your commute home, if you’re alone in your car, unpack the Mommy Box. If you can’t wait until then and it needs to happen at lunch, let it flow the point is you can choose when to unpack the Mommy Box the more you practice this strategy.
You may feel the rush of tears, let them come. This emotion won’t last forever so let yourself experience it. You’ll be upset and then it’ll stop. Once you let it pass, start to ask yourself what triggered your tears. When you know the trigger you’ll be able to manage the emotion better the next time it comes up (because it will).
Next, decide why you felt the emotion so strongly. Is there something you could change in your environment so that the trigger doesn’t happen? Is there a personal boundary you can put up for now like asking co-workers to please not ask about your baby for a while so you can get back into the swing of things at work?
If you can’t determine why the trigger happened, don’t worry about it. You may need to play the Jedi mind trick with this emotion a few times before you figure things out. This is part of the process of figuring out a new identity so you can thrive.
Strategies for Unpacking the Work Box
There are a few times during the day you can use the Work Box to your advantage. When you wake up before everyone else in the morning unpack the Work Box for motivation. Set goals based on the emotions you packed into the Work Box the night before so you feel more in control of the situation.
Once the baby wakes up, pack up the Work Box to focus on getting ready but after you drop your baby off, open the box again. If you packed up the feeling of anxiety now you can take action. The reality is that you are going to work and you have control over how you’re going to use your time.
Working moms need all the time and energy we can get to make it through our day. The quicker you master compartmentalizing into your Mommy Box and Work Box the less time you’ll spend in confusion or conflict and the more time you’ll spend in accomplishment and happiness.
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