Going back to work after maternity leave is pretty much a drag.
Depending on how much time you get, you could be leaving a two or six month old (or older) at home. You’re really just getting to know each other, after all. Leaving your baby with a care provider can feel very daunting and is quite different from leaving an older child who you’ve known for much longer.
From this newness often comes a lot of guilt. Babies sleep a fair amount of the day, so by the time you’re up and out the door in the morning, work all day, and come home, there isn’t a lot of time you have together. At the end of the day, it’s a quick little window before it’s bedtime for the little one (and maybe you, too).
I want to share with new moms who might be struggling with leaving their baby to go to work that this isn’t forever. If you are considering quitting your job or changing careers, I encourage you to wait until your baby is at least a year old and see if you still want to do that. So much of what you’re facing right now will be different in a few months time, because:
1) Your baby is going to be older and more engaged as a toddler before you know it. We are talking the difference of a few months before your baby sleeps a bit less and is more interactive and alert during your time together, and
2) As time goes on, you’re going to have a deepened relationship with your baby as you get to know them more and more.
Sometimes working moms add up the hours their baby is spending with a caregiver. Some moms feel a lot of guilt that their baby is spending perhaps 8 to 10 hours a day with a caregiver, so much so that they want to quit their job. I want to provide any reassurance that I can that parenting is a long-term relationship. It’s not just about the hours in one day, but it’s the hours over a lifetime. When you look at your relationship with your children from a lifespan perspective, the hours he or she spent with a nanny or daycare provider don’t compare to all the many years you and your children spend together.
The consistency of your parenting, day in and day out, is what build the foundational trust and reassurance in your baby that you’re there for them. Your baby knows who his or her parents are, and that can never be replaced by a caregiver.
Also, research has shown that the quality of time you spend with your children has more or an impact that the quantity of time. It doesn’t need to be special curated family activities either. Even the day to day activities of keeping the house moving forward such as chores, laundry and grocery shopping all count.
My best advice to working parents is this: it’s not about the quantity of hours you spend with your children, it’s about the quality and engagement. When you baby is awake during the hour window between work and bedtime, give it all you got. Put your phone away and be present, even if that means you’re doing other chores around the house. It all counts as family time together.
Jennifer Mayer supports parents through pregnancy, birth, new parenthood and the transition back to work. Shes the founder of Baby Caravan, a birth & postpartum doula agency and Baby Caravan at Work, a corporate consulting practice based in New York City. Jennifer lives in Brooklyn with her husband and son.