The role of fathers has always been clear when it comes to raising babies. Even in today’s age where gender roles are becoming more blurred, parental duties have not changed drastically.
Fathers have it relatively easy when it comes to taking care of a new member of the family. This is the one time when a husband is comfortable saying “you’re the boss, you decide” to his wife regarding the enormous responsibility of deciding what’s best for your newborn.
Mothers are faced with life-changing decisions that oftentimes leave them in a pit of guilt having to deal with the infamous “if” word. With all the “if” scenarios, there isn’t really a best option but what is a common thread in all the options is sacrifice. Going back to work after maternity leave or taking up employment to keep the family afloat is something that affects many mothers across the globe.
Life doesn’t stop when you have a baby and it doesn’t allow you time to raise your bundle of love in the way you know will be best for your child. So how do mothers cope with being working moms?
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The inevitable choice of becoming a working mom
The one-income family that allows mothers to raise their children without the pressure of having to contribute financially to their family is becoming rarer by the day. Most working moms don’t have an option but to return to the grindstone.
Countries across the world have different maternity leave standards ranging from three months up to a full year maternity leave. Maternity leave in many countries doesn’t necessarily mean full pay either.
In some countries, mothers have to apply to social security or the unemployment fund that only pays them a percentage of their normal income for the prescribed maternity leave period. In reality, maternity leave for many working moms means a drastic drop in income at a time when the extra (normal) income will be most appreciated.
This drop in income is a rude awakening and if there are no savings to dip into then the financial pinch really hurts. It hurts enough to override the guilt of abandoning their little ones that mothers feel as they edge closer to becoming full-time employees again.
Too many mothers, the choice always goes about how much they can do to give their child a better life. Here are some issues mothers are faced with:
- Stay-at-home mom. Taking time off from work to raise your little one means the loss of an income for the family. This also means budget cuts and less saving for the future but your baby gets your full attention 24/7. Being a stay-at-home mom is also being a full-time home executive where you are responsible for all the household chores.
- Work from home. This is a tough one and coping with telephone calls and a crying baby doesn’t come across as being very professional. Besides the normal stresses of working from home, the person at home is expected to keep the home clean which in itself is a full-time job. What about the baby’s needs? It’s tough, but yet millions of women globally manage this lifestyle successfully.
- Work full-time. To many moms, this seems to be the better option because of the added secure income. And care of the newborn fall to a babysitter, caregiver or nursery school who are all trained professionally to take care of infants. And best of all, usually, the housework will be evenly split among members of the family. With this option, you get to secure a brighter future for your child and the time you spend with your child can be chalked up as quality time.
The inevitable choice for many mothers is to continue with their chosen careers and to sacrifice a little for a greater long-term reward.
Having to go back to work will happen sooner or later so moms who prolong the inevitable because they don’t want to live with the guilt of putting their child second to their own needs and desires need not stress too much.
We all know that every parent wants the best for their children and being able to provide for the needs of your children does sadly come at a price.
The transition back to work after having a baby
This is a really difficult time but it can be made a lot less stressful if you plan ahead. One big concern is breastfeeding, something you can’t do while away from your baby at work. This means that if you intend to continue breastfeeding you will have to rely on a breast pump to make sure there is enough milk for your baby during the time you are at the office.
Here are a few pointers to consider that may ease your transition back to work:
Pumping and storing breastmilk
- Practice and get comfortable using a breast pump at home so when you do use it at work you know what to expect and how long it takes.
- Work out how much breastmilk, and how often, you need to pump so you can plan accordingly.
- Always have extra breast pads on hand to avoid those embarrassing milk stains.
- A small cooler box with one or two frozen ice packs works great to store your breastmilk in. Use glass jars as they are easier to use, sterilize, and transport.
Plan B – Pumping extra versus Formula
- Have a plan B so your baby is taken care of. Although you will supply most of your baby’s meals you will have to consider a good formula as a supplement for your baby. You could get caught up in a long meeting or get stuck in traffic and the last thing you want is for your baby to go hungry. Start giving your baby one or two bottles of formula a day while you are still at home so there is no sudden switch when you are back at work.
- Alternatively, pump and freeze extra portions of milk to supplement any shortages.
Caregiver-mother relationship goals
- Make sure you can communicate with your babysitter or caregiver at all times. They must have all the important phone numbers on hand including your doctor’s number in case of an emergency.
- Have your babysitter or caregiver keep a daily diary on your baby’s activities that include details on wet and soiled diapers, their sleep pattern as well as awake time activities. You will be able to get up to speed on your little one’s progress through these reports.
- Spend every evening after your baby is put to bed preparing for the next day. If your baby is at a daycare centre or nursery school make sure you have all they need for the next day plus a little extra to take care of unexpected circumstances. Mark all your baby’s things with a permanent marker. That includes the jars of breastmilk you send along.
Pumping At the Office
Breastmilk is vitally important to your baby’s growth and development. Don’t stop breastfeeding just because you have to go back to work. It is difficult to keep up your milk supply if you breastfeed when at home and have your baby on formula when you are not there. You will have to use a pump at work to keep up with supply and demand otherwise you’ll end up with a lot of discomfort and your milk supply will start drying up.
Make sure you have access to a private room at your work that you can use to attend to your motherly duties. Have a big enough bag for a small cooler box, breast pump, cleaning materials, breast pads and your own lunch so you have everything you need with you. Staff bathrooms are not the most hygienic place to be pumping milk so you must insist on a more appropriate room for the purpose.
You will have to dress differently for a while just to make life easier for yourself. If you are wearing a top that shows stains easily then keep a spare in your bag in case you need to change your top. You could also have a light jacket handy that will cover up those little accidents.
Speak to your boss about leave and time off for doctor’s appointments. You may be able to work flexitime so you can still attend to your baby when need be. You will get caught between a rock and a hard place at times so it’s best to know exactly where you stand at work regarding your obligations as a mother.
Leaving your baby to go back to work is not abandoning your little one. Push the guilt aside and focus on what’s best for your baby. There are many reasons why mothers decide to go back to work and finance is at the top of the list.
If you can spend a year at home with your little one then it must be your first option as your baby needs you most during their first year while they reach many milestones. If not then make the move back to work a gradual transition but always consider the health and wellbeing of your baby first.
If after you have crunched the numbers, you find that there is no great financial gain by you working then rather be a stay-at-home mom. Your baby has employed you to be a full-time mother and your payment is an abundance of love parcelled in baby demands.