Within the first hour of my first son’s birth, he latched on to my breast…
You’re newborn bubble burst recently when you realized one of two things:
Your partner has to go back to work.
Or you have to start thinking about going back to work soon.
It’s probably safe to assume you are having some feelings about it.
Maybe those feelings make you cry. You’re going to miss your baby. You feel guilty that you have to go to work. You worry they won’t get the snuggles they need while away from you.
Or you’re going to miss your partner. And their support. And you’re scared to be alone with the baby. How will you take care of both of you?
Maybe you can’t wait. You miss being with adults. You miss feeling connected to yourself and your career. You are excited to not be so needed all the time.
Maybe you’re sick of your partner watching you mother. Or you don’t know what you’re feeling and need some physical space to process everything.
Maybe you can’t wait to have one-on-one time with your baby and feel ready to start exploring the world together.
Either way, there is a lot to think about. Especially how you’re going to “divide and conquer” as a couple. Because… well… that could get sticky, right?
Here’s the good news. With the right preparation, a little planning, and some honest conversations, you can avoid hiccups and set you and your family up for a smooth ride.
And we’ve brought in some expert guidance to help.
Allison Beck LCSW describes how “parenthood places intense new demands on us individually and on the family system collectively.”
And we aren’t actively talking about ALL of the new work that comes with starting a family, who is going to be responsible for what, and how we feel about our new roles. Especially the parts of the work that aren’t concrete and related to tangible tasks, a.k.a. the “silent work” (thinking, observing, planning, organizing around who the baby is and what he or she needs).
When there isn’t ongoing dialogue about this piece of the puzzle, much of the responsibility is assumed and falls along gender lines.
Allison says, “It’s essential that we name the silent work and communicate our needs and ideas about how we can more effectively share it.”
It’s also important to talk about the impact of managing the work and asking for help in these terms. She recommends something like…
Hey, I just don’t have the energy for another decision, can you take on the work of actually making the decision? I trust you to do what’s good for our kid, and I appreciate you carrying the emotional and physical load right now.
And if you anticipate that having to come home and make dinner and do bedtime and pack lunches is what is going to tip the scale for you, talk to your partner about how you can balance it out.
This is a new situation so there will be some trial and error. Keep the conversation going. Keep communicating. Ask for what you need. Say thank you.
If you’re a practical person, you might crave a framework to manage all of this new stuff within.
Motherhood Coach and Pediatrician Ariana Witkin MD shares 4 actionable tips you can use to help ease this transition.
Create Boundaries Around Time
Talk to your boss and don’t hide that you’re a mom now. You have nothing to be ashamed of. Own it and communicate.
- I will be able to arrive at this time and need to be out the door at this time.
- If you’re working from home, my baby naps from 12-2. This would be the best time to schedule important meetings because I know I will be able to be fully present.
If your partner is heading back to work, set similar boundaries.
Have them speak to their employer and choose a time together that they will be home at the end of the day. When you can expect to hear from them and see them.
The most important thing when setting boundaries is to hold them.
Make A List Of EVERYTHING That Needs To Get Done
Make a comprehensive, exhaustive list of everything that needs to get done in your home.
Laundry, grocery shopping, meal prep, dog walking, diaper ordering, doctor appointments being scheduled, paying bills, taking out the trash, everything.
Sit down with your partner and divide and conquer.
It will never be 50/50, so divide according to your talents and availability.
- If you love doing laundry, you’re on laundry duty! If you are unreliable when it comes to scheduling and tracking payments, allow your partner to own paying the bills.
- If you’re working 80 hours a week and your partner is working 40, they may need to take on more from this list because they have more time.
Make sure that everyone is comfortable with their assignments and be open to things shifting.
Start here and then check in to see if things are feeling equitable (different from equal) and make adjustments as needed.
And of course, life doesn’t always go according to plan. Try to be flexible and remember you are a team. If your teammate needs extra support because of work, illness, or any other reason, you can be there for them. And they can be there for you too.
Whether you are going back to work or staying home, schedule check-ins with your partner.
This is a way for them to continue to support you and take care of you when you are apart.
- Have them text you and remind you to pump, or give you a pep talk as you head into another feeding/pumping session.
- Text around lunchtime asking what you’re going to eat for lunch as a reminder to feed yourself too.
- Communicate to them how you want them to phrase these things so they feel loving and not critical.
- Schedule a time during the day to facetime or hop on a phone call to connect in real time.
You can also do this with a close friend or family member. Someone who makes you feel loved and supported. Let them know you’re nervous and need extra support during this transition and ask them to check in with you throughout the day.
Last, but definitely not least…maybe most…
You have permission to…
…love this transition
…hate this transition
…not know how you feel or different things at different times or the same time
…be by yourself
…ask for and need help
…want to go back to work
…not want to go back to work
…change your mind about anything
Everything will continue to shift and change. It’s one of the only guarantees in life! And that’s ok.
This is a work in progress, trial and error. We are learning every day what is working and what isn’t.
Continue advocating for yourself, your partner, and your baby.
You got this.
P.S. Are you an entrepreneur? This article will help you get aligned and grounded into your business after having a baby.