Transitioning Back to Work


    There are many reasons why one might have taken a break from the workforce. New moms generally take a few weeks, health issues can cause an extended absence, or people may have other reasons to spend time at home rather than at a job. Regardless what your reason is for being home, it can be a bit difficult to alter the status quo and return back to the world of business.

    Many stay-at-home parents do some sort of work-at-home business while they are also parenting, but this does not seem to “count” when one discusses the workforce, and it is a different sort of situation than being in an office or a factory. Leaving a work-at-home position to go off to work every day has its own bits of drama (and maybe trauma) for both parent and child. The children have been used to having pretty much 24/7 access to their parent, and this is definitely not possible when mom or dad is no longer working from home. 

    In some cases, the return to work is necessity rather than desire, and this factor can make it even more difficult. Focusing on the reason for returning can help to smooth the transition. Developing a balance between work and home is an important aspect that needs to be considered, as well, and is not always as easy as it sounds. 

    Consider these tips for easing your way back into the job market.

    Remember part-time is available. Unless it is absolutely necessary to put in a forty-hour week, starting back with part-time hours can be a good way to ease back into working outside the home. This may also make childcare more accessible, as a parent can work while children are at school and may not be required to secure additional childcare for after school hours.

    Start back later in the week. Mondays are stereotypically the difficult days. If you go back on Thursday or Friday, you are so much closer to the weekend and your first week back is just long enough to let you reacclimate to the environment. 

    Give yourself a couple easier days. If you plan to get back into full swing a few days after you actually return to the job, instead of immediately, it takes some of the pressure off and lessens the stress of getting back into the swing of things. 

    Woman working at her home office.

    Be organized. Work out a schedule that allows your home and work life to be organized, even if you organize loosely. Having a plan nearly always works better than flying by the seat of your pants. Parents who need to get their children ready to leave the house at the same time they are leaving will need to schedule in a little extra time for morning prep, which may include packing lunches, gathering supplies, and similar things. Alternately, these things can be handled the night before, allowing morning to be a much more relaxed time. 

    Plan a response to colleagues. You know everyone is going to ask about your absence, or how you are handling your return. Have answers to these questions ready. Something simple and relatively generic for the average co-worker could be “I’m doing well; glad to be back.”

    Try not to overdo it. It can be difficult, but it is important to set boundaries with an understanding of what you can handle. Set goals and work with your supervisors to be realistic. 

    Try it out. Those who are not certain about returning to work and how the family will handle it can potentially do a trial run at home. Get up when you will need to for work, practice the schedule, figure out meals. You do not have to be gone all day during this time, like you will for work, but it will give you an idea of how to fit home things in the time you will have available.

     Get ideas from others. There are some people who have returned to work after a time that have discovered there was little information available to help. A couple of these people have gone on to create resources that can help others facing some of the same struggles and dilemmas they faced. 

    Arrange convenient childcare. If daycare is required, when possible, choose a daycare that is near your place of employment. Speak with the potential caregivers before you commit to a location to make sure you are comfortable with them. Check online reviews and ask for references. Make sure they are willing for you to call and check on your children, if you want to (but remember that they have a job to do and too many calls can be disruptive). 

    Kids are resilient. A parent’s children may be used to having them around all the time, but even if they do not appear open to new experiences, most children will adapt very quickly to new circumstances. In fact, in most families, new experiences such as parents and children going to different locations in the morning end up being much more difficult for the parents than for the children. Some children adapt more quickly than others, but if a parent is patient, completing the transition will happen, eventually. 

    Remember that taking care of yourself is essential. Caring for children, keeping a boss happy, and running a household are three full time jobs. It is very easy to completely wring one’s self out through trying to juggle all the balls without dropping any. Make time to refill your own tank when you need to. 

    A career change can be beneficial. If the company you were working for before is not a family friendly company, it may not hurt to resign and find a company that is more understanding of the unique requirements of a parent returning to work. There are some situations where this is not a reasonable possibility, but in many cases, it can take a lot of the stress out of going back to work when you can work with employers that understand your needs and are willing to compromise when necessary.

    Going back to work can be unpredictable and unsettling, but the accomplishments and the financial benefits can definitely help both one’s sense of self-worth and also meet the needs of a growing family.

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