You are ready for this moment. You have been longing for the day when the role you want is available, in the organisation you want, for people that you want to work with.
You have had the last few years off with the kids. This period with the kids has been great. It has also been gruelling and relentless. No time to yourself, always “on”.
It is time to re-enter the paid workforce, for you and for your family.
So why does it feel heavy and stressful? Why does it feel like this comfortable bubble and routine you have created will disappear? Is this the right decision for the family? Is the job you have selected going to be too big and busy?
THE INTERFERENCE OF THE LIZARD BRAIN!
Your amygdala, also known as your lizard brain, is responsible for these questions that serve to doubt the choice you have made to return to the paid workforce. The lizard brain, or the amygdala, is the part of your brain that is responsible for your flight and fight response. It is doing what it needs to do by posing these questions.
But these questions aren’t helpful when preparing to return to the paid workforce.
SO LET’S DISCUSS YOU …
It is possible that in the last few years you have been caring and attending to everyone else’s needs and you have lost yourself? Perhaps you have become the needle in the haystack?
As parents it is not hard to lose our identity. I don’t mean your role or career title. I mean YOU. Who you are, and what you like outside of parenting?
Now you may be rolling your eyes and questioning, “who has had any time for that?”.
And that is a fair, and I will allow that eye roll.
However, when we lose sense of who we are, it can be challenging to find it. As parents we need to fight hard to protect our identity. It doesn’t mean it won’t change or adapt. It’s about retaining a sense of self and ensuring it’s at the heart of everything you do.
This self-care, will increase the care and love for those around you. It is not selfish. It is vital and it means that you won’t be difficult to find and reconnect with.
WAYS TO EMOTIONALLY PREPARE YOU FOR YOUR RETURN TO WORK
Can you articulate your purpose for returning to work?
If not, that’s ok.
Sit down with pen and paper and map it out. Don’t forget to add your aspirations and hopes. We all have gas bills to pay, but consider your career path, potential future studies and want you want in the next five years.
If you can articulate your purpose, it will provide an anchor for you to rely on as you progress through this transition.
Let’s get this one out of the way early.
My fairy godmother wand can’t be used for this one unfortunately.
We all know that even pre-conception, we feel guilt and self-doubt. Have I fed her enough? Is he sleeping enough? Why isn’t my child walking yet? Why isn’t my child talking yet? Why is my child the roughest, quietest, loudest, smallest, biggest? Have I been present enough? Have I smothered them too much not allowing them to develop independently enough? How about this?
We can’t rid ourselves of guilt, however what we can do is remind ourselves that we are parenting with the best of intentions and know that we are doing enough. Be conscious when you do feel the guilt barometer rising but give it a big push down. It doesn’t serve you at all.
For more support here see:
You can make life so much easier for yourself by jumping on the organisation train right now.
Now, I see you. Put that phone down, and do not even be tempted to jump on those “I am so organised, look at me, look at me, look at me” facebook pages. Don’t. They won’t help you get organised. In fact they’ll probably dial up your guilt. In all seriousness, look if you must, but don’t get sucked into the I’m not good enough vortex.
So, how do you start getting organised?
With a paper and pen. Make a list of what needs to be done to facilitate an easier back to work transition. You might like to organise your thoughts in columns, or my favourite, a mind map. Dump it all on paper. Even a good old spreadsheet or word table will do.
There are the main things to include:
- Care of your kids – timetable, who will care for them when you are at work, and getting to and from work?
- Meals – all meals… breakfasts, lunches, dinners, snacks
- Routine – from the start of the day to the end of the day. Who needs to be doing what and when?
- Activities and exercise -again – don’t forget you
- School holidays if you have school aged kids
- Does your co-parenting arrangement need to be modified if you are co-parenting?
There’s a lot in all of this, however, having a killer plan will help you manage any guilt that creeps in.
My tip is that if you go searching for a fancy system to create your plan in, this may serve to distract rather than getting it all on a page. Once its out of your mind on paper, you can pop it into a system.
PREPARE THE KIDS
Depending on your kids age, it’s a good idea to be clear with them around the changing circumstances.
You might like to discuss with them new routines and if they are older children, how they can support this transition. Generally, kids love to be included and trusted to assume a responsibility role that is age appropriate. This is also the time to let them know why you have made the decision to enter or re-enter the workforce.
Kids are quite intuitive so they will sense any anxiety or nervousness. This doesn’t mean you need to lie or not be transparent. Be open and honest about your decision, and share with your kids your hopes and expectations from this.
WHO’S IN YOUR CORNER?
We don’t get special medals for doing things on our own.
When I was raising my daughter solo, I remember how fiercely independent I wanted to be. Despite this I still reached out to a couple of close friends that were there with wisdom and love. This support crew created space for me to fall in a heap on hard days and they lifted me higher on great days.
Who’s in your corner? You don’t need a whole team of cheerleaders. Just a couple of close confidantes is enough.
It won’t go well all the time.
With great planning, you are setting up the right conditions for success, however there will still be average days. It’s important to manage your expectations.
Kids and plans don’t always work. Have some contingencies in place?
Plan for “what if’s…?” So, when that curve ball comes your way, you are ready!
How you and your family feel on a day-to-day basis with a new routine can also change and waiver. On these days go back to your purpose. Connect with your why. It’s easy for the daily nuisances to bring us down. In these moments- elevate your thinking to your bigger reason.
On this point, it’s important to convey your expectations with your employer. If you are negotiating what your return to work looks like, ensure you are clear on hours and boundaries. This clarity upfront will avoid awkward conversations later. Only commit to what you can. If this means easing back in with a gradual increase in hours over time, that’s ok too.
DON’T FORGET TO HAVE FUN
Part of the charm of being at home with the kids is seeing joy in them. Everyday isn’t 10/10 joyful, but there will be that one moment that makes your heart sing.
Going back to work doesn’t mean these moments are gone. Sometimes we just need to look a little harder for them.
So when you’re with your kids, be with them. Limit distractions. A 20 minute park play after dinner, a run through the sprinklers, getting them to help you make dinner, watching a funny TV show together, or reading a funny book they love. These things don’t take up hours, but it’s in these moments that you will find joy.
And most importantly, don’t forget fun time for you.
Schedule in time with friends, where you can grab a bite or a coffee. Aim for one thing per week. It sounds like a lot, but 30 minutes to an hour is all you need. Your time out is not work. It’s work. So ensure you are also having fun. Use your support crew and schedule it in.
Here are some ideas to help you along your way:
LOVE IT ALL
Finally make a conscious decision to love it all. Even the ordinary days.
This is about training your mindset to see the light where there’s shade. When you choose to embrace it all, it’s easier to see the good bits. What’s bad sticks out like a sore thumb. But the great bits, they are harder to find at times, but so rewarding. Make a choice to love it all.