“The days are long but the years are short.” People love to quote this as you complain about your lack of sleep or your tantruming child or the absence of personal time as you raise tiny humans. Though it is little comfort in the moment, when you stop and reflect on it, it is entirely true. Somehow a year has flown by, my not so little baby is about to turn one, my big girl just turned five(!) and I am heading back to work again. It really does seem like just a few weeks ago that I was swaddling him up tightly and shushing him to sleep in my tattered sweatpants and uncombed hair. Sadly the wardrobe has remained the same but the children have not. Now it is time for Mama to rejoin the world of adult conversation, pants with zippers, and the balancing act of working outside the home while raising two humans all the other hours of the day.
As someone who dislikes change and thrives on routine, I know I need to set myself up for success in order to make the transition happen smoothly for my whole family. Now that I have two children to accommodate while I am at work, the planning and coordinating is at spreadsheet level precision. With just a few weeks to go, here is how I am preparing to return to work.
Childcare Dress Rehearsal: Whether your family is watching your child(ren) or you are sending them to a conventional day care outside the home, practicing both your routine and theirs while they are in someone else’s care is essential in preparing you both. Doing a few dry runs to get ready and then leaving them alone with your caregiver will not only allow your child to get used to the new routine but it will also give you a ballpark idea of how long it will take to get out the door in the morning and what types of items you need to pack/prepare for the day. You can also use these few hours of alone time to practice speaking in full sentences, going to the bathroom with the door closed, and sitting down to eat so that your co-workers accept you back into the world of adulthood.
Meal Prep: This is not an original tip, I am well aware, but I include it here to stress its’ importance. Planning a menu for the week takes away the painful “What will we have for dinner today?” narrative everyday and also allows you to have it cooking/thawing/prepped or prepared by the time you arrive home. I don’t want to spend my entire Sunday planning meals for the week, but in doing so I make the rest of the days of the week a little easier. I plan each meal for each day and grocery shop accordingly. Having a similar breakfast every day makes the routine easy in the morning. Putting that evening’s meal in the Crock Pot for dinner means that when I walk in the door, dinner is already made and dishes won’t be too difficult either. Packing lunches for the next day means I am not rushing to do it in the morning and I can do so with a clear head. Batch cooking allows me the freedom to cook a few meals a week and use the leftovers for other meals- work smarter, not harder!
Wardrobe: While I am updating my own aforementioned sweatpants, I am also making sure my kids have enough clothes/underwear/socks to get them through the week without having to do laundry. I have changes of clothes packed in case of accidents and their weekly wardrobe mostly laid out so it makes mornings easier. I let my five year old choose her outfits for the week and we place them in a five drawer bin, one for each day, and when she gets up in the morning she puts on the outfit for the assigned day. This gives me time to get the baby dressed while she gets ready and, although the weather/occasion/attitude doesn’t always co-operate with this method, it gives us a starting point at the very least.
Mobile Storage: Since my car tends to be the main transporter of children at their weakest hours, I stock it with extras that will help get us through. Music that they like to lighten the mood and set the tone for the day. Snacks that might ruin dinner but might also save the day. By the end of the day my kids are spent and we all just want to get home but they express that by screaming hateful things and crying. So, in anticipation of this, I bring snacks (harder to scream with a mouthful of food) blankets, a favourite toy or activity and patience.
Reinforcements: You may be able to do it all, but you don’t have to. Asking those you trust and your partner for help early and often is the best way to take the burden of doing it all off your shoulders and increases your chances of doing a few things really well instead of all the things miserably. Split up pick up/drop off duties, do meal prep together, hire someone to help clean your house, accept your mom’s offer to make dinner- whatever you need and can receive, take the help. It really does take a village so allow your people to lighten your load when possible.
Mindfulness: While my day will be spent mostly focused on work, I am really going to try to park those thoughts once I arrive home and until they go to bed. The transition of spending all day together to spending just a few hours of awake time with one another will be hard on us both so I need to make use of all that time wisely. I don’t need to be on my phone, I don’t need to be on my computer and I don’t need to do things for myself in these hours as much as I need to be present for them. This doesn’t work for everyone and in all situations, and it won’t work for me everyday. But I plan to try my hardest to be there for them, to have conversations about our days even when they tell me they can’t remember anything they did, and to end each day-no matter how far off track it has gotten- by telling them how much I love and appreciate them. Kids are pretty good at forgetting all the bad stuff when the day ends in love. And Moms are too.
If you are heading back to (outside the home) work soon too, then I wish you well. And if you are choosing to stay home with your kids, all the best to you also. Being a Mom is the hardest job I’ve had so far so I am going to be easy on myself knowing that I am doing my best to raise responsible human beings and I encourage you to do the same! Though there will be bad days, there is also little in my world that tiny kisses, wine, and Netflix can’t cure!