Aug 3, 2007

How to Survive Going Back to Work (Again)

I've been back at work for about a month now, and things are going okay. I can't really remember the nuts and bolts of going back to work after my maternity leave with Alex. I remember how I felt, but I don't remember what I did. I felt sad, depressed, lost, frustrated, overwhelmed. The typical emotions of a mother going back to work, even though it's (mostly) by choice rather than necessity. In retrospect, I think a big part of it was anxiety over not knowing what to expect.

This time, I haven't been very emotional about it and I think it's because I had a much better idea of what things would be like. I know how the kids' daycare works, I trust the teachers there, and I know Tyler will be fine. Which isn't to say that there haven't been some emotional times.

The hardest thing about going back to work has been time management. Well, actually, the hardest thing has been not forgetting anything when I walk out the door in the morning. The second hardest thing has been managing my time so that I am taking of everyone, including myself, the way that I'd like. In fact, I posted previously about how I'm now cooking less so that I have more ME time, which means I'm a happier wife and mother to be around.

I keep thinking that I need a checklist to consult before I step out the door in the morning, but I haven't gotten around to making one. What I have started doing is getting as much as possible ready the night before work. If I am making dinner, it's usually in the slow cooker, and I load up the removable crock at night so that all I have to do in the morning is pop the crock into the cooker and turn the power on to low. I get breakfast ready. I pack up the non-perishable items that we'll taking with us in the morning - things like work documents, blankets and extra clothes for the boys, and my breastpump. I put all perishables in the same place in the fridge so that I'm less likely to forget something. I also decide what I'm going to wear the next day.

This routine has worked pretty well for a couple of weeks now. The funny thing is, some of the things I'm now doing at night are things that I thought I couldn't do ahead of time. For example, I usually pack some fruit and yogurt parfaits for Marc and I to take to work, and a bowl of fruit for Alex. Preparing the fruit was the most time-consuming part of my morning routine, but the fruit wouldn't keep too well if I cut it up at night. Finally, it occurred to me to take a large baking sheet covered with a towel, and place the washed fruit on it - that at least would reduce the amount of prep time since I wouldn't have to wash the fruit. I started by leaving the fruit on the counter overnight, but the strawberries didn't seem to like it that much, so I cleared most of the bottom shelf in the fridge and leave the tray there overnight. I also discovered that the part of the strawberries in contact with the towel got mushy so I put a cooling rack between the baking sheet and the towel.

What I've learned is that I can make going back to work easier for myself by being adaptable. I take a hard look at the things that are stressing me out and ask how I can make things better. Being kind to myself in this way makes the transition to working full-time again easier because I am able to focus on the positive aspects of being back at work instead of the stress that it's causing.


Anonymous said...

You are so amazingly organized! I tell myself that I should get things ready the night before, but I am usually so wiped after getting the boys into bed that I crash as well. Kudos to you for making such a great transition back to work! That is a terrific accomplishment!

ChiefFamilyOfficer said...

Hah! I'm glad I sound organized, most of the time I don't feel that way. I think yesterday was the first day all week that I didn't forget something at home!

Anonymous said...

I have to return to work soon myself.

I love the getting stuff ready the night before tip. I know that makes a huge difference and I like hearing it again so that maybe I'll actually do it!

What do you do on nights when you don't cook? Do you do prepared meals, take out, cereal? I might be naive on this one, so thanks.

ChiefFamilyOfficer said...

We do a lot of takeout these days, I must admit. I love to cook but we made a mutual decision to cut back on that so that I would actually have ME time. Hopefully it won't be for too many months, we'll have to see.

One thing we do that saves on time and money is eat half of our takeout and save the other half for another meal. You can fill out the meal with raw fruit and veggies. A good way to save time on the way home is buy take out for lunch, eat half and bring the other half home for dinner.

I've also started stocking more frozen dinners but we really don't like them much. On the occasions that I do cook, I try to make something with leftovers that freeze well so we can have those another night. Also, the slow cooker is my best friend in the kitchen (along with my dishwasher).

Hope that helps!