I had a compassionate boss, a fellow parent, and he allowed me to come back to work doing three days in the office, two days at home, for as long as I needed. In addition, my husband was able to stay with our daughter for the first eight months because he worked from home. In The Baby Book, by Dr. and Mrs. Sears, I came across this advice which really helped ease any further qualm about being a working mom: "The issue is not the working mother, the issue is attachment with your baby. Separating mothers into two camps (working moms vs. stay-at-home moms) does nothing but provide judgmental material for magazines and devalues one side or the other." With that advice, I began to figure out how I could be a working mom still connected to my baby. Here are five tips I can now share with you:
I've found on the days when I do spend the entire time with my daughter, I'm not really a full-time mother. I take a couple hours to write, a little time to clean, and I talk on the phone. In essence, I'm not interacting with my daughter with undivided attention. Now, on the days that I do go to work, I return home with a renewed focused; I spend as much time directly interacting with my daughter as possible. I check my email for a couple minutes at most, I try not to watch TV, and I even keep phone calls to a minimum. Those evening hours are precious family time when I’m not trying to sneak in an email (Momma Note: We know it’s tempting to prove to your coworkers that you can keep up; try scheduling yourself a “home office hour” that you can devote to staying connected when there is added pressure from a deadline).
2. Don't buy your child’s love
Perhaps you've witnessed the type of parenting (or grandparenting) where the parent feels guilty about not spending enough time with their child and so the kids get everything they want (toys, sweets, punishment-free scolding). Don't harp on your failures as a parent. Not being with our kids for every moment of their development will not harm them. If your child gets to purchase a toy or candy every time you are at the store just because you feel badly, you're going to encounter discipline problems down the road. Remember the most valuable gift you give your child is your love and dedication and a few hours a day away will not put that devotion into question as long as you can remember Tip #1.
3. Find someone who cares as much as you do
The other day my daughter fell off the step at daycare. She got a nasty cut on both the inside and outside of her lip. The young woman who takes care of the kids called me in a panic. When I arrived, my daughter had recovered and was playing again. The caretaker however was still on the verge of tears. I reassured her that it was ok, “Things like that happen,” and left my daughter at daycare for the remainder of the day. When I returned later, Jenna was still upset about the incident. I felt comforted that she cared deeply about my daughter and it let me know I could trust her implicitly. How do you find these people, you ask? That's a topic for another post.
4. Spend time away thinking about the good things
Instead of spending your entire day at work thinking about the negative impact you are having on your child, think fondly of the things you feel you’ve done well. When I get a glimpse of my desktop image of my daughter, I think about the fun hike we had the previous weekend, or family dinner the night before, or how cute it is when she tries out her newest word (“tired”). Fostering positive thoughts about our parenting instead of our deficiencies makes our world outlook better and makes the working mom paradigm much more pleasant.
5. Make date-time with your kids
Another working mom I know has a fun ritual. Her kids are already school-aged and about once a month, she surprises them by showing up for lunch. “I get my lunch hour every day, so sometimes I take that time to visit them. They are super excited to have a special lunch with me, and I love seeing them in the middle of the day.” I try to mix up my routine with my daughter by doing fun date-time things with her like taking an unexpected walk to the library. Just like with all relationships, adding an element of surprise renews our joy in being with each other.