Returning to work as a new mother can be overwhelming. Our expert advice will help you succeed at both jobs.
While the thought of formulating a coherent sentence, much less assuming your previous job responsibilities, may seem overwhelming at first, it is possible to be a happy (if a bit harried!) working mom. You can accomplish this by overcoming potential hurdlesÂsuch as finding reliable child care and creating a feasible scheduleÂearly on and learning to ask for help, says Laraine Zappert, Ph.D., author of Getting It Right: How Working Mothers Successfully Take Up the Challenge of Life, Family and Career (Atria, 2002). Giving yourself the occasional reality check is essential, too. ÂThe biggest misperception is that everybody else is doing it better than you are,Â Zappert says. ÂYou just have to focus on what works for you and your family.Â
So how can you become a working-mom success story? HereÂs guidance from our experts on Âthe big threeÂ: child care, breastfeeding and your work schedule.
Child care: Start Looking Now!
The good news is that the ideal caregiverÂa warm, nurturing person who understands baby development and safety issuesÂcan be found in various settings: your home (via a family member or nanny), someone elseÂs home or a center, says Dianne Stetson, M.S., project director for the National Infant & Toddler Child Care Initiative at Zero to Three, a Washington, D.C.-based nonprofit organization that promotes healthy child development. In addition to considering child care that suits your babyÂs personality, Stetson suggests taking the following steps: Research options early. ÂA common mistake parents make is thinking it will only take a few weeks,Â Stetson says. Contact Child Care Aware (800-424-2246, www.childcareaware.org) for information on centers and day-care providers; And donÂt overlook the best resource of all: local moms.
To find a nanny, cast a wide net. While agencies charge a fee ranging anywhere from $800 to $5,000, they conduct extensive background checks and interviewsÂwith you and the nanniesÂto find the best match. However, not all agencies are created equal; go with one that belongs to the National Alliance of Professional Nanny Agencies (www.theapna.org), if possible.
You also can find nanny candidates through online message boards such as Craigslist.org, where you can list free nanny postings in a number of cities. Ask candidates about their training experience and availability to stay late. Checking references is another must, as well as the background checks, including criminal, sexual offender and child protective records. This requires the applicantÂs written permission (failure to give you an OK is a big red flag). Or hire an agency such as USSearch.com to do the checks for you; their basic nanny-screening service costs $40. Finally, donÂt forget to check with the IRS and your state taxation department regarding taxes youÂll need to pay as an employer. The International Nanny Association (888-878-1477, www.nanny.org) has tips on what to look for in a nanny, as well as a salary guide.
If you opt for child care, think low, as in low child-to-caregiver ratio (a maximum of 4-to-1 for infants) and staff turnover rate. ÂBabies do best with continuity,Â Stetson says. ÂItÂs ideal if your baby can stay with the same caregiver for a few years.Â Trust your gut. ÂChances are, your baby will do well in a place youÂd like to be,Â Stetson says. Look around: Are babies left unattended in cribs or playpens? Does it smell clean? Once you choose a child-care situation, pay close attention to your babyÂs behavior. If sheÂs unusually quiet or withdrawn there could be a problem. See what sheÂs experiencing firsthand by stopping by unannounced from time to time (if thatÂs too difficult, ask a relative to do it).
Be clear in your communication. Since your caregiver will become an important part of your childÂs life, communication beyond the quick morning hello and goodbye at night is necessary. Schedule weekly 15-minute chats for the first few months, then monthly meetings to discuss concerns and developmental changes in a distraction-free setting.