Have a mind-emptying ritual. Before you get home, do something that puts closure on the workday. Clean out your briefcase and organize it for the next day. Or spend a few minutes in the car collecting your thoughts or meditating before going in the house. One anonymous writer in A 4th Course of Chicken Soup for the Soul, edited by Jack Canfield (Health Communications Inc., 1997), notes that when he arrives home, he touches the tree in his front yard, mentally hanging all of his work issues on it before walking in the door and becoming Dad.
Plan time to connect. On the way home, think about one specific activity that you will do with your child, whether it’s playing on the floor together, taking a bath or reading a book, says maternity educator Parks. Let that one activity be your focus; then let the evening fall around it. For Colleen Campbell, an art teacher in Great Neck, N.Y., and mother of one, that activity is taking a walk with her baby when she gets home from work.
Avoid the technology trap. “As technology changes, bringing us pagers, e-mail and cell phones, it’s harder to unplug when we walk in the door,” says Rivka Polatnick, senior researcher at the Center for Working Families at the University of California, Berkeley. But unplug we must. When Horrocks, a bankruptcy manager, arrives home from work, she turns off her cell phone and screens her calls. She waits until the kids are in bed to check her e-mail.
New mom and author Waterhouse, a dietitian who works at home, says that when she’s not working, she turns off the ringer on her business line and lets voice mail pick up. “I do my best to keep work at work, even though it’s in my home,” she says.
Buy some time. If you have in-home child care, pay for a half-hour past the time you get home. Use that time to shift gears. Change from work clothes to mommy clothes, take off your jewelry — even your watch — then discuss the baby’s day with the caregiver. This makes the transition easier on the child so he doesn’t feel handed off like a relay baton. If you can afford to, pay people to lighten your workload at home so you can spend more time with your child. Hire a weekly housekeeper and order your groceries online so they’re delivered.
Cut yourself some slack. Conflicting feelings — such as wanting to be at work when you’re home and at home when at work — are normal when you love your baby but are also committed to your career, says Sandy Anderson, M.B.A., Ph.D., author of Women in Career and Life Transitions (Jist Publishing, 2000). “Accept the feelings, vent them — especially to other career moms who can relate — then move on,” she says.
Above all, remember that practice makes perfect. “As long as you’re committed to making it work, in time you’ll make the switch easily and smoothly,” says Anderson. “Eventually, you’ll see the rewards as your baby grows up knowing he has a mommy who’s a tremendous role model of how to love and care for her baby and develop her own life, too.”