Daycare and Returning To Work
If you are returning to work after the delivery, you have probably thought about what types of arrangements will be needed for childcare. Selecting a daycare provider and deciding when to return to work can be a difficult decision, and you (along with your partner and your doctor) should feel comfortable with whatever decision is made.
When is the Right Time to Return Work?
Making the transition from maternity leave back to your job can be hard -- you may feel a variety of emotions. You have to adapt to a new schedule full of challenges that you have not faced before. Even for experienced mothers, juggling a new baby and work requires careful planning.
You may have decided to return to work because of career goals, financial needs, or other reasons. Good family communication can help ease any anxiety or guilt and help you work together through this next set of changes.
In deciding when to return to work, here are just a few of the questions that may run through your mind:
- Will my child be safe or feel comfortable with someone else?
- What will it be like not seeing my child while I'm at work?
- Will my child feel abandoned?
- How will I continue to breastfeed?
- How long will it take me to get ready in the morning?
It is normal to feel guilt and anxiety about separating from your infant. Talk with your partner, employer, caregiver, and doctor about possible solutions that will help you to ease back into the work force.
Here are some ways to help you ease into the transition:
- Investigate part-time, flextime, job-sharing, or telecommuting options.
- Have lunch with your baby.
- Ask your partner or other family members to assist in daily preparations.
- Have a sitter stay with your child in graduated time periods.
- Bring a picture or an article of your baby's clothing to work with you.
- Start your workday in the middle of the week, giving you a little more time to adjust.
- Ask about electronic updates at the daycare. Some daycare providers offer daily pictures or video updates so that you be aware of what little one is doing throughout the day.
During this adjustment period, it's also important to have some "alone time" with your partner. Arrange for it by asking family members, friends, or baby-sitters to watch your baby. You might consider going to the movies, exercising, shopping, or just relaxing at home. Remember, this is a new challenge for even an experienced mother. You must take time to rejuvenate yourself. You and your family will benefit.
Think Outside The Box
As you make decisions about working and childcare, be creative. Can your partner take time off to care for your baby when you first return to work? Would it make sense for dad to stay home while mom works? Can each of you work a four 4-day week, and place your baby in day care part time? Childcare is expensive and having both parents work full time while paying for childcare isn't always the most cost-effective approach. Think about what will make you all happiest as a family.
You should also consider options other than traditional daycare. What about sharing a nanny with another family? Some parents find a small, family daycare in their neighborhood that's run out of someone's home. Local high school or college students may be excellent babysitters, if your schedule is flexible. Grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins can also be wonderful resources as you sort out how to combine parenting, working, and living your life.
It is important to select a daycare facility that is highly qualified, makes you feel comfortable, and gives you peace of mind. Take time to thoroughly research the various daycare options available.
Many daycares have information that you can take home or web sites that you can visit. Talk with friends, neighbors, or relatives to get recommendations. Visit your top 3 selections, and talk to the caregivers, interview other parents, and ask for references.
Some families find it easier if the daycare is close to their home or their workplace. However, there are many other factors to consider:
- The ratio of children to teacher
- The daily schedule
- The security policy
- The number of toys and sensory-stimulating items available
- The policies and access to emergency facilities
- Hygiene policies and overall cleanliness
- Whether the center is accredited by the National Association for Education of Young Children
- Vaccination policy and requirements
Depending on where you live, it may be hard to find a good daycare center with a spot available for your child. Start planning for childcare well in advance of when you plan to return to work. In some cases, families put their names on waiting lists as soon as they discover they are pregnant.
The decisions that you face about daycare and returning to work are challenging, but not impossible. Take your time, plan ahead, and ask for help from people you trust. The first couple of weeks may be difficult, but you and your new addition will adapt and find a pattern that works for your family!
Reviewed By: LaQuita Martinez, MD, Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, Emory Johns Creek Hospital, Alpharetta, GA. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, Brenda Conaway, Editorial Director, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.