Going back isn’t as bad as you expect.
The MPW Insiders Network is an online community where the biggest names in business and beyond answer timely career and leadership questions. Today’s answer for, “How do you deal with the pressures of pressures of work and being a new parent?” is written by Perry Yeatman, founder of Your Career, Your Terms, CEO of Perry Yeatman Global Partners, and co-author of Get Ahead by Going Abroad.
It may feel like your heart is breaking, and there may be tears, but going back to work after childbirth can be a good thing for you and for your kids. Here are my three best tips for surviving re-entry into work:
Give up the guilt
As my husband always reminds me, guilt and worry never help anyone, and they make you miserable. So the first thing all new moms need to do is put down the guilt. I know it’s easier said than done, but it’s worth the effort. As my kids (now 27 and 13) have gotten older, I’ve realized that the baby years are actually the easiest. Their issues are normally smaller and their needs are pretty basic—they want love, safety, good food, and regular sleep. It may not be physically “easy” on parents, but as most moms will tell you, it actually gets harder—mentally and sometimes physically—as they hit middle school. So save your guilt and worry for when you really need them, like when they start driving, dating, and drinking.
Ask for help
I’m not exactly sure why this is, but most women have trouble asking for help. Maybe we’ve been programmed to try to be perfect and want to have it all (at the same time), or maybe we’re just less confident and don’t want to admit we can’t do something. Whatever the reason, the truth is that nobody can do it all by themselves.
Working women in America today in essence have two jobs: one at the office and one at home. We continue to bear way more than half of the burden for caregiving and home care. So unless the U.S. becomes Denmark in the near future and offers everyone low-cost, high-quality child and elder care, let’s not beat ourselves up. Let’s just reset our expectations and get help. Whether it’s your spouse, your extended family, day care, or a nanny, do what you have to do in order to get your household and caregiving needs met. It’s not always cheap, but investing in help now so you don’t have to step off your career path will pay big dividends down the road.
Be kind to yourself
New moms often feel like everyone is judging them as inadequate in caring for their children. To counteract these feelings, you need to give yourself permission to be imperfect. I like to describe myself as a “recovering perfectionist.” To manage this period, you need to let go of the harsh critic inside your head and get comfortable knowing you’re doing your best.
And you need to keep investing in yourself. As my mom is apt to say when things are tough in our family, “If you don’t take care of yourself, you’re no good to anyone else.” So whatever it is that you need to do to recharge—such as taking a walk by yourself, having coffee with girlfriends, getting a massage, taking a nap, reading a book, or going on a date—make time for it. Schedule it in right next to critical work appointments so it won’t seem optional.
Don’t get me wrong: Even if you do these three things, combining early parenthood and full-time work is still hard. But based on my experience, it’ll be worth the effort—both for your family and your career.