3 steps for a smooth transition back to work after kids | Guest post

When that time comes to return to work after having children, you may be a little lost on how you can make the transition a smooth one.

While the last few months or years will have largely consisted of nappy changing, catering meals for fussy eaters, coordinating nap times and diffusing tantrums, when the time comes to head back to the workforce, here are three easy steps to help make the transition considerably easier.

1. Define your ideal work-life balance

The first step to returning to work is defining what type of work-life balance will work best for your family. You may be itching to get back into full-time work, or maybe part-time or short-term contract work would be a better fit.

If you’re planning to return to your old workplace, you’ll need to start that discussion with your employer to find out what they can and can’t accommodate, and whether or not you’re still interested in the type of work they can offer you.

If your old employer can no longer offer you a position or work arrangement that suits your needs and requirements, you’ll need to start looking at other options. Consider if you can seek similar work from another employer, if you’ll need to re-skill into a different field or if there are any viable career paths which would allow you to work from home.

2. Find suitable childcare

Once you have a good idea of what your working week will look like, you’ll need to sort out your childcare arrangements.

Whether you choose to leave your children with grandparents, a trusted family member or friend, enrol them in family day care or sign them up at a child care centre, it’s important to start looking as early as possible as the wait to get them into your preferred child care on your preferred days could be a lot longer than you think.

While leaving your child in the care of someone else can seem like a very daunting prospect, making sure you ask the right questions will help ease your nerves.

When you visit a child care centre make sure you find out what the child-to-staff ratio is, how they discipline children when they misbehave, and the qualifications held by staff working in the centre. At a minimum, all staff should have completed a childcare course like this one in Melbourne.

You should also find out what meals they serve, what items they supply, if you get days in lieu for public holidays and what happens when your child is sick (be prepared that your little one/s are likely to pick up a few bugs in the first 12 months of child care if they haven’t had a lot of previous exposure to other children).

3. Prepare your children emotionally

Finally, you’ll need to prepare your child emotionally to be separated from you for extended periods of time. If your child has never been separated from you for more than a few hours, the sooner you get them used to not having you at their beckon call the better.

While your chosen childcare provider will most likely offer a few trial or orientation days to warm your child up to the idea before attempting a full day stint, there’s no harm in looking into additional options to warm them up to the concept like sending them to their grandparents’ house more often or asking other parents if they’d be keen to take turns doing some childminding.

While it may prove to be a little challenging initially, the more practice they have learned how to manage independently without you, the easier it will be for them to embrace their new daily schedule once it starts.

While you’ll most likely be imaging your child having a complete meltdown without you there to calm them down, the reality is that most children are quite adaptable and will learn to embrace their new surroundings faster than you think. In fact, it’s usually more emotionally challenging for the parent to adapt to the new arrangements than the child, so just give it a go and you may find you’re pleasantly surprised!

While there’s no magic formula that’s guaranteed to ensure a tear-free transition to your new working arrangements, these three steps should at least help to make it a smoother one.

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