Workin' Out

How Spouses Can Help Each Other Get Back To Work After Parental Leave

If it were a perfect world, both you and partner would be able to dedicate your life to raising your kid full-time. But that’s not really something you can do (not even in Finland) because someone has to pay for all the crap you need — pesky things like food and shelter. So, one of you will probably have to go back to work. It’s either that or become a family of bank robbers. And let’s face it, a baby balaclava is less intimidating, more totes adorbs!

But as you all get back into the workforce — whether it’s post-leave or a year from now, with your old gig or a brand new gig —know the transition may get tough. Here are some things you can do to make it easier for everyone.

Advice For Both Of You

Our world still largely expects fathers to suck it up and jump back into the game. The tide is changing a bit, but not at breakneck speed. No matter who’s going back first or who might be staying with the kid, there’s a couple things for both fathers and mothers to consider:

Get Good Baby Care

The thing that’s going to make you feel the best about leaving for work every morning is putting your kid in good hands. But what “best” means is totally up to you. As parents, you need to make sure that your baby’s daily caregiver is aligned with your values and willing to follow your rules (barring something odd, like a daily listen of Tom Wait’s Black Rider).

Research is important, but so is spending time with your kid and your caregiver in the same place. That might be in your home. It might be in a daycare center. Either way, you’ll get a feel for how they interact with your new addition.

Stay Emotionally Connected

All those pictures you took the last month or so? Those are totally going to litter your desk eat up your iPhone storage. Speaking of which, don’t be shy about calling your caregiver and letting them put your kid on the horn. They won’t be able to say much, but they might gurgle and coo. It’ll be like calling up your alcoholic uncle Dave — but way more heartwarming.

Getting Your Partner Back To Work Gently

If you’re already back in the game, you may have forgotten how ugly it was to walk back into work on that first day after leave. This could be even worse for your partner, depending on how long she’s been out. Here are some non-patronizing things you can encourage your partner to do:

Go Slow: See if there’s any way of getting back into the office with some flex hours. It might be possible to combine some at work hours with work from home hours (aka, work-from-playroom hours)

Practice: Go through the morning routine for few days while that crap doesn’t count. Then you can figure out how much time your partner will actually need to change the third spit-up stained shirt.

Be Patient: Both of you need to expect there will be some tears and frustration, and not just from employers who are sick of your new parent bullshit. Give yourselves a break. It’ll get better. And if not better, it will get “normal” and sometimes that’s good enough.

Split It Up: Get together and decide on the most equitable split of duties in terms of childcare and household chores. It’ll keep you from being resentful and keep your kid from thinking their mother only speaks in heavy sighs.

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Getting A New Gig

If your partner isn’t returning to her last job post-maternity leave, but wants to go back to work, then she’s about to jump into the deep end of the employment pool. There are a lot of ways you can help her prepare, including proof-reading her resume and doing interview rehearsals. Stuff you would have done that anyway. But, here are a few tips anyway, as well advice on how to turn time at home into an advantage in the eyes of a recruiter. Like grace under pressure.

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