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Janet Chan on Going Back to Work
As both a working mother and boss, Janet Chan understands the dilemma faced by moms rejoining the workforce after giving birth. Since 1996, Janet Chan has been vice president and editor-in-chief of Parenting magazine and editorial director of The Parenting Group, which includes Parenting and Babytalk magazines and Parenting.com. Prior to Parenting, Chan was the executive editor of Good Housekeeping, executive editor of Redbook and deputy editor of Self. Here, Chan offers her professional and personal expertise on the first 30 days of going back to work after baby.
As new moms, what issues women worry about during the first 30 days of going back to work after baby?
New mothers tend to focus their questions on the baby’s health and their own bonding. These include: “Is my childcare provider good enough?” “Is my baby being stimulated?” “Will she be okay without me?” “Is she crying?” “Will she still know me?” Other concerns regarding their own roles arise as well, such as: “Am I a good enough mother?” “Am I a good enough worker?”
What are some common emotions during the first 30 days of returning to work?
Overwhelming guilt and sadness are common feelings that mothers experience during this time. Initially, when I went back to work, I couldn’t even look at a picture of my child without tearing up or having my breasts hurt. I just felt so sad about leaving my son. Some women also feel insecure about their job performance. I know that I worried about what kind of worker I would be now that my job was not the only priority in my life.
What are ways some ways a working mom can cope with these feelings?
For me, the thing that worked was to separate my home life from my work life as much as possible. That meant not calling my caregiver 10 times during the day to ask for updates. Doing this allowed me to focus more fully on work when I was in the office and to leave my job at the office when I was home. It also helped me to gain trust in my caregiver and feel confident that my baby would be fine when I wasn’t there.
What are the phases women go through when they go back to work?
I think that the first phase is probably the hardest and usually lasts about one to two weeks. You are trying to adjust to life back at the office while feeling the intense emotions that go with being apart from your child, all while dealing with sleep deprivation. Also, nursing mothers need to get their breasts accustomed to the new schedule, whether they plan to use a portable pump or wean enough to feed only in the morning and evening. It’s as physically as it is mentally exhausting.
The hardest part is over as you begin to settle into your new routine. You may continue to feel the pull to be with your baby, but you’ll be able to concentrate on your work more. Though you may have been expecting it to feel like an eternity, by the end of the 30 days, you will realize how fast the time flies by and feel proud that you made it.
What is one thing that women should do during the first 30 days of this life change?
Treat yourself. Have lunch with a co-worker. Arrange for your partner to do a nighttime feeding so that you can get a little extra sleep. Once I was back at work, I realized how much I missed certain things, like wearing adult clothes, sushi and time to myself. Even going to the drugstore felt like being at a spa!
What is the most important thing to do beyond the first 30 days?
It is vital to be good to yourself. Don’t put too much pressure on yourself. You don’t have to solve everything in the first 30 days. Wing it a little. You are smarter than you think. You got through birth and maternity leave—two major life transitions. You can do this, too.
What is the belief you personally go to during times of change?
I think, “Ugh!” And then I think, “Great!” My first instinct is always to say no, I don’t like change. My second thought is that this will be interesting. I can do this.
The best thing about change is...
...it makes you uncomfortable, but helps you to grow and feel reenergized.
What is the best change you have ever made?
Becoming a mom and the editor of Parenting magazine, of course!
For more information on Janet Chan, visit www.parenting.com.