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How do I find a balance between work and my baby?

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Advice Q & A with Melissa Hughes

Perinatal Psychotherapist

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The Q

I am a 37-year-old first time mum who has just returned to part-time work after being on maternity leave. I’m struggling with this change and feel like things are falling down around me.

I don’t seem to be able to manage my family and household like I use to and my husband can’t understand why. I feel guilty that I’m not at home with my baby, and that I’m not effective at work either. The fact I’m not performing at both work and home is making me feel like a total failure. What can I do?

The A

Most mums returning to work face this same conundrum – the “best” way to juggle the balance between work and home.

The biological imperative to be with our children is strong. It has to be so that we can muster up the energy to tend to our little darlings 24-hours a day for those first few weeks. This also means that the urge to be with them when we return to work is ever-present. Do not fear, just because the feeling of missing your baby is there, it does not necessarily mean you are doing the wrong thing.

For example, just because you feel like eating a whole block of chocolate doesn’t mean it is the right thing to do for your body! I am not trying to make light of the fact that you are missing your child. What I do want to highlight is that most mothers miss their babies sometimes.

As a way forward, focus on being present 100% wherever you are. If you are at work, then be at work. Focus on work calls, send those emails and get the job done so that when you return home: your mobile is off, your computer is away and you can be fully present for your child, your family and most importantly yourself.

It is still important to talk about how you are feeling. It is imperative that you acknowledge what is going on for you and this may mean acknowledging that you are missing your baby. Sit for a couple of minutes and let yourself just feel it and then choose to get on with it.

This is a learnt skill, so it does help to discuss how you are feeling with a professional who can assist in the normalisation process. It is definitely possible, common and ok.

Do you have a question you would like to ask Melissa? You can ask your question here, for free.

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Advice Q & A with Melissa Hughes. Ask Melissa a question.

Melissa is the Director of Baby and Beyond Parental Counselling. She specialises in prenatal and postnatal counselling: covering issues such as transition to parenting, successfully managing maternity leave, support through postnatal anxiety/depression, antenatal anxiety/depression and relationship issues. Melissa has lectured at Universities across Sydney and contributed as an expert in parenting and relationship articles as well as writing for magazines. Her work in group therapy for postnatal depression was recognised by the Centre for Leadership for Women in 2009 and she continues to facilitate groups on a weekly basis.

Website: http://www.babyandbeyond.net.au/

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  • Clare

    I find this article jars with my beliefs a bit. We shouldn’t judge others decisions and we don’t know exact circumstances, however I am assuming that by the heading of this article we are talking about tiny babies ‘newborn’ is not being cared for by a parent or family member.? And when I see tiny babies in childcare for long hours I can’t help but feel that this is terribly sad. For everyone involved.

    I also find the advice to ignore your feelings quite difficult to stomach, almost scientific, we only feel like this because it is how we are genetically programmed?

    Personally it is wonderful to be able to be a Mum and also work, the balance is a blessing but when babies are very young (before 1 year old) should we not try everything in our power to keep them out of childcare? Is that not our responsibility to them after deciding to bring them into the world?

    It is very tough these days with expensive mortgages, however the majority of the time is there not another option? Thinking ahead and saving so we can afford to take off that we owe our babies, living in smaller houses or apartments or further out of the City for a while?

    Will parents not have huge regrets if they miss out on the precious time with their tiny children and their children not be effected in someway permanently?

    • Hi Clare, thanks for your comment. I can understand your feelings – the original heading was a bit misleading I’ve updated it so it now reads ‘baby’ instead of ‘newborn’.

    • I find it interesting that being at home with the baby in the first year is so important. As long as breast feeding can continue until the mum is ready to wean, why is the first year so much more important than all other years? It seems to me that many teenagers could do with more attention than many babies… x

  • Julie Hamilton

    Clare- you seem rather judgmental for someone that believes you shouldn’t judge others. This woman has returned to part-time work and is asking for support and help, not judgmental comments about long day care.

    I think Melissa is trying to say is that after having a baby we are wired differently- hormonal we have urges and instincts that are sometimes stronger than our rational thoughts. I believe it takes 2 years for our body to settle down and return to normal. I agree with Melissa- the best thing to do is voice how you are feeling. Perhaps get a cleaner if you can to take the pressure off!

    When I returned to work, it took 6-8 weeks before our family got into a rhythm. Give yourself some time to adjust and reevaluate after a couple of months.

    Be kind to yourself! your not super human, your a mum/wife/employee.

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