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How to Help Kids Cope When Mom Goes Back to Work

Make everyone happier by easing into your transition back to work.
Make everyone happier by easing into your transition back to work.

If you spent much of your children’s infancy and toddlerhood as a stay-at-home mom, then going back to work – even part time – can be as big a change for your little ones as it is for you. But if you’re ready to re-enter the workforce then there are ways you can help your kids adjust, so that you can keep your home life running smoothly while getting your career back on track.

Now that you won’t be home during the day, your kids will be facing a change in their routine, too – so play up the fun of their new opportunities as well as yours. If they’re going to daycare or are old enough to start school, focus on how exciting that is; if they’ll be spending the day with grandma and grandpa or a nanny, then sit together to come up with a list of fun activities to plan (including day trips, art projects, and making grandma’s famous cookies). The goal is that they’ll be so focused on the positive changes in their lives that they will barely notice yours.

The rules of your home are second nature to you and your kids by now – this includes naptimes, acceptable afternoon snacks, and what they are (and aren’t) allowed to watch on television. Make sure that your new childcare provider is on the same page, so that your kids aren’t getting mixed signals in terms of discipline and punishments, and you aren’t coming home to a family that’s on a mid-afternoon chocolate-milk-and-cartoons sugar high.

This guideline is as much for you as it is for them. When you’re home at the end of the day or on the weekends, keep the laptop closed, the folders away, and your smartphone out of reach. Kids can tell when they aren’t getting your full attention, and they may start to misbehave as a result. Make sure you’re showing them that the time you spend with your family is just as important to you as the time you spend at work, so they don’t feel like they’re coming in second to your job.

If you haven’t had a central family calendar up on the wall where everyone can see it until now, then it may be time to start one. Give everyone in your family a different color of marker to list out their big sports games, musical and dance recitals, project due dates, and other key events, and then add your own meetings, proposal deadlines, and major assignments. This helps the kids see that their responsibilities and yours deserve the same respect and preparation, and it also prevents you from forgetting their permission slips, choir uniforms, and science fair projects (which is a guaranteed way to make you all feel bad).

No matter what pulled you back to work – an amazing opportunity, your career ambitions, a steady paycheck – you’re there because you know it’s the best decision for your family. Don’t let the guilt of having less time with your kids stop you from making the most of your job; if it makes you a happier person to work, then you’ll be a better parent once you’re home.

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