Transitioning Back to Work

A young mother putting shoes on her toddler son inside in a bedroom.

I stayed at home with my son for just under two years. I hadn’t planned to initially, but it worked well for our family. I don’t think there is a “one size fits all” solution to working outside the home versus working at home, but each family has to find the best solution for them.

After about a year and a half of being home, I started contemplating returning to the workforce. I wasn’t ready to go back full time, but I felt both my son and I could benefit from a change. A couple of months later, I found an opportunity that seemed like a perfect fit. It was a pretty quick process from finding the job to starting work, so we had a lot of decisions to make in a short amount of time. 

I’ve now been working part-time for about 7 months. I’ll admit the transition was a bit of a challenge, but I’m loving my job and my son is thriving at daycare. Here are a few things I learned about this challenging (but rewarding) transition.

Kids are Resilient

The absolute hardest part about the transition was starting my son in daycare. We looked at a lot of different options, but without family around, daycare ended up being the best fit for us. I remember having a pit in my stomach the whole week before taking him for his first day. I started worrying that I had babied him too much. I could not imagine he would eat and sleep at daycare without constant individualized attention.

When his first day arrived, I held it together at drop-off but I sobbed the whole way home. Within an hour, I received a picture of him smiling and playing on the playground. I could not believe it!!

Now I’m not saying it was that simple of a transition. It was weeks before drop-off didn’t include tears, and there are still days he gets upset and I feel horrible driving to work. But, overall he transitioned MUCH quicker than I thought he would. This is the same kid who had never stayed with a babysitter and had to be picked up many times from the church nursery. He talks about his friends and his language and social skills have drastically improved since starting. It’s helped him with other times he has had to go to a class or stay with a sitter.

Be Patient

As I mentioned, the transition was easier than expected, but still took some time. Give yourself (and your family) some grace and patience as everyone adjusts. For us, a good way to ease our son into daycare was to start a week before I started. This way he could go for a couple hours the first day, stay through lunch the second day, and stay through nap time another day. This gradual transition helped him get more comfortable and he ate and slept there by the end of the first week!

Also, have some patience as you try to navigate the inevitable things that will come up. Starting a job and sending your child to daycare means introducing your home to a whole new batch of germs! My son has gotten sick more in the last 7 months than in the two years prior. It’s tough feeling pulled in different directions and trying to balance responsibilities at work and a sick kiddo! It’s extra tough if you don’t have family or others around that can pitch in. It’s taken a lot of communication (and occasional compromise) between my husband and me to figure out how to handle an unexpected snow day, or my son being sick.

So Much Guilt…

Since starting back in the workforce, I’ve had a lot of guilt. I feel bad leaving my son crying at daycare. I feel bad heading to work on a Saturday for an event and leaving my husband to take care of everything at home. I feel guilty on days I am at work, but I’m thinking about my son or distracted by a message that he’s ok but just busted his lip at daycare. There’s always something to feel guilty about! But, when I wasn’t working outside the home, I felt guilty about a million other things. I felt guilty for being distracted by housework or worried my son wasn’t socializing with kids enough. Mom guilt is tough, but all you can do is wake up and try your best the next day. 

It’s Hard to Transition to Being Around Adults

Maybe its just me, but I had a hard time transitioning back to spending my days with adults. Yes, I had mom groups and play dates, but our conversations tended to revolve around diapers, feeding, sleep training, and temper tantrums. Maybe not what you want to sit around and discuss with your new co-workers! I caught myself (and still do) talking about my son more than I should. He had been my main focus for almost two years, I didn’t do a lot outside of him. It has gotten easier over time, though I probably still talk about him more than I should! I’m thankful for patient coworkers who don’t mind looking at that cute pic I took last night, and who ask about him.

If and when you transition from working at home to a job outside the home, remember to give yourself patience! It’s a tough transition, but hopefully one that will be rewarding for you and your family!

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