Remember: Whatever you decide, you can change your mind — so continue to have conversations about your career choices with your husband, as you go through this exciting and challenging stage of life.
Work issue #1: You feel very g-u-i-l-t-y
Are you suffering from new-mum guilt? Many women end up feeling inadequate by trying to be perfect mothers and model employees. By working, you may think that you’re abandoning your child. Conversely, you don’t feel committed enough to your career.
The Solution: Guilt is a sign that something’s out of balance. Sit down and figure out what needs specific attention, then find a solution that works. “Deal with the smaller problems, and solve the solvable ones first,” suggests Dr Adrian Wang, a consultant psychiatrist at Gleneagles Hospital. For example, if you feel like your job is going well but you’re not spending enough time with your baby, move her bedtime back a bit. If you feel like you’re neglecting your relationship with your husband, block out some couple time each week.
Remind yourself that by working, you can make life better for your family — whether by fulfilling your goals, earning extra money, or by being a role model for your children. Sit down and write out how your work improves your family’s quality of life. When you see it in black and white, you’ll feel better about the decisions you’ve made.
Work issue #2: Your career takes a hit
In order to feel like you’re a full-time parent as well as a career person, you may need to take on a less stressful job or stop working overtime, in order to spend more time with your family. Consider switching to a job with fewer hours, perks or benefits. Of course, if you’ve always been a high achiever, this can make you feel like you’ve been demoted.
The Solution: Shrug off these feelings by taking stock of what it means to be a top performer in your field. You may be competing with people who are willing to work 24/7, but that isn’t exactly family friendly!
“The game has changed, so don’t beat yourself up,” Dr Wang says. Instead, he suggests that you work smart, prioritise your tasks, and think of ways to contribute at work without needing to sacrifice time with your mini-me. And don’t underestimate your (multitasking) mettle — the pull of a baby can make you twice as productive!
Work issue #3: You feel time-crunched
Unfortunately, there is no magic formula to ensure that your work schedule, household tasks and family responsibilities run like clockwork. In the beginning, you may feel like nothing and nobody is getting the proper amount of attention. And just when you think you have it all, your baby changes his sleep pattern or your babysitter falls sick!
The Solution: “Cut yourself some slack,” advises Dr Wang. “Put things in perspective and prioritise — some things are not that important, so don’t overburden yourself.”
Bear in mind that being a working mother is a new job in itself, so it takes time to work out the kinks. Smooth the transition by getting your husband to help and preparing your boss for the fact that you’ll occasionally have a childcare crisis.
Most importantly, compartmentalise, Dr Wang adds. When you’re at work, get your mind off your kids; at home, unplug from work. This way, you’ll not shortchange work or family.
Home-bound issue #1: Bored and frustrated
Baby and family duties and establishing some semblance of order in your household is a completely different way of life from the corporate cut and thrust. At some point, you may decide staring at your computer all day is preferable to folding laundry and watching Hi-5 on DVD AGAIN!
The Solution: If you’re going to make it in Mummyville, you’ll need to find ways to feel stimulated mentally. This may mean getting a babysitter, so that you can take a muay thai or a Malay class. Or why not try volunteer work, putting the skills you’ve learnt in your previous jobs to good use, Dr Wang suggests.
“Remember, you’re not a maid! If you feel like what you’re doing is very mundane, talk to your husband about getting part-time help to do the chores,” he adds. “And learn to live with some mess, like Lego bricks on the floor!”
If you miss the structure of a work schedule and the camaraderie of colleagues — not to mention the easy access to adult conversation — create your own system to meet these needs. Why not connect with women you met in prenatal classes or chat with other stay-at-home mums at the playground? Schedule regular activities that anchor your day ― such as exercising, reading the newspaper, or going to the supermarket.
Home-bound issue #2: Out of the loop
Find yourself yearning for some juicy water-cooler gossip? You don’t have to suffer in silence.
The Solution: Stay in touch with your colleagues. If you let a year go by without a call, you’ll fall out of the loop. Send out a casual e-mail or pick up the phone every few months or weeks, even, to let your colleagues know what you’re up to. Why not make a lunch date, or even better, drop by your former workplace with the baby? It’s also smart to keep up with all the changes taking place in your profession, so when it’s time to resume work, you won’t feel so lost.
Home-bound issue #3: You feel undervalued
You used to get recognition for your achievements at work. As a homemaker, with no one observing your day-to-day achievements and praising your efforts, it’s hard getting a real measure of your success.
The Solution: To feel better about yourself, experts recommend putting things in perspective. Write a list of the things that made work important to you, then write down all the things that make parenting meaningful. How do they compare? You may be surprised to find that they’re similar.
Also, look for role models who are in the same position as you are — think about what they do that earns your respect. If you’re doing the same kinds of things, aren’t you equally worthy of admiration?
Dr Wang agrees, “The formative years — from your child’s birth to his teens — are when values, morals and character are shaped. As a stay-at-home mum, you play a critical role in helping your child grow up to be a good person, as his mentor and role model.”