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Dion Metzger, MD is a Board Certified Psychiatrist who manages her own practice in Atlanta, GA. Dr. Metzger is currently on faculty as a professor of psychiatry at Emory University School of Medicine, Medical College of Georgia and Morehouse School of Medicine. She is the author of The Modern Trophy Wife: How to Achieve Your Goals While Thriving at Home.
According to a recent survey of 1,000 working mothers, more than a third (37%) reports thoughts of quitting after returning to work following their child's birth. Many reported feelings of isolation and not having adequate support in the workplace. Only 18% of mothers reported feeling happy in their return to work.
What's causing these moms to want to throw in the towel? What can be done to help moms feel more supported in their return to work
Here are my 4 survival tips for mothers to navigate a smooth return into the workforce.
1. Set Realistic Expectations
I work with new mothers who expect they will return to work andpick up right where they left off. That's just not realistic. Give yourself time to get back into the swing of things. I advise giving weeks, not just days. You are not the same person that you were when you left for maternity leave. You are now a superwoman who is juggling family and career. It is ok to have an adjustment period. This adjustment can also consist of asking for help when needed and recognizing that your productivity may dip a little.
2. Be Vocal
Be direct with your employer about your needs. With the new addition at home, do you need more flexible hours? Do you need a designated time for pumping breaks? In my experience working in a employee assistance program, employers work best when they know the employees needs from the start. It's always best to be transparent at the beginning rather than failing to meet obligations down the line. It works best for both the employee and employer and avoids the awkward conversation later about unmet work duties.
3. Don't Let All the Emotions Scare You
It is very common for a mother to have a whirlwhind of emotions including feelings of being overwhelmed or even sadness to leave the little one at home. Mothers have also expressed a loss of identity where they feel they're not meeting the mark at home or at work. They feel like a bad mother because they're at work and feel like a subpar employee because of how their parenting duties interferes. They just have a general feeling of inadequacy across the board. This is NORMAL. Once mothers start to let themselves believe these bad thoughts, they open the door for anxiety and depression. The mind can be a very powerful thing. Don't let the negative voices convince you that you are anything less than a strong working mother.
4. Don't quit (too soon)
I have a "3 month rule" for my new moms. Many mothers have the urge to call it quits in the first 90 days of their return. If it's in that window, it's likely an emotional decision. I ask mothers to wait 3 months because by the 4th month, they often gain more clarity and are in their groove at work. They are now able to weigh the pros and cons of staying at work much easier. I always support mothers who make the decision to leave work but I want it to be a clear decision rather than a judgement just based on emotion.