Going Back to Work: a New Parents’ Survival Guide

So you’ve dropped off your little person at their nursery / childminder /grandparents / other helpful individual for your big first day back at work… now what? It’s a whole different ball game to those pre-baby office days so I’ve put together a New Parents Survival Guide for anybody who may soon be about to embark upon the life of a new parent returning to work.

These pointers are undoubtedly most relevant for those who work in an office… I’m not sure how appropriate they would be if you spend most of your working life on a tractor, for example. But you never know!

Whatever line of work you’re in, go forth and kick ass!

1. Organise the crap out of everything.

Time is no longer on your side. The last working day you did all those months ago saw you getting just one person ready for the day – yourself. How times have changed. Now you have at least one extra human to get up, cleaned, dressed, fed/watered, bag packed, into the car and transported to a certain place by a certain time. Organisation is key. Now is the time to deploy the three P’s – plan, plan, plan!

Do as much as possible the night before – you will not have time to make lunches or iron your last clean work outfit in the morning so do that stuff in advance. Have the little one’s bag packed ready to go as well as your own. Pre-make your lunch and if possible your breakfast too. (You can’t beat an on-the-go brekkie when time is precious!) That way, there will be less tasks for you to juggle in the morning and (slightly) more chance of you leaving the house somewhere near to your intended departure time.

2. Your baby brain does not define you.

Even if you put the bread back in the fridge and the milk back in the bread bin this morning believe me when I say you will not have forgotten how to do your job. All that time doing it day in, day out before baby arrived will have ingrained those daily tasks so deep into your memory that you’ll still be able to recite phone numbers and company policies at the drop of a hat. Be that a good or a bad thing, it will certainly make getting back into the swing of things easier than you might imagine.

However, everyone else doesn’t need to know that so if you do make any little boo boos baby brain coupled with 9 or so months off the job is the perfect get out clause:

“Oh dear…. I accidentally shipped a year’s worth of stock to Russia overnight? Silly me! I forgot what happens when you press that button!”

I’m not sure how long this ploy will plausibly work for, but I’m a month in to date and it still feels totally ok to me.

3. Know your audience.

Some people are not parents. Those people might not want to hear about poo or sleep or see a million photos of your child in their paddling pool at the weekend. They are too busy getting through their 3 day hangover having spent the sunny weekend drinking their body weight in bubbles and Budweiser while working on their tan lines in a beer garden. Just like you used to BC. (Before children.) Don’t bore them to death, leave them to nurse their sore head in peace.

And while we’re on the subject, remember that nobody else cares how tired you are. Not really. You don’t want everyone to think you do nothing but moan about how tired you are EVERY day, so where possible – don’t. As hard as that may be!

4. Find your allies

For times that you want to talk parenting, find your fellow M&Ds and save the baby stories for them. You’ll get a better reception from them and they’ll appreciate the chance to talk about their offspring in return.

5. There will always be someone who will trump you

If you only got an hours sleep last night, there will be someone who only got 30 minutes.

If you are going through the teething phase from hell, there is someone whose child got 10 teeth altogether in one fell swoop and the screams of pain they let out caused an actual earthquake in their village.

There will always be at least one person in the office who will trump you every time, because while you have just one little rascal at home they have 4 under 4, permanent bags the size of primark carriers under their eyes, and a story for every kid conundrum going. This person will make you feel eternally grateful for your own situation even on your very worst days.

Unless of course you are that person in your office. If you are, I suggest you get your kicks by scaring everyone else blind telling them about the time your youngest didn’t go to sleep for 64 hours in a row and you thought you were all going to die of exhaustion… or even better, scare them with the prospect of how it’s actually not that unusual to have twins or even triplets second time round in your 30s. You’ve gotta get your entertainment somehow!

6. Take advantage of the novel things you can do.

  • Wear the jewellery that has been out of bounds for the last 5 months. At work nobody will rip it off you with the determination of a Crystal Maze contestant desperately grasping for the tokens in the dome at the end. (Or at least I hope they won’t. If your colleagues treat you that way it might be time to report them to HR…)
  • Take a handbag that’s just big enough for your purse, phone, pass and a bit of lippy. Not a nappy in sight! Oh, the sweet taste of freedom!
  • Drink a hot drink while it is still hot. In between sips put it down on any surface safe in the knowledge that there will be no little hands threatening to pull it down, scald themselves and stain your carpet.
  • Go to the loo without anyone trying to follow you. Bliss.
  • Listen to adult conversations that are being had by real life people, not being projected out of the tv!
  • Even better- join in with adult conversations! Especially those that don’t revolve around the topic of children in any way whatsoever. Yippee!

7. Live vicariously through others.

You might be surprised how entertaining it can be listening to the exploits of those colleagues with very different lives to your own. Young, adventurous, party-hard… and they love talking about every last detail. Lap up their stories like your very own soap opera and live vicariously through them! You might not be able to live it up all that often nowadays but it can be strangely rewarding to follow the adventures of others from day to day before going home to your own child-focused regime.

8. Strategic thinking.

Prepare for the worst.

I can tell you from experience there will be days where you are SO far beyond tired that you really don’t know how you are going to make it through the day. Hell, you’re not even entirely sure how you got yourself and your little rascal dressed and out of the house this morning, and if you’re perfectly honest the car journey in seems a bit of a haze now. (Did you really drive here?!) After a night with a lot more waking minutes than sleeping ones you will somehow still need to find a way to function and perform your role despite the fact that you feel like you’re going to die. For days like these, I suggest you call on a few key things to help you make it to the end of the day:

  • Red bull and energy tablets for when coffee just won’t do.
  • Snickers bars for a quick pick me up. Nuts for energy!
  • If you find yourself in a meeting, you’ll need a trusted colleague to jab you awake when you fall asleep, which you most certainly will. If the meeting is big enough to get away with it by all means take advantage and get a little shut eye where possible, but you should still have that trusted colleague on hand to alert you anytime the speaker starts asking for audience participation. You don’t want to answer their question, “where do you see the company going in the next 6 months?” with an embarrassingly loud snore!
  • When all else fails, go to the loo, sit down with your head in your hands, and allow yourself just a few seconds to shut your eyes. Just don’t fall asleep properly in there…

9. Avoid getting involved in office politics.

You don’t have time to take that shit home anymore. You have enough stresses of your own without worrying about other people’s petty squabbles and bitchiness. Steer well clear.

10. Look forward to the end of the day.

At the end of it all you’ll be shutting down your computer and heading back out to pick up your little one for a long overdue snuggle. After spending the day apart you will appreciate that little smile even more than you normally do. Happy Mum, happy baby!

Have you gone back to work recently? Is your maternity leave ending soon? If so I hope you have a good transition into the world of new working parent. 😘 I’ve enjoyed it a lot more than I thought I would… tiredness aside!

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