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Overcoming Back-to-Work Anxieties for New Moms

Problem solving has always come naturally to you as a working woman. It should be no different with the common worries of most working mothers. There are solutions! Just understand what to expect, find support for your concerns at home and at work, and you'll learn to overcome your anxieties.

Answers to the Most Common Worries of Working Mothers
Here are the five concerns most often expressed by working mothers and some tips to help alleviate them:

  1. You won't bond with your baby—You worry that you've returned to work before you've bonded with your child. Theres no evidence to suggest that an early return will affect your baby's normal development. Bonding isn't glue. It comes through interactions during the typical child-care activities over months and years.
  2. Your caregiver will be closer to your baby than you—You wouldn't be human if you didn't feel competitive with your care provider. Of course, you want both your child and caregiver to love each another—but not too much. If you work at it, you can learn to respect your caregiver for the skill and interest she brings to the job without viewing this interloper as some kind of rival. Studies show that the strongest emotional bonds are between a mother and her child, regardless of who supplements the care.
  3. If you begin to feel jealous of your child's attachment to the caregiver,stop to realize that this doesn't mean any loss of love for you. In fact, it means just the opposite. Your child may be so overcome with love for you, and with the fear that you would leave, that she clings to the caregiver. Besides, the more people who love your baby, the more special and secure your baby will feel.

    Understandably, it hurts you to know that your care provider, not you, will see your child's first step. But take some comfort in knowing that when your baby smiles at you for the first time it will be a special moment. And when you hear the first recognizable word, the thrill will be just as great. For now, you have to focus on your need for a loving caregiver.

  4. Absence from home—Be honest and realistic about the demands and priorities of your life. Understand that the unrealistic expectations of others come from outdated views of what a woman's role in society should be. Remember that you love your work, that you need the challenge it provides, and that your child is not suffering but is receiving excellent care. Think of yourself as your child's role model for achievement and feelings of self-worth. Remember that mothers who stay home have their own guilt because they're not contributing to the family income, and they sometimes resent their lack of freedom. Make up for your absence by phoning several times a day and schedule a play/talk time every evening.
  5. You will spoil your baby—Continue to lavish love and affection on your baby. There is no more important contribution you can make to your child's well-being than to help develop a sense of self-worth and of being lovable. After all, a loving, stable environment is just what your baby needs. On the other hand, if you cling to your child, it will interfere with the development of a self-reliant, independent individual.
  6. You will snap at your child—Perhaps you're preoccupied with thoughts of work when your child intrudes and you show your irritation. Explain to your child that you're tense, or worried, or tired—and apologize for your quick temper. Force yourself to clear your mind of work concerns and give undivided attention to your child.
How to Prevent Super Working-Mother Syndrome
The "Super Working-Mother Syndrome" is a major trap that many working mothers fall into. In order to protect their families from the physical, mental, and social effects of their return to the workplace, many women feel compelled to "overload" their lives by doing too much in too little time. This trend for perfectionism is driven by guilt and anger. The maternal guilt basically comes from not living up to your own expectations of yourself, and the anger comes from having to self-sacrifice all day long, week in and week out.

It is important that you get past these destructive attitudes and projections. Try to dispel the notion that you can, and should, do everything perfectly: be a perfect mother, a perfect wife, and a perfect employee. It's not humanly possible. Until you acknowledge to yourself that it's okay to be less than perfect at everything, you'll carry a heavy burden of tension, a feeling of inadequacy,and disappointment. Being a balanced woman is an ongoing process—it is not a destination.

Here is a list to help you rid yourself of the symptoms before they lead to frustration, and eventually, depression:

Helping Your Baby and Yourself with Separation Anxiety
Before the age of five months, babies usually don't show signs of distress when they re separated from their parents. From that time until about five years of age, however, if you notice any of the following signs, it indicates that your baby may be feeling separation anxiety: Dos and Don'ts for Dealing with Baby's Fears
There are several ways to approach your baby's separation anxiety to make it easier on everyone: Reducing Your Own Fears
Taking Your Baby to Meet Your Coworkers
Quality time is for the enjoyment of both child and parent. But a special treat for a mother is to show her baby to the people at work. So plan to stop by the office for a short visit before your maternity leave is over. The best time to visit is during a coffee break. Be sure you take these precautions: Controlling Stress and Becoming a Contented Working Parent The kind of pressured existence that working parents live can rob everyone of the opportunity to enjoy life together. What is worse, so much stress can make us irritable, and that has a corrosive effect on families. The following suggestions will be reminders from time to time of the kind of parent you want to be:
  1. Approach your challenges with a sense of joy—You'll find the first few weeks after childbirth much easier to deal with if you keep this in mind. Celebrate your victories and remember them on days when you feel like a failure.
  2. Accentuate the positive—Some days will be difficult if not downright infuriating. On those days, try to think of the positive side of motherhood. Focus on the many wonderful things about your child. Keep funny or endearing photos in your wallet. Look at them when you re having dark thoughts at work.
  3. Seize spontaneous moments to play with your child—A short play period with your baby after you get home from the office is a great way to release tensions and irritations. Children treasure many experiences that don't take much time or don't need to be scheduled.
  4. Focus on your child when you're together—Don't get into the habit of thinking about something else when you're with your child. Requests will begin to feel like interruptions, and your child's very presence may feel like an intrusion. Once you're at home, put away the problems of the workplace. If you have trouble controlling your thoughts, put your concerns on a piece of paper, put it in an envelope, and seal it. Tell yourself you won't think about it until the envelope is opened.
  5. Accept your own decisions about your child—If you worry every time you make a decision concerning your child, you'll be under unnecessary stress. You can't be right about everything you do. Make your best decision, and if it's wrong, make another one to correct it.
  6. Schedule your own needs—Take the time to discover what refreshes you and makes you feel good about yourself. Nurture your body and soul with things like reading, napping, painting, bathing, cooking, or writing. You will be amazed by how much energy and patience you will have after having a rendezvous with yourself for one hour.
  7. Diffuse your anger—Find ways to avoid the angry moment. If your child starts crying when you pick up the telephone, save your call until nap time. Give yourself a time out when your toddler is driving you up the wall. Put your child in a safe place, then go into another room. Breathe deeply,count to ten, and hit a pillow. Do whatever you need to do to safely release your anger.
  8. Be a good role model—You have the chance to teach your child how to handle stress by your example. In the long run, this will make parenting much easier. Take things in stride, be patient, keep a realistic perspective, and set a good precedent.
  9. Get support—Everyone around you, at home and at work, may be good resources for information, advice, and help with your child. Don't hesitate to ask for help. Also, look for a nearby parenting center, or a mother's support group off-or online to help you through bad times.

© 2005 by Marla Schram Schwartz. Excerpted from The Working Woman's Baby Planner with permission of its publisher, Sourcebooks, Inc.

To order this book visit Amazon.com.

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