Have you been on paternity leave for a little while now? Not sure how to adjust back to the working world? Don’t you worry. That’s a very common concern felt by many new dads navigating life after the birth of their child. Your world has just changed completely. You might feel like you’ve only just got used to having an actual human child around and then, before you know it, paternity leave is up and you’re back to the daily office grind.
You’re not alone. Transitioning back to work is tricky for everyone. Today we’re going to guide you through your return to work with eight fabulous tips and tricks. It’s all about the process you see. Rest assured; you’ll be a super-dad in no time, juggling the daily commute and the nappy changes without a second thought.
What to expect when returning to work
Everyone’s journey into fatherhood is unique. Returning to work will be different for every dad. You might be super excited to see your colleagues again or feel anxious about missing out on your child’s milestones. Chances are you’re feeling a little bit of everything.
We often hear the phrase ‘work-life balance’ bounced around a lot. But if there’s ever a time when that phrase is important it’s now. Navigating a full-time job and the responsibilities of fatherhood can be overwhelming so it’s super important to take your work-life balance seriously.
8 tips for new dads returning to work
Ready for some awesome new-dad advice? We’ve tapped into the minds of dads just like you to find out some of the best tips and tricks for fathers returning to work after the birth of their child. The take-home is clear. Preparation and balance go a long way. But, easier said than done right?
If you’re not quite sure where to start, then these eight tips will get you off on the right foot.
Tip #1: Don’t bully yourself
Let’s start with something super simple but really important. Be kind to yourself! All too often we can be our worst bullies. Your life has just turned on its head. You’re a dad now. Give yourself a moment to let that sink in and be kind to yourself. Beware. Your emotions are likely to be all over the shop. Don’t be surprised if you feel tired. Don’t tell yourself off for feeling frustrating. And don’t bully yourself for feeling nervous or anxious. Rest assured, it’s all perfectly normal.
Tip #2: Take it steady
That leads us nicely on to our second tip. Take it steady. It’s important not to overwhelm yourself more than you have to. Remember, you’ve already got a baby to do that for you. Transitioning back to work is unlikely to be completely stress-free, but we might as well make it as smooth sailing as possible. The advice that lots of returnee dads give is to re-acclimatize gradually. If at all possible, try not to immerse yourself back into full-time work, nine-to-five, Monday-to-Friday from the get-go. Speak to your employer and see if you can transition back slowly. Start with a couple of days a week, and gradually increase your hours until you’re back to full capacity.
Oh, and remember how we agreed to be kind to ourselves?
Chances are you’ll be a bit rusty at your old job, so no self-flagellation, please.
If you must do something, get a stress ball.
Tip #3: Be communicative
Communication is going to be essential during this period. If your partner is staying at home with your child then you’ll want to communicate clearly about when you’ll be home, if you have to work late. Discuss how your roles will morph and change now that you’re going back to work. If your partner is also going back to work (either now or in the near future) then you’ll want to discuss child-care arrangements and get everything in order ahead of time. Getting set up in a routine is going to make both of your lives SO much easier.
Tip #4: Expect change
This one’s a biggie. Expect change. You’re not going to be the exact same Fred (other names also apply) as the Fred you were before you had a baby. Your whole perspective and lifestyle are going to go through a monumental shift. Staying late at work may have felt like not that big of a deal to childless Fred, but father Fred might start to feel anxious, or guilty if he has to work late. After all your priorities have shifted and you’ll want to spend as much time with your kid as possible. I may start to miss being at home more than ever before (or you might find that work becomes your safe haven away from all the poop and the crying and the vomit… need I say more?)
Tip #5: Make the most of every minute
Now that you’ve got so much more to juggle, what with family life and work-life and everything in between, you’ll need to find little ways of making the most of every minute. There’s no need to feel guilty about being away from your child whilst you’re at work. When you get home, you can make the most of every minute by making space for quality, rewarding bonding time with your child (plus mom will get a much-needed break). As soon as you work through the door, it’s time to switch from work mode to dad mode. Don’t worry, shapeshifting gets easier with practice.
Tip #6: It’s okay to ask for help
Seek support. It’s okay to ask for help. In fact, we actively encourage it. You don’t have to return to work and pretend like nothing in your life has changed. Everything has changed. Embrace it and seek the encouragement and advice you need whether that’s from colleagues who have gone through the same thing or just by having a quick word with your boss.
Tip #7: Be an open book
Speaking of asking for help, try to be as open and honest as possible with the people you work with. Ask to sit down with your boss and have a candid discussion. This will help your boss gauge where you’re at. It’s important to find a sustainable working style for the foreseeable future that takes into account your new role as a father. What could your employer do to help you? Having this discussion shows real proactivity. Your employer will see that you’re committed to your job and making it work alongside your family commitments.
Tip #8: Bonus tip for remote returnees
With many workplaces now adopting a remote working model, there’s a good chance your return to work might not involve going into the office at all! But working from home comes with its own challenges – especially with a young baby around. If you’re going back to work, but you’re working from a home office or living space this can be equally tricky to navigate. It might seem like nothing’s really changed. You’re still at home with your child. But now you’ve got a whole workload to contend with as well as childcare. If that sounds like you, it’s so important to sit down with your partner to work out a schedule that allows you to compartmentalize work-life and home-life.
Chill, it’s going to be fine
Take a deep breath. It’s all going to be fine. You’ll soon settle back into your working routine and start to feel more like yourself again. You’ve been through a lot. It’s okay to take things one step at a time. Remember the key to a successful transition back to work is communication, kindness, patience, and transparency. Be open with yourself, your partner, your colleagues, and your boss. I repeat, it’s all going to be fine.
Looking for some more tips?
Why not check out Dr. Scott Behson’s fantastic book The Working Dad’s Survival Guide: How to Succeed at Work and at Home, available at Barnes & Noble and other reputable booksellers. In his book, Dr. Scott Behson discusses that all too familiar feeling of being torn between career and family-life. You’ll find tons of encouragement and advice nestled in these pages. Perfect for any first-time dads embarking on a return-to-work journey of their own.
Take a look here.