Returning to work after being a stay-at-home parent can be overwhelming. Whether you are returning full-time, part-time, with a commute or from home, there are steps you will need to take to make the transition as smooth as possible. This blog is part of a four part series. First, in Details and Dreams, you will need to get a clear picture of what you need to focus on to make your transition as smooth as possible. You will think about what you need to do and how to prioritize these responsibilities. Future blogs will focus on how to handle these responsibilities in a way that keeps you sane and employed and maintains your priorities as a parent.
The next blog, Leveraging Your Village, focuses on how to manage some of your family responsibilities. We will look at how to identify and utilize your family and neighborhood resources to make your transition a success. The third blog will discuss Prioritizing Self-Care and how to find time to take care of yourself when time is more limited. The fourth blog focuses on your Leveraging Organizational Resources by investigating organizational work-life programs and policies as well as information arrangements with your manager.
Begin with a brain dump:
When I coach people returning to work, the first thing I ask my clients to do is to begin with a “brain dump”. This is where I ask my client to write down EVERYTHING they do every day. I recommend you begin this way as well. Below is a short list to remind you of some details, but you need to make your list specific to your life:
- Food shopping
- Walking the dog
- Homework help
- Making Meals
- Scheduling activities
- Doctors and dentist appointments
- Checking in with elderly parents
- Self-care (reading, talking to friends, relaxing with a cup of coffee or tea)
To help you create a complete list:
- Look through your past to-do lists
- Glance through your calendar to remind yourself of the dozens of things you do in a day.
- Ask your friends to tell you about their to-do lists as a reminder of things you might not be thinking of.
- Input your children’s school calendars into your calendar as a way to get a more complete picture of the year.
The more complete your list the more clear you will be on your potential challenges.
Does looking at this list cause you to hyperventilate? Don’t worry. First, congratulate yourself on all you do! Wow, it is really amazing to see it all in one place. Stay-at-home parents often don’t get enough credit for all they do, so now is the time to see how capable you have been. Recognize that these same skills that allowed you to handle your incredible to do list will allow you to transition back to work. Positive psychology coaches focus on people’s strengths and how these strengths can be applied to new challenges. So consider how you have managed to handle this To-Do list in the past and how some of those strengths can be utilized to tackle your To Do list in preparing to transition back to work.
Identify priorities and values:
Now let’s dig a little deeper. You may want to grab a journal or notebook for the following activity. In positive psychology coaching, we want our clients to lead meaningful lives that are aligned with their core values. In order to tackle your list you need to reflect on what you care about most:
- What are aspects of being a parent you truly enjoy?
- What are things you are most proud of?
- What are your priorities?
- What are your strengths and weaknesses?
Now look at your list with these things in mind. What is it that you don’t want to give up when going back to work? Is participating in your child’s school a priority? Is visiting your parents important to you? Do you want to read to your children every night? Help with their homework? Exercise? Read? Make healthy meals? Conversely there may be things that you are happy to let go of, like laundry or carpools or food shopping. Going back to work can give you the gift of outsourcing undesirable aspects of managing a home (one of the secret benefits of going back to work!).
In order to figure out how to handle your responsibilities, you need to determine your unique priorities. With a sense of your priorities, you can determine how to handle the other responsibilities. For instance, homework help may not make your priority list. No problem, suggestions on how to outsource that are in Blog #4. However, you want to continue to exercise and you cannot outsource that, we will address exercise in Blog #3 on Self Care. The next 3 blogs focus on how you can manage the list you created. These blogs include ideas on ways to think differently about how to ensure your items get done in a way that accommodates your new schedule, values and priorities. The transition of going back to work is a unique opportunity to really think about your life and what is important to you. It is a time to think outside the box, throw out old assumptions and take advantage of resources that are available to help you. Self-reflection, talking with friends and coworkers and possibly meeting with a life coach are all ways to make your transition as successful as possible.