When returning to work after being a Stay at Home Parent, the list of To-Dos can be mind-boggling. In the first blog of this series Returning to work: Details and Dreams, I reviewed how to create a list that lays out all of your responsibilities and then prioritize them based on your values. Now, with this list in hand, we need to figure out how to get it done. In the end, we cannot do it all alone—especially if we are going back to work. We also need to identify and leverage our resources. Luckily, there are many resources available; you just need to take the time to identify them.
Child labor (aka: chores)
Resources come in a variety of shapes and sizes. One of the many benefits of returning to work is giving your child the gift of independence. Depending on the age of your children, you may be able to have them help out around the house more. Taking the time to identify age appropriate chores is the first step in this process. When figuring out chores for your children to do, think about the following:
- Which chores do you no longer have time for?
- What are good skills for your kids to develop?
- What chores do you really dislike? (Shhh….A secret benefit of going back to work is to outsource the tasks you never really liked in the first place.)
- What special skills do your children have that you can leverage?
A wonderful resource for identifying age appropriate chores is in one of my favorite parenting books: The Blessing of a Skinned Knee by Wendy Mogel. She devotes an entire chapter to children and chores. It is definitely worth a read.
Once you have identified the chores you would like your children to do, you need to make sure they know how to do them. Things that seem obvious are not always obvious to our kids. Show them how to get the bowl and pour the cereal, or how to make a peanut butter and jelly sandwich for lunch or Mac and Cheese for dinner if they are old enough to use the stove. If your child has not had these responsibilities before, you need to take the time to teach your children.
Kids are often excited for parents returning to work. Share the excitement and let them know it is a team effort. But remember change takes time and going back to work involves a learning curve for everyone. In Positive Psychology coaching we promote a Growth Mindset — where taking risks and making mistakes are part of the learning process and effort is rewarded. Keep this in mind as you teach your children new skills. While you may want everything to be done as well as you do it, a more effective expectation would be to expect mistakes and imperfection, particularly in the beginning.
Carpools and playdates.. oh my!
So your kids can’t drive yet, this is a problem. How are they going to get to their sports/dance/chess/karate lessons or practices? Our kids are so busy after school that if you are working past 3:00, you need to think about how your children are going to get to their after-school activities. This is where your community can come in handy. Below are ideas for you to consider around your neighborhood, which involve local friends, neighbors, nannies, schools and companies.
- Are you working part time? Perhaps you can set up a carpool schedule where you can drive on the days you are not working and another parent can drive when you are working.
- Are there after-school activities at your child’s school to buy you a little extra time? Can you sign up for that and then pick the kids up a little later after these activities end?
- Can a friend drive your child during the week and then you can drive to games on the weekend or provide sleepovers over the weekend?
- Can you employ a nanny/helper for the afternoon to provide homework help, make dinner and drive carpools? It may be difficult to hire someone just for the afternoons, but a nanny share could help with this problem. My friend created a nanny share with her neighbor. Her neighbor needed a nanny for the afternoons and my friend needed her for the mornings. A perfect arrangement for everyone.
- Contact your local college’s career office to hire college students (who can drive) to babysit.
- Is there a driving company in your community? We have a wonderful service called Vantastic in our neighborhood. Local dads established this service to drive children in our community to school, after-school activities and to camp in the summer. This service is a huge help for working parents!
Shake things up!—Review roles and responsibilities with your spouse
If you are married, another great resource can be your spouse. Returning to work allows for an adjustment in parenting roles within a couple. It is a great opportunity to revisit roles and consider sharing certain responsibilities. For the non-stay at home spouse, this offers an incredible opportunity to interact with the kids in a different way and for parents to revise their game plan. Shaking things up can be a powerful way to reinvigorate a marriage and a home. So be creative and work together to think outside the box and question assumptions. Some possible areas to shake up are:
- Change up who handles the morning routine.
- Can either of you work from home on certain days to help with carpools?
- Are there ways either parent can help with school volunteering?
- Does the same parent bring the kids to the doctor? Does it have to be that way? Would sharing that role be helpful?
By working together to re-think parenting roles, both parents have an opportunity to grow and stretch in different ways and to better appreciate each other’s prior responsibilities.
You are not alone in your journey back to work. You have many resources available within your own family and community. Look around to see what is available and then find a way to piece these resources together to make your transition back to work more manageable. Know that these challenges truly can provide opportunities to grow and learn as a family.