Is your parental leave coming to an end? What’s going through your mind as you and your child prepare to move into the next phase? Are you thinking ahead or taking a moment to stop, breathe and simply enjoy being with your child during this special time?
Rebecca Johnston reflects on her last few months of parental leave, and offers some advice to parents about to step back into work.
Life is a series of chapters and each one is different in length and intensity, and filled with a variety of moments. Some end and we barely notice. Others we hold on to, reluctant to let go.
I’m nearing the end of what I reflect on as being my most defining chapter—becoming a mother and having the good fortune to spend every day of the past 10 months with my son.
In three weeks, we will turn the first page of our next chapter as we learn to live life independently of one another. I’ll learn how to become a working mum and my son will start his first days in childcare. As the days pass, I can’t help but mentally acknowledge our series of ‘lasts’: the last Monday we’ll spend together; our last Baby Bounce at the library; the last time we can wake up and do whatever it is we feel like doing!
I find myself riddled with so many questions that I know only time can answer: Will the burden of work stop me from being truly present? Is it possible to balance work and family? Am I making the right decision? Will I regret this? Will he cope? All I know is that this moment is inevitable. For all of us. Whether your parental leave lasts three weeks, 12 months or two years, the day will arrive when you and your child must enter the next chapter.
So, take a moment to stop and be sure to make the most of your remaining days.
Put your phone down
We all do it, but it’s now time to put your phone away. Leave it in another room and be truly present with your baby.
Play, play, play. Just play. Watch in awe as your baby discovers the world. It’s these memories that will stay with you forever.
Studies show that reading the same books to our children improves their vocabulary and general understanding. Keep reading that favourite storybook!
If you’re going back to a desk job, this is really important. Walk around your neighbourhood, go on a bush walk or take the dog for a walk. You’ll miss the fresh air when you’re back in the office and running from meeting to meeting.
Tick off the things you postponed when time was on your side. When you’re back at work, your schedule will be ultra squeezed—so if there are any outstanding tasks that can be completed now, go for it.
Pretty soon time is going to be limited and preparation is key. Think about what you’re going to need to ensure the transition is smooth. Schedule orientation sessions at childcare, prepare meals and freeze them ahead of time, and run through the drop-off routine.
Be kind to yourself
Allow yourself to feel the emotions!
Finally, carve time out for yourself to be still and reflect. Reflect on your journey, your challenges, how far you’ve come and how much you’ve grown. Tell your kids you love them, get your fix of cuddles and turn the page. You’ve got this.
Written by Rebecca Johnston.