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Beating the Back-to-Work Blues


You've spent weeks getting to know Baby, but duty - the nonparenting kind - calls: It's time to go back to work. While the prospect of being able to mingle with grown-ups all day may sound tantalizing, the thought of leaving your little one can brings on a serious case of guilt. Besides, you'll miss her. Here's how to make the transition go more smoothly.

  • Make sure your postpartum issues are resolved. You'll be better equipped to handle the switch from stay-at-home to back-to-work if your body's rested (meaning you sleep a decent amount each night), and your mind is in shape (no more baby blues or crying jags). If you find yourself still struggling - you're fatigued or constantly anxious - seek professional help.
  • Find the best you substitute. "You're going to feel horrible no matter how prepared you are, because that's nature talking," says Julie Tilsner, author of "Planet Parenthood." "So the best thing is to find someone you're 100 percent comfortable with to take care of your baby, be it a babysitter, grandma or daycare." This way, explains Tilsner, a California mother of two, you can feel good knowing Baby's in the best care possible (second to you and your partner, that is).
  • Put your back-to-work plan in place in good time; daycare centers in some areas book up months in advance. If your future babysitter has a current job, she'll need to give notice and may want to take some time off between gigs.
  • Help your child - and, by extension, you - acclimate. Have the babysitter (or grandma) start childcare duties a week or two ahead so you can help her and your child get to know each other better. If Baby will be going to daycare, go for a tour with your child in tow. If you have a toddler, talk about how much fun she'll have once the new schedule starts and explain where you'll be while you're away.
  • Ditch negativity. "Instead of saying, 'I can't do it, I can't leave the baby,' tell yourself 'it'll be okay,'" suggests Johanna Murphy, an Oakland, California psychologist who specializes in prenatal and postpartum issues. "Some women are so overwhelmed with anticipating anxiety, they get paralyzed." Plus, children take their cues from their parents: Be confident and positive, and they'll be that way, too.
  • Make daycare farewells short and sweet. It's tempting to linger, especially if your child starts to become agitated. But what often works best is an assurance that you'll be back followed by a loving but confident goodbye. While skipping out isn't a good option, "speed is key," says Carolyn Mackler, a New York City mother of one. "Dragging it out makes [my child] more emotional." If you want to spend a minute before you leave, drum up a quick ritual your child can count on: Sing a goodbye song, kiss a particular spot on her face, or say the same joke each time. That should ease your departures.
  • Be present in your moment. To minimize that discouraging, pulled-in-all-directions feeling, focus on now. At the office, let work take center stage and don't fret over what's happening at home. When you meet up with your child afterward, stow the Blackberry and paperwork away. Be mindful that your child may be a little distant in that in-between stage when she's around both you and your childcare provider. (At the center, she may not immediately stop what she's doing to run off to you; or, she may cry when Grandma hands her off after they've been together all day.) Kids need time to transition, too. But when she's ready, enjoy her company and fasten your "mommy hat" on for good, at least until it's time to go to work again.
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