By Raising Children Network
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Striking a balance between work and family can be tough. When you’re on top of it, the rewards can outweigh the challenges. But when you’re still trying to find the balance, you might feel a range of conflicting emotions.
Dad dressing baby

Returning to work

If you’ve taken leave from your job to care for your child, returning to work poses a major change to your day-to-day life. You might feel excited about getting some variety in your day, guilty at ‘leaving’ your child, nervous about rejoining the workforce, or stressed about managing the extra workload.

Mothers who return to work sometimes feel they suddenly have two jobs. Research says this is partly because domestic duties are not always shared equally between two adults in a relationship.

Tips for returning to work

  • To ease the transition, make changes before you start work. You could think about what your new daily routine will be. There might be things you can start doing now, like gradually settling your child into child care or finding a back-up carer.
  • Talk with family, friends and carers. They might have ideas for saving time or could help you spot problems before they come up.
  • It’s worth looking into what family-friendly policies and provisions are available from your employer. Research says that the workplace plays an important role in parent health and wellbeing.
  • The daily switch from work to home might be easier if you can leave work distractions at work. Now that you have less time with your baby, you’ll want to make the most of your time together.
  • Spend time with family members whenever you get the chance.
  • Get things ready at night . To ease the morning rush, you could iron your clothes or make lunches the night before.
  • Look for meal shortcuts. Breakfast and dinnertime might be more of a challenge now that you’re working. When cooking, try making extra portions that you can freeze for future meals. Search out magazines or internet sites that feature quick and easy family recipes. You could also try our ideas for meals in minutes.

Helping your child adapt

The transition from spending most days together with your child to being apart all week can be tough. Parents often worry how their child will be affected by the separation, and feel nervous about leaving their child in someone else’s care. Here are some ideas that might help you both adapt:

  • Talk to your child about the changes ahead. Or if she’s too young to understand, have some ‘practice separations’. For example, before you actually start work, try leaving her with her new carer for short periods.
  • Spend time with your child before or after work.
  • Set up a before-work routine. Children feel safe and secure when they have predictable routines.
  • Always say goodbye to your child, even if he’s upset.
  • Feel free to ring your carer or child care centre to check that your child has settled down. Very often, children are happily playing before their parents have even got to the car!

Read some more ideas to help you and your child prepare for your return to work.

Making time for your partner

If you have a partner, your relationship with him or her might be affected by your return to work. Here are some tips to make the most of your time together.

  • Try to make time to catch up and spend time together. An easy way to do this is to share household jobs. One of you can clean the shower while the other does the basin, one can wash the dishes while the other dries, and you can both fold the laundry.
  • Take advantage of technology to stay in touch – phone, text or email each other during the workday.
  • Schedule lunch or dinner dates with your partner. If you work near each other, you can grab a quick coffee or lunch without having to find a babysitter.
  • Put the kids to bed on time so you can share the evening together, even if it’s just sitting in front of the TV!

You might like to read more information and ideas in our article on looking after your relationship with your partner.

Managing stress

Getting the work-family balance right can be stressful. You’ll be trying to cope with more responsibilities and even less time for you. Stress has a way of sneaking up on you slowly, or it can sometimes be more like a volcanic explosion, particularly if conditions at work or home are difficult.

Give these ideas on reducing stress a go:

  • Take care of yourself. Eat a healthy diet and exercise regularly. Exercise is a great outlet for stress and helps put things into perspective.
  • If work is making you feel stressed, talk about your concerns with your manager. Your employer might have some helpful suggestions for how you can manage the return to work after a baby.
  • Are there things you could change at work to reduce your stress levels? Perhaps you need to reduce your workload or hours, or make them more flexible. You can try to make these changes yourself or with the help of others. 
  • Take some pressure off unexpected events, such as when your children are sick, by having a plan you can turn to.
  • If you stay organised at work, things are less likely to get on top of you. If you work in an office, practise simple time management techniques, like only checking emails twice a day and making a daily list of your work priorities.
  • Are you getting some regular time to yourself? Could your partner or a relative prepare dinner while you take an evening walk? Or look after the kids while you go out for a coffee?

You can read more ideas and information in our article on managing stress.

If returning to work is proving difficult and you feel it’s not working out well, make some time to look at your options again. There might be another way to manage your time and money so that you achieve a happier balance.


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  • Newsletter snippet: Work and family: in a nutshell


    By Raising Children Network

    Returning to work after the birth of your child can be challenging. You might feel excited or nervous about rejoining the work force, guilty at leaving your child, or stressed about managing the extra workload.

    Tips for returning to work

    • Think about what your new routine will be like and introduce changes before you go back to work.
    • Have some ‘practice separations’ from your child before you return to work, perhaps leaving her with her new carer for short periods.
    • Plan catch-up times with your partner.
    • Check what family-friendly policies and provisions are available in your workplace.
    • Try not to take your work home with you at night.
    • Ease the morning rush by preparing as much as possible the night before.
    • Make cooking easier by freezing extra portions or trying quick and easy family recipes.
    • Keep an eye on your stress levels.

    This article is an extract only. For more information visit

    Sourced from the Raising Children Network's comprehensive and quality-assured Australian parenting website

  • Last Updated 16-09-2011
  • Last Reviewed 01-03-2011