1. Grown-ups
  2. Work & child care
  3. Going back to work

Returning to work: preparing your family

When you return to work after taking time off to care for a baby, adjusting to the change might be a challenge for you and your child. And going back to work could mean changes in your other relationships too.

Your child and your return to work

When you return to work, your child still needs to:

  • feel safe and secure in her daily routine
  • play and learn in a stimulating environment
  • have warm and caring interactions with the main people in her life.

If you can work out ways to fulfil your child’s needs when you’re not around, it’ll be easier for your child to get used to your return to work. Your options might include a quality early childhood education and care service while you’re at work, as well as plenty of quality time with your child when you’re at home.

It's normal for you and your child to have big feelings about starting child care. It’s also normal for your child to have separation anxiety, and it might take a while for this to settle. Or your child might seem settled at first but get upset a after few days or weeks when the novelty wears off.

As you and your child adjust, there are things you can do to help your child make the transition:

  • Talk to your child about what’s going to happen when the daily routine changes. Routine helps children feel secure, and they like to know when things are going to change.
  • Practise with very short separations, to show your child that when you go away, you always come back. This will build up your child’s sense of security.
  • Visit your child’s new child care service several times with your child, to help it feel familiar for your child.
  • If you can, ease into the new arrangement by working part-time for the first week or two.
You can read more in our articles on getting started with child care and settling your child into care

Your partner, your family and your return to work

Your relationships with your partner, if you have one, and your family might also be affected when you return to work. The secret to adjusting is making the most of your time together.

These tips might help:

  • Spend time with family members, even if it’s just reading together, or going for a walk after dinner.
  • Talk to or message your partner during the work day.
  • Schedule lunch or dinner dates with your partner. If you work near each other, you can spend time together having a quick coffee or lunch without having to find a babysitter.
  • When there are jobs to be done around the house, try to do them together so you can talk. One of you can clean the shower while the other does the basin. One can wash the dishes while the other dries. You can both fold laundry.
  • Put your child to bed early so you have some time together.
  • Go to bed at the same time as your partner – who knows what might happen!

If you’re finding the return to work really hard and you feel it isn’t working out, it’s worth discussing this as a family. You might need to look at your work options again. There might be another way to manage your time and money so that you have a happier balance.

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Last updated or reviewed
12-12-2017

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Raising Children Network is supported by the Australian Government. Member organisations are the Parenting Research Centre and the Murdoch Childrens Research Institute with The Royal Children’s Hospital Centre for Community Child Health.

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