Our readers tell what worked for them when it came time to return to their jobs.
A Difficult Decision
A friend of mine sends her son to a childcare center where the caregivers write down everything that happened during the day. I took that suggestion and modified it to work in our setting.
I have our son's babysitter fill out a chart telling me when he slept and for how long, and what he ate. It makes me feel like I know what's going on with him -- like I'm a part of the day. I also have my babysitter come in a half hour before I leave in the morning. She and I get to spend time together with Luke. I see how she acts with him, and I feel closer to her. I also think it helps Luke not to be dumped on someone. There's a transition.
At work, I try not to think about him too much, but it's hard not to. I come home as fast as I can. Luckily, I get home at 5. I push Luke to stay awake until 7 because I want to hang out with him. I would keep him up all night if I could.
Selga Cheris, 34, Chicago
Mother of Luke, 10 months, and structural engineer
It's hard to be "on" during the day, when you're not getting much sleep at night. Let's just say that in my first months back at work, I consumed a lot of coffee.
When Jack and Sam were about 6 months old, we let them cry it out. That helped to get them to sleep through the night so I could get more rest. So did going to bed early, which is something I do now, even though my boys are finally sleeping straight through the night. Get yourself in bed by 9, so if someone wakes up at 2 or 3, you've at least gotten a good stretch of sleep.
We put our kids to bed by 7 or sometimes even closer to 6:30. That way, I can have some time for myself, hang out with my husband, do some laundry, and still get to bed early. It's a trade-off: Some nights I only get to spend about 20 minutes with my kids. But I've learned that it makes more sense to let them sleep. My boys are so happy because they sleep a lot. And I appreciate the few extra hours I have before I go to bed.
Julie Bernstein, 34, Washington, D.C.
Mother of Jack and Sam, 11 months, and communications director
I start preparing the night before to take Kaya to my mother, who cares for her when I'm at work. I put her favorite toys in a bag, pack the diaper bag with food and a change of clothes, and make sure her coat and any other clothing I might need is by the door. I also write down all the things I need to bring on a sticky note and put it on the door. Then I run through the list before I leave in the morning.
If I didn't get ready the night before, I'd be so busy and distracted that I wouldn't get to be with my baby in the morning. This way, I have time to play with Kaya, read her a few board books, love her up, and feed her. Having a note in a place where I know I'm going to see it is also key to leaving the house on time and not coming back because I forgot something -- which would make me late and stressed in the process!
I feel lucky that I work part-time so I get to be with Kaya a lot. I enjoy my job and think it's good for both me and my daughter to be in a different environment for part of the day. But, of course, I miss her when we're apart, and I call my mother from work to find out how Kaya's doing and to get all the details about her day.
Andi Aron Bogot, 36, Evanston, Illinois
Mother of Kaya, 9 months, works part-time for her family's car dealership
Lauren Picker is a writer in New York City and the mother of two.
Originally published in American Baby magazine, March 2005.