Mommy Tips: Managing a High-Stress Job and Your Baby
bySarah CollinsJul 29, 2014
When you're a working mom with a baby, you have a unique challenge that other employees and moms don't—you're still adapting to a new role as mommy as you go back to your job. If your job was stressful before you went on maternity leave, you can bet it will be even harder to strike a balance when you return. For the sake of your health and your baby, though, find time to slow down, give yourself a break and seek support so you can adequately balance your high-stress job and your new baby.
You can't expect yourself to return from maternity leave and jump back into things like nothing has changed. Chances are you're running on much less sleep than you used to, and your mind likely wanders to what you're little one is doing in day care pretty frequently. You should have reasonable expectations about what you can achieve, both at the office and at home, says Seattle-based vocational consultant Claire Johnston. "Having a new baby is a huge life transition. Pair that with a stressful job, and it can be a recipe for feeling overwhelmed," she says. "If you expect to balance everything in your life seamlessly, you're setting yourself up for disappointment and additional stress." Remember, she adds, sometimes "good enough" truly is good enough.
Support comes in a variety of forms. It comes from a partner who's willing to take over baby duty a few morning a week so you can get in a stress-busting workout. It comes from a like-minded co-worker who's available for lunch once a week to get out of the office for an hour. It comes from a trusted caregiver who can watch your baby for an hour on the weekend while you take a nap or after work when you get stuck in a meeting. Much of Johnston's support comes from other moms, with whom she checked in regularly. "We have a group text message that keeps us all sane. We send tips, advice, jokes and encouragement throughout the day to one another," she says. "It helps to know that you're not alone."
Be Upfront at Work
If you're feeling overwhelmed—or even if you see yourself heading in that direction—schedule a sit-down conversation with your boss to discuss your limitations. While there's an expectation that you will meet your job responsibilities, it's also necessary to establish boundaries, says the American Psychological Association. This can include not being expected to answer work emails or phone calls after hours or getting additional support from colleagues. Don't simply relate a list of complaints, but rather ask for your supervisor's support in coming up with a plan that can minimize stress while still allowing you to complete tasks.
Outsource Where Possible
Between a high-stress job and a demanding baby, who has time to go grocery shopping? Working single mom Amy Rees Anderson writes on Forbes.com that the day she discovered online grocery shopping was a good day—in many cities, there's no longer a need to actually set foot into a grocery store. Other tasks you can outsource, provided you have the budget to do so, include dry cleaning and laundry service—including cloth diapers—home cleaners and dog walkers.
Sleep with a high-stress job and a baby seems nearly impossible, but you can focus on your health in other ways. Focus on your diet, suggests obstetrician/gynecologist Brittany Stam of Chandler, Arizona. Eliminate or reduce your consumption of alcohol, butter, cheese, fast food, sugar and caffeine. "These food and beverages increase stress because they increase levels of cortisol, your body's natural stress hormone," she says. Replace these foods with plenty of fish, yogurt, fresh vegetables and foods high in protein, which "release specific chemicals in your brain that increase alertness and reaction time, in effect making you overall less anxious," she says. Additionally, work in time to exercise—if only 20 minutes a day—and carve out "you" time, whether in the form of a 15-minute bubble bath after baby's bedtime or a calming walk in the morning.