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New mothers: Ditch the mom guilt, you’ve got this!

Working mothers: Ditch the mom guilt, you've got this!
New mothers often fear they won't be able to juggle motherhood and their careers. (Photo: Freepik)
Written by Nompilo Gwala

New mothers often dread returning to the office after having a baby. Being able to bond with your new bundle of love somehow changes everything – but believe it or not, it’s possible to juggle motherhood and your career guilt-free.

Going back to work doesn’t have to seem like a huge mountain ahead of you. Although a huge transition, having peace of mind that your baby will be okay is an important first step.

Profmed Adviser, Dr Wilhelmina Erasmus said it’s no wonder women dread the return to the office.

‘Biggest psychological change’

“The woman who has gone on maternity leave is no longer the same one returning to work. She has probably undergone the biggest psychological change in her life. It may help to know what to expect when going back to work. The first step is to ensure that you feel comfortable with the caregiver that you have chosen to look after the most valuable aspect of your life,” said Profmed Adviser Dr. Wilhelmina Erasmus.

If you feel bad for going back to work and leaving your child home with the nanny, you’re not alone. Many mothers experience mom guilt when returning to the workplace.

New mother, Londeka Dulaze, Legal Risk and Compliance Manager at FoodBev Manufacturing SETA, shared her fear about not being able to cope with being a new mom and career woman. 

New mom shares her fears

“I’m very nervous. I feel like it’s going to be very difficult since my work is very demanding. I feel that I’ll either spend a lot of time with my daughter and then perform poorly at work, or I’ll perform at work and neglect my daughter. Then she’ll be closer to the nanny which is my biggest fear” said Dulaze.

Besides being at home for months and losing touch with office life, mothers often return to the workplace as different people with new priorities. Dulaze said she’s ready to step into her career-orientated shoes once the big day arrives.  

“I wake up earlier because during maternity leave I’ve been waking up late because the baby keeps me up at night. So now, I’m trying to get my body back to remembering to wake up early in the morning,” she said.

She continued: “I’ve been pumping every single day and storing her milk in the fridge so she has enough during the day.” 

Making the switch

Being pregnant and having a baby during a pandemic was a unique experience that has heightened her anxieties about returning to the office.  

“I’m terrified because a lot of my colleagues use taxis to get to work and they are more prone to contracting the virus. I’m very, very nervous. My baby is still very young and the new Omicron variant affects children so I’m very, very nervous,” said Dulaze.

As a new mother, Dulaze has been very hesitant to get vaccinated because she is breastfeeding. She changed her mind when she passed on her flu to her baby after a trip to Cape Town. 

“I’m a bit weary because there are no studies on how the vaccine would affect a baby,” she added. 

Back in the swing of things

Lynn Hendricks, who is a practicing Research Psychologist, Ph.D. candidate, and mom, said that she felt excited when she returned to work. 

“I was looking forward to seeing my colleagues and getting back into the swing of things. I wasn’t always sure about how I felt about going back so I sat down with my family and friends and shared my feelings,” said Hendricks. 

Hendricks said before returning to work, she would lock herself up in a room for two hours at a time so that she and her daughter could get used to being away from each other. Although excited about her return, she faced other challenges. 

“It’s like a roller coaster. You know your body and brain have changed, as well as work. It can be really disheartening when you put on those jeans and you realize things aren’t the same. It’s small things that can trigger sadness or depression in moms,” said Hendricks.

Baby blues

Most new moms experience postpartum also known as “baby blues” after childbirth which commonly includes mood swings, anxiety, and difficulty sleeping. Some new moms experience a more severe form of depression known as Postpartum Depression (PPD). Hendricks says as a new mother it is very important for moms to keep track of their mental wellness.

“You really do feel like you’re at a loss, especially I think as a woman in academia, your publications or your time spent on career-focused things are drastically decreased. You can’t work at night anymore because you’re taking care of the baby. So mentally, you’re on a roller coaster and it’s very important to keep track of yourself. When you’re unable to come out of that slump, maybe it’s time to speak to a professional,” Hendricks said.

She added: “PPD is a dangerous thing when it’s not dealt with especially if the mom doesn’t have a lot of support. It does affect her relationship and her engagement with her baby when she returns.”

PPD explained

Erasmus said PPD could develop anytime in the first year after childbirth.

She added that mom guilt is a pervasive feeling of not doing enough as a parent and feeling like you are “messing up” your children with the decisions you make. Mom-guilt can be temporary and should not be confused with the inappropriate and severe guilt feelings that can be a symptom of PPD.

“Going back to work may be the triggering factor in the development of PPD. Some symptoms may include intense irritability, loss of appetite, insomnia, and difficulty bonding with your baby,” said Dr. Erasmus. 

Hendrinks said that new mothers should not feel guilty because going back to work helps and provides for a family. 

“Guilt is an emotion that’s triggered when we do something wrong. But going back to work to support your family isn’t wrong,” she concluded. – Health-e News 

 

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Nompilo Gwala

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