What if you are the one with separation anxiety? DR RICHARD C. WOOLFSON shares how you can ease your worries when you return to work after maternity leave.
ILLUSTRATION CHENG PUAY KOON
Time has flown by so quickly since your baby arrived. All of a sudden, your maternity leave has ended and you’ve returned to work.
While your little one has adjusted well to the day care arrangement and doesn’t make a fuss when you leave him with the babysitter every morning, you have not. It turns out that you are the one who has separation anxiety.
Here are strategies to help overcome your worries when you’re at work.
Bonding with your baby is a gradual and accumulative process that develops during the first couple of years – it doesn’t have to take place instantly, or in the first few months.
Every caring interaction that you and your little one share together helps strengthen this important emotional connection. And these experiences can occur when you come home at the end of the working day and on weekends, just as much as they can during the day.
Foster a positive relationship
What matters isn’t the amount of time you and your child spend together, but the relationship’s quality.
For instance, a baby who is always with a grumpy, hostile parent is less likely to thrive than one who spends only a few minutes at the start and the end of each day with her loving, attentive parent.
Organise your time effectively
Do what you can to match your free time – before and after work hours – with your baby’s eating and sleeping routine. If you know, for instance, that he is usually asleep when you arrive home but will wake up an hour later, use that first hour to have dinner and a shower.
A small amount of forward planning will bring a large sense of satisfaction.
Enjoy your baby
Instead of worrying about how lonely he is without you – or feeling sorry for yourself when you’re away from him – enjoy the time when he is by your side.
Talk to him, play with him, cuddle him, sing to him, wash him, change him – in fact, do whatever you like as long as you are relaxed and happy in his company. Try to relax and do what you can to ignore distractions, such TV programmes and e-mails, when you are with him.
There is no reason to assume that your baby will suffer psychologically when you return to work or that your relationship with him will deteriorate.
There is ample research evidence which confirms infants in this situation thrive normally, assuming there is good quality childcare while the parents are out during the day and have a high quality relationship when they are together.
Keep in touch
No need to be a stranger to your little one during the day just because you are at work. One of the great advantages of this communication age is that you can easily connect with him through your smartphone, tablet, laptop or desktop.
Your separation anxiety will ease when you have a quick Whatsapp video call with the babysitter during your work break. Just watching play in his cot for a few minutes will cheer you up and will reassure you that he’s fine.
What matters isn’t the amount of time you and your child spend together, but the quality of your relationship.