Heading back to work? Sending the kids to school or preschool? Some savvy Stockholm parents give us their top tips on how to handle the transition from holiday into every day.
Going back to work and leaving your child at nursery or school for the first time is an emotional time for any parent. On the one hand, you’re riddled with doubt about whether you’ve picked the right school. On the other, you’re feeling guilty about going back to work at all. And on the third hand (that you wish you now had), you’re also under time pressure in a way that you’ve never been before.
It’s a juggling act. And sometimes not a pretty one. But things can be made easier and with these top 10 tips from parents who’ve been there, we’re hoping working parenthood can be easier for you.
1. Be comfortable in yourself with your choices, whatever they are – Anonymous
One of the biggest issues parents face is doubt; it’s hard to know whether you’re making the right decisions and the impact on your family life can be huge. My tip is to question yourself as to what you’re doing. e.g. Are you working because you love your job? Because you need the money? Because you don’t want to stay at home? And conversely, are you not working because you love being at home? Because there’s nothing else you’d enjoy more? Because you don’t need the money? These are all valid reasons, but it’s you who needs to be comfortable with them. Apply questions to any decision you’re feeling unsure about and see whether you can justify those decisions to yourself. Once you do, you can face anybody who questions your choice.
2. Enjoy your work, don’t feel guilty and enjoy being ‘you’ – Eleanor
Sometimes, going to work and having a break from your children can make you appreciate them so much more than when you were with them. It can be easier to dedicate all of yourself to little ones when you’ve had the satisfaction of eating at an extremely non-pram-friendly place, not had to dash home for naps and, dare I say it, go to the toilet by yourself. Enjoy all the things about work that you can and come home feeling happy to be a mummy again.
3. Make sure you have time planned for yourself – Anonymous
When you have a day-job and then come home to the night job of being a parent, it can feel like you never have a break. To this, I would suggest writing down the three hobbies you’d most like to pursue if you were not working or a mummy and choose at least one that is easy to fit into your lifestyle. If it’s rock-climbing, designate a time for rock-climbing each week and agree it with your partner or whoever could help out; if it’s seeing friends, make sure you manage to get a night out as often as you can. Make the most of weekends and evenings, even if it just means fitting in bit more sleep than you’d ordinarily have during the week. For more sedentary pursuits, see if you can make a long commute pay off; a friend of mine manages to knit the most beautiful things on her 45 minute train journey; it probably helps a lot with commuter rage too! Don’t feel guilty about doing things for yourself. The last thing children need is a parent who’s resentful or depressed; it’s important for you to feel happy too.
4. When it’s time to go home after school, we always try and do something fun, even if it’s looking at a book together on the bus on the way home! – Khadra
Since you have reduced the amount of time you spend with your children, see if you can make that time fun for the both of you. Toddlers can find even the most mundane tasks (like laundry) thrilling and their enthusiasm is infectious! If you do want to do household chores together, I would recommend that you are prepared for the task taking approximately 3 times as long, being 5 times as messy and perhaps never being completed. It’s still fun, promise! You could also get out and about (a play-centre or park can be a good bet as children love it and you can meet up with other parents) or you could devise a special project to complete together with your child. Don’t put pressure on yourself (or your little one); it’s a time where you can both get a lot out of just being with each other, rather than completing a task or learning a skill. The key is that you’re doing something you both enjoy together.
5. When my son started pre-school (after in-schooling) I didn’t start work for a week. Having a week with him in school and not back to work gave me time to relax and mentally prepare myself….. Best thing I did! – Heather
Before you plan when to go back to work, you need to look at the in-schooling procedure at your nursery; some can be as much as 3 weeks long. Firstly, allow time for this and more if your child is very attached to you and you feel like in-schooling may be difficult. Then allow at least one more week before returning to work; you have just been at one job for a good long time before returning back to a very different line of work. You deserve a break, some ‘me’ time and also some time to prepare yourself, both emotionally and mentally, for your job.
6. Prepare up front for your child to be sick; once in nursery, they pick up and pass on everything – Chantel
There’s no denying it; however much interaction your little one has had with other children before, it probably won’t have been the same as being in class every day with their peers. This has many benefits; children learn to socialize and work in groups. They also learn to share everything… including germs. Of course, if you’re a glass half-full kind of person, this is also a benefit in terms of building up their immune system. But it’s hard to be that person when you’ve had to take three days off work in order to be used as a sick bucket. Bear in mind that you will need to take time off for your children being sick; check your work policy and the Försäkringskassan website to see how you claim these sick days off. More importantly, work out a system with your partner as to who takes days off when; you do not want to be arguing the matter out over a sick child.
7. Do try and replicate the schedule you have at nursery at home – Anonymous
I believe that children gain a lot of security out of an established routine. If nursery always has lunch at 11 and nap at noon, it might be confusing for your child to manage until 12 for lunch and then not nap until 1pm. It’s not impossible and it’s up to you, but consistency of routine can help your child settle into nursery more easily.
8. To maximize sleeping time and reduce morning stress, get everything ready the night before… I even have my son sleep in his clothes for the next day if we have a really early start and then we just brush teeth, put on shoes and we’re out the door in under 10 minutes! – Rachel
I don’t know if scientists would agree, but I’ve always found the equation:
UWP + JWT = Chaos + Stress
where UWP stands for Unpreprepared Working Parent and JWT stands for Just Woken Toddler
to be a true one. Mornings are the times when you have the least amount of time and the most things to do. Children need to be woken, go to the loo, have their teeth brushed, be changed into new clothes, have breakfast eaten and their bag ready before heading out the door… not to mention your own routine. If you’re really pushed for time and have a long commute, you can eliminate everything but the first three actions. Lay out your own clothes and accessories and prepare your bag. It saves time and bleary, early morning fashion decisions. Do the same for your children and have breakfast ready to eat on the journey.
9. To help with a quicker drop-off, plan a special routine between you and the kids – Rebecca
I’ve often heard (and indeed experienced) this story: you’re feeling nervous and guilty at drop-off and your child senses this. This makes it harder for them to let you leave; they may even play up on purpose. You linger, making the situation worse and leave a crying child, which makes you feel sick all day. No fun.
The best thing to do is to prepare your child in advance with a routine that you both participate in to signal that you’re leaving. It could be a secret handshake, waving at the window three times, two kisses on top of the head; whatever you’d like, as long as it’s got a timely and definite end-point. Let the teachers know about this, so they can then take over easily. Do not linger too long, but if you feel you need to, find a hiding place where your child cannot see you and check how they’re doing from afar. They’ll usually be fine. If the hiding place is not an option, call the preschool after an appropriate amount of time has elapsed; they will be able to tell you how things are going.
10. If you don’t have family here and you both work full time, get a babysitter for at least a few days – Caroline
Don’t be afraid to ask for help, paid or otherwise. Many of us are here with no family to help out and there will be people who are willing to share the load. If your partner hasn’t been as involved in cooking, cleaning and baby-caring, now is the time to kick-start them into action! If you can organize a pick-up or drop-off rota with a friendly mum, that can help things enormously. And if you can afford it, don’t be ashamed to get someone to help out; if it leads to less stress and more time, it’s money well spent!
Featured Image: Lena Granefelt/imagebank.sweden.se