Q&A: Help with going back to work

Hey, I did a teleseminar about leveraging your parent skills at work (whether you've been there the whole time or are going back) last week, and you can download the mp3 for free here. It's about 75 minutes if you listen to it all at one time. Almost 300 people have downloaded it since Thursday night! Now, to Claire's question:

"It looks like I am headed back to full-time work in the new year after being home for the past 2+ years.  I have a 2 and 4 year old.

I'm feeling guilty about sending the two year old from home to full time school/childcare, and for moving the 4 year old to a new school that is full-time (she is currently at school two partial days/week).  That isn't my main question, although I'd love tips on those transitions.

I am worried about how it all gets done.  Laundry, cleaning, cooking dinner (!), etc.  I feel fine letting the kids play independently now so I can do those things, but when I'm only home with them a short time each day, I will want to give them my undivided attention during that time.   I just worry about holding everything together at home, but not spending every minute after the kids go to bed doing home-related work.  I know one answer is dividing things up better with my husband, but I would love to hear what readers do in order to keep the house running while still spending time with the kids and your partner.   People must have hints for this, right?

My other question is how to stay "involved" in your kids' social lives.  I love that I get to see them at playdates and at the playground and I know their friends' parents.  It just seems like I will be so out of the loop when I work, because their entire social life will happen at school.  (this sounds very helicopter-ey, but I promise I'm not - I just like to watch their social skills and friendships develop).

Any advice and affirmation that this will be okay would be wonderful.  I feel so conflicted about the whole thing, but it is time to get back to work, for lots of reasons.

Thanks!"

And just like that, we got back to jobs vs. relationships!

In a dream world, you'd really enjoy the job you're going to. Everything in your life (especially your satistfaction with childcare) is better if you like your job. So I hope that's the case, or that you're moving in that direction.

Now, my real advice is that any of the jobs that you don't derive great satisfaction from that you can afford to outsource, you outsource. I obviously have no idea what your finances are, but if working allows you the ability to hire someone to do some cleaning and/or laundry, do it.

I'm assuming readers are going to have suggestions for streamlining dinner that doesn't involve ordering pizza every night. I'm a big crockpot fan now that I'm working from home, but when I was working fulltime out of the home I didn't find many recipes that I thought still tasted good after 10 hours in the slow cooker. If you are willing to do menu planning and prep (chopping vegetables, etc.) on the weekend so all you have to do is assemble and cook in the evening, you can actually make a lot of quick meals. But you have to be dedicated to the prep or you get stuck with a real project you might not have the energy for.

I also want to warn you that the first month may be chaos. Cut everyone a break, and know that you're all working out routines and reactions, and it will get better. So maybe allow for a bigger pizza budget for the first few weeks.

About the playdates: It's not helicoptery at all to want to be in the loop with little kids. If you were asking about this with a 22- and 24-year-old, yeah. But so much of their social life is entwined with yours at this age. Which is where my suggestion is going to be--enlist your friends (your kids' friends' parents) in the whole back-to-work social life project. Ask them if they'll help you by telling you what's going on, and making sure you know if any school events are happening, etc. I've been on both sides of this and was happy to be the WOH moms' eyes and ears when I was at home, and had some great SAH friends who kept me in the loop when I became a WOH mom. If anything, having someone go back to work strengthened our mom friendships because we really had to band together.

So: Focus on the relationships (with your kids, husband, and friends) and try to shift the jobs you don't enjoy off yourself as much as possible.

What say you, readers?