As soon as your maternity leave starts, you can almost hear the time ticking away. With every tiny smile and little yawn, your heart lurches as you think about the day when you’ll have to go back to work. You worry that your infant will miss you. You wonder whether your baby will get the best care while you’re gone.
The truth is that the switch is probably much harder for you than for your little one. Leaving your baby for the first time may be one of the toughest things that you’ll do as a parent. However, taking some steps to ease the transition can make it easier for you as well as your little one.
Give Your Nanny A Trial Period
If you’re hiring a new nanny, you’ll probably want to schedule a trial period to make sure that the caregiver is a good fit for your family. The trial period also serves another function. It allows the caregiver to become a stable, comfortable part of your child’s life. Have the nanny work alongside you before handing over the responsibilities entirely.
Research shows that toddlers that develop a secure attachment to their parents through a gradual adaptation to child care experience less stress in the first hour after the mother leaves than toddlers who don’t experience that adaptation.
You can gradually step out of the picture as your child becomes comfortable with the new figure in his or her life. The time frame depends on your comfort level and the baby’s age. A 3-month-old infant will likely transition more easily than a toddler who is experiencing separation anxiety.
If you do have an older child who cries for you, start leaving him or her with the nanny for short periods of time. Stay in the other room or outside the front door so that you can go back when your child calls for you. This helps your child trust that you will return. You can lengthen your time away until your child understands that you will be gone for several hours before coming back.
Take Your Nanny Out For Coffee
You don’t have to sit at a café, but try to spend some quality one-on-one time with your nanny in the first few weeks to get better acquainted. This can help you get some valuable insight into the nanny’s habits, outlook on life and approach to raising a child.
Ask questions like:
- Do you have brothers and sisters?
- What was your childhood like?
- What are your hobbies?
- What did you do last weekend?
Doing this periodically can also help you establish a strong relationship with your nanny that makes him or her feel like family. A University of Illinois study found that children transition to non-parental care more easily when the relationship between the caregiver and the parent is strong.
Open The Lines Of Communication
You might feel better if the nanny sends updates throughout the day. You may want the nanny to text you a photo every few hours or keep a log of what your child does all day. Keep your expectations realistic and communicate them to the nanny.
An older child may be more comfortable knowing that he or she can reach you by text or email during the day. However, you may need to set some guidelines for this so that your child isn’t glued to the phone.
Making yourself available for questions and concerns can also make the caregiver more confident. The nanny may be more likely to come to you with honest concerns, which can give you a good idea of what’s going on when you’re not around.
The transition back to work doesn’t have to be stressful for the parent or the child. When you find the right nanny, gradually adapt your child to the new situation, build a relationship and keep the lines of communication open, you’ll help create an environment that’s nurturing for your child and comforting for you.