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To Work Or Not To Work?

To work, or not to work? That's a question that most new moms face after the birth of a child, and the answer may not always be easy. Kate Kelly, Managing Editor of American Baby Magazine, weighs in on the struggles working moms may face as they re-enter the workforce, as well as how stay-at-home moms stay connected to the outside world.

Many women return to work after having a child because of their family's financial situation. Some families simply can't afford to have one parent stay at home. But Kelly advises that working moms should keep their focus short term. "You don't have to plan the rest of your career right now," says Kelly. "You just have to think about... the next six months." If you would like to stay at home with your child for a while, try it out and see how it goes. It may not be for you; some women love being a part of the work force.

If you do decide to go back to work, be sure to find good help. "Childcare is the hardest piece of it all," says Kelly. "You're leaving your baby with someone and you just want to feel confident that the baby is okay and is getting good care." If you know your child is well taken care of, you'll be able to focus more at your job and feel less guilty about having to return to work.

Remember, too, that you can't have it all. "One of the biggest challenges of working moms is that they're so used to just over-delivering on every aspect of their life," says Kelly. You are not a superhero, so don't try to be one. It's okay to come home and only give 90%. You're juggling two very time-demanding tasks.

One downside to going back to work after having a child is that you may miss some major milestones in your son or daughter's life. According to Kelly, "One really good strategy is to just ask your childcare provider... 'Don't tell me, I'll see it when I see it, and it'll be new to me.'"

Despite the struggles that working moms face, it's not easy to stay at home either. If you do decide to stay at home, Kelly emphasizes that it's important to structure your day. "As a working woman, you were used to having meetings, how you began your day at the computer," says Kelly. Keeping some sort of structure will help you to feel focused and not see your day as one big open-ended project. Set goals for yourself, and schedule things. A play date at noon and grocery shopping shortly after will give you a sense of fulfillment because that was your goal for the day.

A great resource for stay-at-home moms are - surprise - other moms! Making new mom friends will give you someone to talk to about your everyday struggles and baby worries. "They are your lifeline," says Kelly. "You're going to have a million questions... They're the people that really want to hear it."

Stay-at-home moms also need to be sure to do things that make them feel good and give them a sense of accomplishment. "Nobody's giving you a pat on the back and saying, 'Great job today singing your baby to sleep,'" says Kelly. Being a parent is often a thankless job. Reward yourself; plant a garden or plan another project and stick to that goal until you've completed it. It can help you feel like you've really accomplished something.

Also, keep in mind that you don't have to be a stay-at-home mom forever. Many mothers choose to re-enter the workforce once their child goes to school or reaches a point where they're a little more independent. It's important to keep your skills up-to-date so that going back to work is a little easier. According to Kelly, taking courses, learning new software or just keeping in touch with former coworkers are great ways to make the transition smoother.

For more information on this and other parenting issues, click here.
By Erin Petrun