There is no right way to arrange your parental leave -- so much depends on the needs of your new baby; needs you can’t fully evaluate until she has arrived. In addition, what help you have available from family, friends, or your postpartum doula can impact how you decide to allot that precious time away from work.
- Your schedule will change. After the first few weeks you may find you have settled into a routine as a new family. With all parents on hand, you have figured out midnight diaper changes and washing bottle parts in the dark. But now your co-parent is returning to a “normal” schedule, and you are handling the newborn on your own much of the day and may feel like you need to do overnights solo so your partner can get sleep before work the next day. It can be overwhelming to suddenly feel solely responsible for this new baby; you may feel resentful or angry. It could seem obvious to expect a change in schedule, but it can be jarring if you don’t also expect to give you, your baby, and your partner some transition time to find your new balance.
- The baby’s schedule will change. The first few weeks are full of rapid development for your newborn. Just as you start to find your rhythm with him, he’ll develop a new preference or change the routine. Many parents find the third week of life to be a particularly challenging time with a newborn -- the same time that many partners are headed back to work. As your infant “wakes up” and needs more or different attention, you may find your partner less available as he/she transitions to work.
- You may feel isolated or left behind. As your partner returns to a typical work schedule, you may still be keeping a round-the-clock routine with a young newborn, though it still may not feel like you’ve found a schedule with your baby. Being home with the newborn -- particularly if there are obstacles to getting out of the house -- can feel isolating. If you are able, plan before your co-parent goes back to work how you can get support from friends, families, or your doula during this time.
Like much of parenting an infant, starting to care for your child alone -- whether for a few hours a day or round-the-clock -- takes some getting used to. Be patient with yourself, ask for support when you need it, and celebrate each milestone. We are cheering you on!