I remember crying really, really hard when I had to go back to work after the end of my maternity leave. I felt guilty about leaving my child, torn because I needed to earn money (and the fact that I really enjoyed my job), worried about what would happen while I was away, sad about missing all the milestones, and jealous of the yaya who would get to spend time with my child. I was very emotional, and I guess the post-pregnancy hormones didn’t help!
But the end of maternity leave doesn’t mark the end of hands-on parenting, and nor will it mean that you have less control over how you run your home and raise your child. With enough preparation, you can still be on top of everything even if you’re in the office – and your bond with your baby will be as strong and powerful as if you were still there 24/7.
Talk to your boss and HR manager
I wanted to continue breastfeeding, and thankfully there are laws and policies that encourage and support this. Under Republic Act 10028 (or the Expanded Breastfeeding Promotion Act) offices are mandated to give an area where you can breastfeed, and 40 minutes of lactation break for every 8-hour working period.
Before the end of my maternity leave, I met up with my direct superior and HR manager to ask how we would work this out when I returned. They were both very understanding and helpful, and even adjusted my hours so I could come in at 8 a.m. and leave by 5 p.m. so I could have evening feedings at home. Don’t be afraid of reaching out to your colleagues – there may be no “official” corporate policy on breastfeeding, but most people are willing to help you if you explain what you need.
Don’t buy into the Supermom Myth and try to do it all. What’s important to you, and how can others help you achieve
those goals? I personally didn’t like the idea of the yaya being in charge of bedtime routines, because I felt that the first and last person my child should see when he wakes up is a parent. However, my job sometimes demanded overtime. I talked to my husband, and we agreed we would align our work schedules so one of us would always be home by 8 p.m. When I had to go home late, I felt better thinking: “It’s okay, it’s daddy bonding time!”
Filipinos also have the advantage of extended families: loving grandparents, titas and titos, ninangs and ninongs, and family friends who provide a large umbrella of support when life gets too crazy. When my husband and I were both swamped with business planning, I simply called my parents and asked if our son and yaya could stay with them for a week. They were more than happy to agree – and I could work on my reports without any guilt at all.
Create special (and not so special) routines
I felt bad about spending the whole day away from my baby, even if I understood on a logical level that I was doing this for him. I was afraid I wouldn’t be able to bond with him, and that he would “love” his yaya more than me.
In retrospect, I realize there’s more to a parent-child relationship than being the one who changed their diapers or saw their first steps. Kids will always see Mom and Dad in a special way, and what they remember aren’t feedings or bathtimes but routines. For example, I always read to my kids at night. And on weekends, we would have long breakfasts and watch cartoons together in bed.
But don’t obsess about routines. Kids look for, and remember, even the most ordinary moments. My son has random memories of his dad teaching him how to ride a bike, and of me drawing dinosaurs with chalk on a sidewalk. My daughter, who is now a rather emotional and angsty tween, still crawls into bed for a cuddle. She says she remembers how I would lie in her bed and stroke her hair until she fell asleep. I honestly didn’t schedule or make a huge deal about those things, but those moments clearly made an impact on them.
Don’t worry so much about the time you’ll spend away from your child; trust that your child will remember and cherish the moments you spend together. As working parents, our goal is to fill whatever time we have with very real, concrete expressions of affection. Trust me: they won’t really care so much about the craft activities and family vacations as they do about the little gestures where they feel safe and unconditionally accepted. The good news is that even without trying, love overflows and soaks each moment, no matter how small.
Align your parenting objectives
One of the things I learned from Maribel Dionisio – psychologist, family counselor, and my parenting columnist for several years – was that yayas only know the way they were raised or disciplined themselves. If their parents were strict or used physical punishment, then they will turn to that when they scold your child. They may also copy the parenting techniques they saw from previous employers, which may not align with yours.
That’s why it’s important to explain what you want for your child with your yaya. Aside from setting clear rules and expectations and writing a schedule, tell them what you want them to do in different scenarios. For example, how do you want them to handle instances when your child doesn’t want to eat, go home from the playground, or falls down and gets a scrape on his knee? Most of the time, yayas are afraid of being blamed for their alaga’s misbehavior. By giving them scripts and tips, they respond the way you would and are less likely to hide when something bad happens.
Drop the perfectionism
I’ve always set extremely high standards on myself – both at work, and at home. It was very hard to ask for help. I also had trouble saying No. My boss would ask me to attend a meeting or take over a task, and I would agree because I felt I had no choice. At home, I’d agree to go to family reunions or help my mother-in-law with an errand even if I was completely exhausted from work.
But after a few months of walking around like a zombie, I realized that I had to set boundaries and limitations. Saying No wasn’t a sign of failure – it was the only way for me to succeed at what really mattered.
At work, I identified projects that would have the biggest impact on my department’s revenue and performance and focused on that. I delegated other things to my staff, then mentored them so they could take over. It was an opportunity for me to breathe – and for them to grow!
At home, I focused on the activities and moments that would have the biggest impact on my relationship with my children and my husband. It was more important for me to have quality time with them than fuss over household chores. Instead of personally cooking a lavish lunch, I bought food at a weekend market and spent the rest of the morning just playing and talking with them. Instead of going to the mall (where we would spend half the time on the road or avoiding tantrums), we lounged at home and talked about what we did that week. Sometimes we just spent the whole weekend napping in one bed. Sometimes, the best family memories aren’t about doing things, but doing nothing together.
Bottom Line: Get Over the Guilt
Parenting guilt serves no one. Work doesn’t weaken our ability to be good parents, because time we spend away from our kids matters a lot less than what we bring to the relationship when we are together. Instead of hating yourself for not being able to stay at home, use this opportunity to really define what you want, need and expect – from your caregivers, your partner, your family partners, and yourself. Remove the guilt, and you’ll be able to see that even if you’re not at home, you still make the biggest decisions for yourself and your family. You are still in charge, and once you take control of the guilt, you can create the routines and set the priorities that really matter.
About The Writer
Dedet Reyes-Panabi was editor-in-chief of a parenting magazine for over 10 years, but has been writing for newspapers and magazines much longer than that (hint: back then, people still used film for photo shoots!). Today, she is a content marketing consultant for both local and international companies. She is full-time mom to two kids, three cats, and a stubborn French bulldog.
The views and opinions expressed by the writer are his/her own, and does not state or reflect those of Wyeth Nutrition and its principals.