Returning to Work after Becoming a Parent: A Vulnerable Time
By Debra Hoffman, Ph.D.
Life is full of transitions and adjustments. One of the biggest challenges in an individual’s life is becoming a parent. Whether this transition happens without planning or after a challenging fertility struggle or adoption process, it is always a significant change. If you are newly tasked with caring for an infant, you will undoubtedly be managing more tasks and getting less sleep than you are used to. In addition, new parents often struggle to maintain the same healthy coping strategies that helped them before becoming parents. So, you have more to do, less sleep, less time for healthy coping, all while trying to psychologically and emotionally adjust to your new identity as a parent.
At some point, you and/or your partner will have to go back to work, which involves its own set of challenges. It is hard to prepare for this transition or to predict exactly how you will feel. For some, it is a welcome transition and feels very positive to get back to one’s previous, more familiar world. For others, it can be emotionally and physically draining and extremely difficult to navigate. While it is quite normal to have some ups and downs while going back to work after a new baby, it is also a time of increased risk for the development of postpartum mood and anxiety disorders.
It is common for new parents to feel weepy or anxious. This is referred to as the "baby blues" and it is generally mild and resolves two weeks after delivery. How does someone know if there is something more serious happening? If you answer yes to any of the questions below, it is possible that you are suffering from postpartum depression or another perinatal mood or anxiety disorders.
- Are you feeling sad or depressed?
- Do you feel more irritable or angry with those around you?
- Are you having difficulty bonding with your baby?
- Do you feel anxious or panicky?
- Are you having problems with eating or sleeping?
- Are you having upsetting thoughts that you can’t get out of your mind?
- Do you feel as if you are "out of control" or "going crazy"?
- Do you feel like you never should have become a mother/father?
- Are you worried that you might hurt your baby or yourself?1
Fortunately, postpartum mood and anxiety disorders are treatable. Contact your healthcare provider to access care. It can feel overwhelming, especially when returning to work, to try to make time to attend to your own healthcare needs. It can be useful to remember that your new child needs you to be healthy. Though it may be more challenging than ever, it is also more important than ever that you reach out. There is help available.
Behavioral Health Partners is brought to you by Well-U, offering eligible individuals mental health services for stress, anxiety, and depression. Our team of mental health professionals can accurately assess your symptoms and make recommendations for treatment. To schedule an intake appointment, give us a call at (585) 276-6900.
Keith Stein |