If you're planning to re-enter the workforce after an extended break, and you have kids that aren't newborns, it might help to consider the change from their point of view. Most kids find comfort in routine, so at least starting to establish a new routine, before you actually start the job, is likely to make the transition easier on everyone.
Think ahead. Chances are that you will need your kids to do more for themselves if you're going back to work. Asking them to take on more responsibilities around the house is great for them, and it should help you too.
The key to a smooth transition is to be sure that your kids have taken on these new responsibilities before your first day on the job. Even relatively compliant kids will need "practice" before new routines run smoothly. We found that our kids usually threw three "fits" in a row when we imposed new routines on them. If we could endure those "fits" (which usually were just complaints, whines or worse), and stay firm (and consistent), the new routine tended to click by the fourth iteration and the kids often became enthusiasts. Maybe we're all that way :)
Here are ideas for things most kids can be expected to take on around the house. Obviously their ability to take on various responsibilities will vary widely based on their ages.
Most kids are happy to help when they know that their contributions are meaningful; it gives them a great sense of accomplishment and helps build lasting self-esteem. This means that while they're taking on a new responsibility you need to be sure you're not hovering over them, offering too many suggestions, and/or criticizing their efforts. Let them make a few mistakes! Keep yourself busy doing something else meaningful while they tackle their new "jobs".
An important key to success is to be sure that your kids don't view your return to work as an imposition on their routines or a punishment. By establishing new routines before your return, you're likely to ease the transition for everyone and discover how your work actually helps your kids become more capable adults in the future.
Submitted by Paul Helbling
After I was divorced, I had custody of our four children. The youngest was eight years old at the time. It worked. Not necessarily perfectly, but that just meant that there were a lot of learning experiences along the way. As an educator, I think that was a good thing.
One way we made it work was to require each person to take responsibility for their own laundry. As I said, it worked. There were some issues, but I didn't get involved with any of them. When there was yelling, I ignored it. When I needed to do my own laundry and found a load of clothes that had been left in the washer, dryer, or both, I just moved them into a basket.
Years later, when I remarried, I shared this strategy with my new wife who was still raising her youngest (12 years old at the time). She was surprised by the idea, but gave it a try. It worked for her too. Even when she found clean clothes that had been in the washer for two days.
Ann Landers probably said it best, "It is not what you do for your children, but what you have taught them to do for themselves, that will make them successful human beings."
Sometimes it's the simple stuff that provides satisfaction (and bragging rights).
One year when the kids were little, we reported in our Christmas letter that each member of the family had worn clean underwear every day of the year. It felt like one of our biggest, and maybe most meaningful, accomplishments ;) I used that data point to convince myself that we were one of those really “together” families.
But then my husband, always intent on self improvement, told me he thought we ought to raise the bar for the next year. As the person in charge of laundry at our house, he thought I ought to commit myself to providing clothes that were not only clean, but dry too. (So maybe his underwear had been a little “damp” some mornings, but it was clean! And that seemed like the most important part to me.)
As working parents, sometimes all we can do is laugh and play the hand we're dealt. (Or in the case wear the clothes in the dryer - ready or not.) At least that's what I told him on some of those days our clothes finished drying while we were on our way to work :)
Years later, my son joined the junior high track team. During one of his meets he was running in a really strange manner. On the drive home, I asked him about it, and here's what he said, "You told me I should never wear dirty socks, so this was the first time I ever ran without socks." The thing was, I was on top of the laundry! I was sure of it. That night I found about 12 pairs of dirty socks in a pile in the back of his closet. "I can't wash them if you don't throw them down the laundry chute!" I told him. As I said, sometimes all you can do is laugh.