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By Dr. PriyankaSehgal
Getting back to work after having a baby is never easy for any Mom. Balancing your child’s needs along with the pressures of a full-time job and dealing with feelings of guilt on leaving your child can make it even more challenging. But, it is possible and the great news is that it gets easier over time. If you are a working Mumma or plan to get back to full-time work after the birth of your baby, this one’s for you.
Meet Dr. Priyanka Sehgal, a practicing dentist and devoted Mummy to baby Shanaya. In this Voice of Moms interview, she talks about some of the challenges she faced while going back to work after having a baby, and how she overcame them. In her own words, all you need is “proper planning, support from your family and a never-give-up attitude”. Read on for the full interview. We hope you find it as inspiring as we did.
Q. Thanks so much for talking to us! We’d love to know – when your baby Shanaya was born, what was the first thought that went through your mind?
Ans. Well, my husband and I always wanted a baby girl. But somewhere I had a feeling that I will give birth to a baby boy. Even while looking at the scans, I used to say that these are thefeatures of a baby boy. The moment my baby was born, I first breathed a sigh of relief because I had a long labor. The doctor then put my baby on me and in that moment, I couldn’t bother to ask if it was a boy or a girl. It was MY baby – a baby I had been nurturing for nine months and was so eager to meet. When the doctor finally announced that she was a baby girl, I almost shouted “WHAT”! I was on seventh heaven. Thinking of that moment still makes me smile. I don’t have enough words to describe the feeling.
Q. While you were pregnant, had you planned or thought about how you would continue working even after your baby was born?
Ans. Yes!I always had a plan. We thought of it even before we started planning to have child. I am dentist by profession and my clinic is located just outside of my house. Even when we were setting up the clinic, we chose the location so that I could be close to home and my baby in the future.
When I conceived, I didn’t stopworking. When I was six months pregnant, I hired another dentist to work alongside me and understand my style of working to be able to fill in for me later on. I also had on-call doctors ready in case of any emergency. I worked at the clinic right until the day I was admitted to hospital for induced labor. I made sure I passed on all the necessary information to my fellow dentist, prepared my staff for my absence and reassured everyone that even though I would be physically absent, I’d always be available on the phone. And this plan worked perfectly in my case.
Q. In the initial days after Shanaya was born, what were some of your greatest challenges and how did you deal with them?
Ans. I used to think that giving birth was the challenge but I soon realized that the real challenge comes after your baby is born.
The first challenge I faced was related to breast feeding. A lot of first-time mothers are likely to face this challenge. In my case, my baby did not latch on properly which led to sucking without propermilk intake and left me with cracked nipples. With breast heaviness and other factors, I began to feel that this was not working for me. But then I met my lactation consultant and she inspired me. All that was needed was patience. Slowly, my baby and I learned the correct technique and we are proudly lactating and hope to do so until my baby wants.
Another challenge was being confined to the four walls of my room because I was advised not to go out for a while for fear of catching infections. It was a terrible feeling! But then my baby came to my rescue. In those days, we had to take the baby to the hospital for vaccinations and checkups. Those hospital trips were my leisure hours. Thankfully my husband too would take me on long drives to get me out of the house. Another challenge was related to my profession. We had a patient come in for a tooth extraction which my fellow dentist was not confident to do. The consultants were not available since it was a Sunday. It was my tenth day post-delivery and I was supposed to do a tooth extraction which requires a lot of energy. But I did it and was very happy about it. It made me realize that we are much stronger than we think.
Q. After you delivered, how long was it before you went back to work? How did it feel at first and what were some of the things that made the transition easier for you?
Ans. As I mentioned earlier, I saw my first patientonly ten days post-partum although it was not planned.I went to live with my mother for a while and had planned to start working on my return, when Shanaya turned 45 days old. But she had different plans. I realized I couldn’t get back to my normal routine because she needed me more at that point. So, I started working part-time and would go to the clinic when Shanaya was asleep, for an hour at a time. Gradually, it got easier and I increased my time at the clinic from one hour to three hours. Today, I’m back to working full-time and this transition was made easier by my mother-in-law who takes great care of Shanaya in my absence. I also have help from Shanaya’schachi and a nanny, so I’m not too worried anymore.
Q. Often working moms go through the guilt of not being able to give their baby enough time, which would have been possible had they stayed at home. Did you feel similarly? If yes, how did you deal with it?
Ans. Yes! Like any other working mom, I go through that guilt every now and then. Sometimes, I feel that my baby is getting closer to her other care-takers and that gives me shivers and makes me wonder if it will impact our relationship.I then discussed this with my husband who strengthened my belief that I am setting a good example for my baby.One day she will look upto me and say, “This dentist is MY MOM!”Basically, all one needs is BALANCE between home and work.
Q. As a working Mom, how do you manage to spend one-on-one time with your baby?
Ans. When I am at home, I give her my full attention. I bathe her by myself, which we both thoroughly enjoy! While dressing her, we like to sing rhymes and giggle. I leave for work while talking to her and waving goodbye rather than hiding from her. This helps her understand that I am going to come back. When I’m back, I feed her lunch and we move to our bedroom for some ‘WE TIME’. We play and then take a nap. She is used to waking up as soon as I do. Then I hand her to my mother-in-law and go back to work. Dinner is strictly family-time. Later, my husband and I often take her for a drive which she loves. While we drive around, I keep describing the things around us to her. Once we are back, Shanaya and her daddy spend some quality time before we are all off to bed.
Q. What kind of activities do you and Shanaya do on a daily basis?
Ans. We play ‘catch the ball’ with our dog which she loves to watch. We take her on drives or play hide & seek. Our day is filled with many such fun activities. In the evening, she goes for a stroll in her pram with my mother-in-law.
Q. Can you share any activities/games/other ideas for keeping little ones engaged while you catch up on chores and other work?
Ans. I am strictly against placingchildren in front of a TV/computer screen and doing chores or other work. Instead, I prefer giving her toys. I have a baby walker which she is in love with. Once I put her in the walker, she is engaged for at least half an hour. But one must keep in mind that the walker should be withdrawn early and requires supervision.
A baby gym can be a very engaging and useful toy for babies from day one. They lovethecolours and sounds. My baby used to stay occupied for an hour with her CHICCO ‘3 in 1’ baby gym.
One can also opt for a rockingchair for babies. The rocking motion and colourful toys keepsthe baby engaged.Another very important activity is an evening walk. It helps them engage with their surroundings and is healthy for the mother as well.
I also keep lots of rattles and other toys near her. I make sure she is playing in a safe zone while I clean the room or do other work. I have a baby net basket, which comes with lots of balls inside. I put her in there so she can have some fun.
Q. Since both you and your husband have full-time jobs, how do you divide duties so that you’re both actively involved with Shanaya?
Ans. We manage things by mutual give and take. There are days when I want to sleep for some extra time. My husband will then wake up early and get ready, give Shanaya a bath and then I get her dressed. Sometimes if I’m running late in the morning, I come home earlier so that I can spend time with her. On Sundays, if I have to attend a conference, my husband cares for her completely. So basically, thereis no hard-bound division of duties but we handle it through mutual understanding and support.
Q. How do you manage to strike a balance between work and home?
Ans. Well, that’s what one strives for. Striking a balance! I am lucky to have my work place very close to my home plus I am my own boss at work. This gives me a lot of flexibility to be with my baby, especially when there is free time at work.
Q. What are some of the pros and cons that every mother should be ready for if she wants to continue a full-time job?
Ans. Every coin has two sides.
Pros: Independence, self-confidence and positive self-image which ultimately makes you a happy Mummy. And only when you’re happy can you raise a happy and independent child. By working and striking a balance, you are also setting a good example for your baby.
Cons: Pressure, feelings of guilt, no me-time. But if it works for you, it’s absolutely worth it.
Q. What is your best advice for other working moms and moms who are planning to get back to work after their post-maternity break?
Ans. Mothers need not look at maternity as a full stop to their career. If you are not able to join work soon after you have a baby, you can wait for your child to get a little older and then join. Always make all the necessary arrangements for your child’s comfort before you go back to work.Take the help of those around you, especially your husband. If people around you do not understand why you need to work, talk to them and explain your need and desire to work. It is always important to speak up for yourself.