While returning to work after a long break may seem exciting, it is not always the same for children. Ten-year-old Martin has been suffering from not seeing his mother as much as he wants since she started her wedding dress business. “My mother doesn’t want me to come home for lunch anymore,” he says. “She says she doesn’t have time, and that makes me sad.” Selena, 26, remembers very well when her mother decided to return to the workforce: “I must have been 8 or 9 years old. At the time, I really felt I was being abandoned.” Neither was sufficiently prepared for their mother’s absence.
Emily, a mother of three, admits, “I should have anticipated it more. I told myself that they were grown up enough and that it would all go smoothly, but I was wrong.” When Emily decided to return to her job as a French teacher five years ago, her children didn’t react very well, especially her youngest. “She was only in fifth grade at the time, and she was really worried. She found herself suddenly having to manage things by herself. It wasn’t easy for her or for me. She felt abandoned, left to herself. And I felt like a bad mother.”
Be available for your child
Bernadette Lemoine is a psychologist, psychotherapist and consultant on separation anxiety for parents and educators. For her, there are three magic words moms need to keep in mind: anticipate, reassure and listen.
“Three weeks’ notice is not enough,” she says. “It’s too late. You have to anticipate it very early on, so the child has time to get used to the idea. Moms may not realize it, but it’s a major change in a child’s life.”
Second, and very important, parents must reassure their child at all costs. “They particularly need to feel their mother’s love for them more than anything else. For example, she might say, ‘Just because I’m not around as much anymore doesn’t mean I don’t love you. I will always be there for you, no matter what happens. Know that I still love you even when I’m not with you’.”
The third essential point: you must still be available for your child, and stay attentive to him or her.
“When I went back to work after a 16-year break, I was very stressed out,” says Emma. “I worked every day until 11 p.m., and sometimes on weekends. I couldn’t balance my work and family life.” For Bernadette Lemoine, this kind of situation should be avoided at all costs: “Having time together is important for you and your family. Even if we work, we must not lose sight of the fact that children still need their parents.”
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