Bonding With Baby As a Working Mom

Being a career woman looks different after becoming a mom. Whatever your work life looks like these days, you can still have a beautiful bond and connection with your baby even when you’re separated for most of the day. How can you make the most of your time together? And how can you enlist the help of child care providers in this area?

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Episode Transcript

Natalie Gross 0:01
Being a career woman looks different after becoming a mom. While it may have once been easy to focus on your job. Now you may find yourself working around a pump schedule or scrolling through baby pictures at your desk. Whatever your work life looks like these days, I have good news, you can still have a beautiful bond and connection with your baby, even when you're separated for most of the day. Today, I'm talking with an expert and experienced working mamas who have been there before you for their best tips. This is Newbies.

Welcome to Newbies, listeners. Newbies is your online on the go support group guiding new moms through their baby's first year. I'm Natalie Gross. I have a four year old boy and a baby girl. And we've got a great show today, talking about building a connection with your baby as a working mom. Now if you haven't already, be sure to visit our website at and subscribe to our weekly newsletter that will keep you updated on all of the episodes we release each week. Another great way to stay updated is to hit that subscribe button in your podcast app wherever you're listening right now. And if you're looking for a way to get even more involved with our show, then you can check out our membership club called Mighty Moms. That's where we chat more about the topics discussed here on the show. And you'll learn about our recordings in advance so that maybe you want to come on and talk about your motherhood experience, you can do that. And the best part is it is totally free to join. So let's meet our mamas joining our conversation today. I have Mika and Lynsey. So ladies, please go ahead and introduce yourself. Tell us a little bit about you, your family and about your professional roles as well. Mika, do you want to kick us off?

Mika Kinney 2:03
Sure. Yeah. So I am a mom to a four month olds are relatively new mom. I also have two dogs. So I like to say my dog mom as well. I work in the construction industry. So I am gone for 10-11 hours a day for my little one. And it's been a real adjustment. But I love being a mom.

Natalie Gross 2:22
Awesome, thanks so much for being here. Lynsey, what about you?

Lynsey Retzlaff 2:24
Hi, I'm Lynsey Retzlaff. I live in Wisconsin with my husband and two kids. I have a son who's five and a half. And a daughter who's three years old. I'm a psychotherapist and I have my own business actually helping working moms regain their purpose. And I also have a speaking business as well, where I teach about psychological safety in businesses and corporations.

Natalie Gross 2:48
Awesome. Well, I'm so grateful to have you both. So I want you to think back and you know, my guts not going to be that far back for you. But think back from when you first returned to work after having your babies what was going through your head? What emotions did you experience was that separation hard for you tell us about that time,

Lynsey Retzlaff 3:03
when I was going back to work, I experienced a lot of anxiety and guilt, I was on maternity leave. And we had it all set up where my mom was going actually going to watch my son full time. So I didn't have to worry too much about the daycare experience. But with some changes in different family relationships and things my mom ended up not being able to watch my son full time. So then later, once I was at work, I had to start dealing with a lot of the anxiety that came up with, oh my gosh, taking my son, it was a lot of my own fears of he's not going to get quality care or he's going to get hurt. And I also dealt with a lot of guilt because I didn't bond with my son very well at first. And I felt like I had to make up that time. And that work was kind of robbing me of that time. So there was also kind of the societal pressure of I felt like I was supposed to want to stay at home. And while on maternity leave, I really realized I needed a career to feel fulfilled. So I had to work through a lot of guilt that was associated with that.

Natalie Gross 4:17
Gotcha. Yeah. Mika What about you? Does any of that resonate?

Mika Kinney 4:21
Yeah, so I had a lot of anxiety I was also off for three months, and mine was kind of the opposite and that I never even remotely crossed my mind that I wouldn't want to go back to work. I am in love with my job where I was until I had my son um, so it was like a big whirlwind of just like what is happening to my thought process and I had a really hard recovery so like that first six months was just a blur, or six weeks Excuse me. So mine was is still is a lot of guilt because I'm gone for like 11 hours a day. It's like oh my gosh, my his wake when knows I'm with him. Less than he's awake than I'm away from him. And that's really hard for me. We also run a food blog, my husband and I on nights and weekends. So it's a lot of busy. And so I don't spend a whole lot of quality time sometimes I feel like, but with that food blog, you know, it's like, okay, we're working towards this kind of freedom, I guess. So, yeah, tons of guilt, tons of anxiety. I don't know how you get around it.

Natalie Gross 5:28
Yeah, well, thank you so much for sharing your experiences. We are going to take a quick break and then talk with our expert Ann McKitrick when we come back, so stay tuned.

Today on Newbies, we are talking about building a bond with your baby as a working mom, especially those moms who work outside the home. Our featured expert today is Ann McKitrick. She is the founder of nurtured noggins, a comprehensive resource for parents, and she's also the host of the parenting in the first three years podcast. She's also a frequent conference speaker, a parenting coach and early childhood specialists with 30 years of experience in higher education. Ann, thanks so much for joining us. Welcome to newbies.

Ann McKitrick 6:08
Thank you so great to be with you here. Thanks.

Natalie Gross 6:11
Yeah, well, you work with a lot of working parents and moms. What are some of the challenges you would say that new moms face when they work outside the home? And curious, you know, we've already heard a little bit about mom guilt is that something a lot of moms struggle with?

Ann McKitrick 6:23
You know, I started my career as an infant teacher working in college and university settings. And so I've been on that side of it, where I've been the person that is actually taking care of your babies. And then now I work with parents, as you know, as a parenting coach and educator. And, you know, I think that the challenges are exactly what her moms described, they feel there's a lot of feelings around it. One is that you, you miss your baby, you know, you've spent this time in these first few weeks, maybe even the first few months being with them 24/7. And when you're apart, you wonder how they are, you're wonder what they're doing, you wonder what you're missing, it's kind of hard to believe that anybody will take care of them as well as you do. And in a sense, that's true, because you're their parent, and you have a very special way. But it's good to remember that professional, early childhood teachers, they have worked with so many babies, their experiences very broad. They know what's normal, they know what's expected, they have ongoing training all the time, they really are well prepared to care for your child. And that's in a childcare setting. Obviously, private nannies and caregivers and family members, they also are committed to your baby or they wouldn't be doing what they're doing. But just learning to trust that relationship is really, I think, probably one of the biggest challenges initially.

Natalie Gross 7:48
What are some ways that moms can work on building, maintaining and even strengthening their bond with their baby when they're away from them for most of the work week?

Ann McKitrick 7:55
you know, I think probably the most important thing that you can do is just to create a really strong partnership with your caregiver, because you are both focused on what's best for your baby, and they become your advisors and your reporters of what's happening throughout the day. But the way that you can stay connected is is just to do a few things. One is to linger. You know, if you can manage it in your schedule to try to arrive five to 10 minutes early before you have to leave the childcare center and linger in the classroom if the program allows it of course. But going in sitting on the carpet, seeing them get engaged in play are getting engaged with their caregiver, and not feeling like you have to just rush to get out, I think is really helpful as you are starting your day. And then at the other end of the day, if if it's possible to come in and play with your baby. And this might be when your child is a little bit older and engaged in play to come in and see what they're doing and let them tell you about it and kind of become a part of that world. Observe the other children observe the teachers with the children and how they are what they're doing. I just think it helps you feel like you're a part of what's going on. I think it's really important to understand that it takes a while you know, initially, it when you are starting back to work full time and building this relationship with your caregiver. It takes about two to four weeks for you to both fall into the routine and feel really comfortable with it. And so just knowing that I think in advance is helpful. send pictures with your baby of your self and ask the caregivers to pull out those pictures and let your baby look at them. You can laminate them or you can put them in a Ziploc bag and create a little book for your baby to look at while you are apart. But I just think it's really important to keep a positive mindset. And keep in mind that it's okay for your baby to have a diversity of caregiving styles. It really does help them learn to adapt and be flexible and it gives them such Will experiences that lead to healthy social emotional development, which is a really good thing for your child.

Natalie Gross 10:06
Yeah. Well, when moms are on maternity leave, or even maybe while they're still pregnant and looking at daycares, things like that, what are some things they can be doing to prepare for the transition back to work once their mom or there's some things you can do to prepare ahead of time, either mentally or physically?

Ann McKitrick 10:21
Yeah, you know, I think it's really important to talk to your employer and see what's available for you. Can you work at home part time? Can you transition back a few days a week before you have to go full time? Can you work half days or, you know, just transition? timewise? Is it possible to work at home, I think also, you know, just expecting and knowing that when you put more than one child in a room with other children, there are germs that gets spread. As much as we all try to keep everybody safe and healthy. There's just a certain amount of illness that comes with being around people, especially in a childcare situation. And if you kind of have this in your mindset and kind of plan for it, you know, talk about it with your employer, with your partner, and with your provider, all of the people who support you and your family to know what are you going to do you know, when you have to be at work and your child is sick, what's going to be the plan. And just kind of thinking through that in advance I think is really helpful. Talking with your partner about what your expectations are the feelings and mechanics of who's going to do what what your roles will be as parents, I think is a really important thing, especially as you're going back to work and adding childcare to your family. And it's an ongoing conversation that needs to be top of mind and probably, you know, revisited quite frequently, as things are going to change as your child gets older. And as things come up. And then physically, I think it's really just important for new moms to really do all that they can to take care of themselves. I know it's hard. I know you have very little time for that, but just trying to eat well and get some rest and do some meditations even while you are doing some caregiving to take care of yourself I think is a really important part of that.

Natalie Gross 12:11
Well, thanks so much for these important reminders. And when we come back moms, Mika and Lynsey will be joining us again to share their perspectives.

We are continuing our discussion with Ann McKitrick of Nurtured Noggins and our moms, Mika and Lynsey. Mika, Lynsey, any thoughts on what we've just heard from Ann?

Lynsey Retzlaff 12:35
Yeah, I really can echo a lot of what was said, I think it's really great advice. One thing in particular that I did kind of unknowingly that and mentioned was trying to connect with the daycare workers. It made me get to know them on a personal level, which alleviated a lot of my own anxiety, I got to see a little bit more of their personality. And it made me feel more comfortable to ask even little tiny things, just to again, make my transition a little bit easier. One thing that I think I learned really quickly is that my child transitioned a lot easier than I did. So that connection with the caregiver was huge for me.

Mika Kinney 13:23
Yeah, I think, because ours will be starting daycare next month, I think this is all super helpful. Because like, I would have never thought about putting your face in photos. I think a lot of my anxiety is like, oh my gosh, is he gonna forget me? Am I might be a dumb stance or thought thought, yeah, I think I'm definitely going to be going in early to have those conversations with the caregivers because you just never know.

Natalie Gross 13:48
I guess, Lynsey, you're the one with some experience here. But is there anything you're really did at home to work on that bond when you weren't around?

Lynsey Retzlaff 13:55
You know, for a majority of the day, I had to change a lot of my belief systems because again, because anxiety was so primary, there was a lot of worry there. And I had to keep telling myself and reminding myself that quality time was better than a full day of half of my attention. So I kept reminding myself of that when I would get home like feeling guilty or anxious that I wasn't there with my son. For the majority of the day. I would be very intentional about spending quality time with him even if it was 10 minutes because then I had to go start making dinner, get a bath ready or whatever it was the 10 minutes of quality time where I was very present with him. I could tell improved our connection. And that made the transition I think for both of us easier as well.

Natalie Gross 14:52
That's really good. That's a good reminder for any any moms you know, stay at home moms or working moms too. Mika, any thoughts?

Mika Kinney 15:00
Yeah, I think as far as for me, because I am out of the house a lot. For me, it's I do little things like in the morning, I bring him into bed when he's awake and just lay there for 10-15 minutes to spend that quality time. I love that quality over quantity, it definitely helps.

Natalie Gross 15:21
Well, I'd love to ask all of you to leave our listeners here with some advice you would give to new moms in this area, you know, especially from your perspectives. Now, as moms who have been through this or Mika, who are going through this right now, when you think back to those early days, Lynsey, of being a working mom, what would you have told younger you and and I want you to chime in here, too, okay.

Lynsey Retzlaff 15:40
The first thing for me is that, when I look back, at my experience, anxiety goes away. In the moment, it feels like it won't, and it will linger forever. But it does go away, I would say, within two weeks into being back at work, there was drastically less anxiety, I can kind of laugh about it too, because when I think about taking my second child to daycare, the whole experience was completely different. There was probably 5% of anxiety where you know, before with my son, it was 100%. Because I had already gone through it, I allowed myself to feel that anxiety, do what I needed to do to get through it. And it went away with my second one, I would say the second thing is, I wish I had more awareness earlier on of what I actually wanted to do. Instead of again, kind of what society tells me I should be doing, reminding myself or remembering the guilt or anxiety is just a normal feeling. We all experience it. And if we don't prioritize our own mental health that can drive us crazy. I wish that I I knew that earlier on, it would have made a lot of arguments with my spouse, nonexistent, if I was able to focus more on myself, and if you want to work on or that if you feel like you need to work just because you have to pay the bills or things like that, focusing on the benefits that your child is going to receive in childcare, the socialization, the ability to kind of adapt to different situations and different people quicker. That's something I think that can be helpful to remember as well.

Mika Kinney 17:32
Great. Mika, any thoughts? I think for my advice would be a couple of things to go on. After that employer thing. If you have hours that you cannot work, be strict and upfront with those hours set a precedence with your office, if you're one of the few people with kids, you know, they might not be used to that. But stick to it stick to your guns, family can come first, if you're strict about it, if that's what you prefer. Then the other side of that is, like Lindsey said, checking in with yourself. So knowing what your wants and needs are, I did not even remotely consider some of the feelings I would feel. So I think just really checking in with yourself even every week, like okay, this week was a good week, and I want this or this week, that's kind of a struggle. I think I need this. Always staying on top of that mental health is really critical as a new mom, and anything you want to leave us with.

Ann McKitrick 18:31
Yeah, I've got two things I would like to leave with you all. And the first is that, you know, I just encourage you to really think about what it is that you would like in your childcare provider and then find that, you know, it's going to be different depending on where you are in the world and, and what's available to you. But, you know, do you want a small home setting? Or do you want a small group of children? Or are you interested in a more academic program, but knowing what it is that you're looking for, and then going in equipped with the questions that you want answered, when you take your tours and you visit the schools and stuff. I think it's really important, you know, you want to have a caregiver who's going to report to you at the end of the day, what happened during the day and you're gonna want to know those details. But you don't want somebody who's so worried about texting you and sending you videos and all of those things, that their attention is diverted from your child. And so I want to you know, make sure that your kid is the center of attention around this relationship and that their care is top of mind and priority for everybody. And there are lots and lots of beautiful programs out there that are doing this very thing and just you know, go find the very best person for your child. And another thing is that you know, I would find out from the provider, how you can help your child while you're gone by adjusting yourself to what they do. You know, for example, in In licensed centers, you cannot put a child in a swing to get him to sleep. If your baby will only go to sleep in a moving swing, then when they get to school, it's going to be hard to get to sleep, they'll deal with it, they can do this transition. But if you can make it easier by helping them learn how to get to sleep without the swing, knowing that they won't be able to use it there. I think that's just really good. And that's just an example of the kind of communication that needs to happen before your child goes.

Natalie Gross 20:29
Yeah, those are really good reminders. Well, thank you so much to you, Ann, and to you, Mika and Lynsey for joining us for this episode today. Listeners, be sure to check out Ann's website called Also check out where we have all of our podcast episodes plus videos and more.

That wraps up our show for today. We appreciate you listening to Newbies. Don't forget to check out our sister shows Preggie Pals for expecting parents, Parent Savers for moms and dads with toddlers, the Boob Group for moms who give breast milk to their babies and Twin Talks for parents of multiples. Thanks for listening to Newbies your go to source for new moms and new babies.

Disclaimer 21:21
This is been a New Mommy Media production, information and material contained in this episode is presented for educational purposes early statements and opinions expressed in this episode are not necessarily those of new mommy media and should not be considered facts will such information and materials are believed to be accurate. It is not intended to replace or substitute for professional medical advice or care and should not be used for diagnosing or treating healthcare problem or disease or prescribing any medication. If your questions or concerns regarding your physical or mental health or the health of your baby, please seek assistance from a qualified health care provider.

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