When you last left your office, you were pregnant, filled with the anticipation and excitement that this life changing event brings. Now it’s hard to believe that 6 weeks, 12 weeks, or even 6 months have passed and it’s time to return to work. Returning to work after baby can be a huge transition, bringing with it guilt, stress, fatigue (even when you didn’t know you could be any more tired), and lots of questions. Are you making the right choice? Will you be able to handle it all? Will your baby be happy?
First, rest assured that the answer to these questions is YES. So many moms return to work today and still raise happy, well-adjusted children. Secondly, you have to do what is right for you and your family, and no two stories are the same. So as you look around at neighbors and family members, read blogs and Facebook, and start to compare and then doubt yourself, stop. Have faith in what you’re doing and the choices you are making. Lastly, we have some tips and advice that we hope will make your transition easier. So take a deep breath and read on. You can do this!
Childcare is King: Before you even know your return date to work, childcare arrangements are probably the most important decision you will make. After all, it will be impossible to head back to the office unless you are confident in and comfortable with your childcare decision. Start early, interviewing nannies and visiting daycares so you can make an informed, educated choice. Do not be afraid to “go with your gut” as there’s a lot to be said for a mom’s intuition. It’s also always good to have a Plan B for those days when your nanny or daycare is not available or when your baby is sick. It may be a neighbor or a family member – or even a backup nanny – but if you can have an alternate plan, that’s just a little more peace of mind.
The Power of the Pre-Consultation: A lot has happened since you left the office amidst baby shower gifts and cake squares. It’s always a good idea to meet with your boss (offsite, if possible) before your maternity leave is actually over. Over coffee or lunch, you’ll have the opportunity to learn what has transpired since you left, any important changes that have taken place and also for you to focus on what will be your priorities when you return. For some moms, if you have that relationship with your boss, it’s a good opportunity to discuss the option of flexible work hours or some telecommuting. Regardless, meeting with your boss prior to your return to work gives you that “catch up time” and can literally save days of conversations, memos and updates. Not only does it show initiative on your part, but also, it’s a great, efficient way to get refocused.
Preparation and Practice: Taking care of a baby is challenging, but taking care of a baby, getting yourself ready and getting you both out of the house – on time – gives challenging a completely new meaning! The best way to make your return to work a smooth transition is with practice and preparation. Before Day 1 starts, do a dry run. Get you and your baby up, dressed and out the door. Practice your commute, including the drive by the daycare — and then stop for a coffee or some Mommy and Me time since you don’t actually have to go to the office yet. In the weeks or so prior to your return, start trying to keep the schedule for both you and Baby that you will keep once you’ve returned to work. Preparation the night before is also going to be key. Just like back in the days of elementary school, lay out your clothes – both yours and Baby’s. Have lunches packed. Stock the diaper bag, and even make sure your car has gas in it. All those little things you can do the night before will make for an easier morning for everyone!
Give Yourself a Break: Pregnancy is a big change; motherhood is a big change; returning to work is a big change. Do you see a trend? Your life has been a bit of a roller coaster and it’s ok to be overwhelmed. So, be patient and give yourself some time to adjust. Also, realize that the You that left the office 6-12 weeks or even 2 years ago may not be the same You that’s returning. That doesn’t mean you’re obsolete or less skilled, but it’s natural for your priorities and time management goals to shift. So, give yourself some time and be patient as you figure out your new normal.
And just a few more things . . .
- Have a Thick Skin: It’s going to happen; it’s inevitable. Someone is going to make a comment like “I bet you hate having to go back,” or “How long do you have to work?” or “Don’t you feel guilty leaving your baby every day?” and the list goes on. That’s their issue and their misgivings – don’t make them yours. Whether you stay at home, go back to work or do a little of both, we all have mom guilt. What you want to do is surround yourself with women who support each other and ignore or separate yourself from those who don’t. It truly does take a village to raise a child so make sure yours is a good one!
- Time Management: For obvious reasons, you are going to want be very efficient and effective with your time at work. Make smart choices.
- Look and Feel Good: All too often, we get lost in being this Mom Blob – and we feel like that as well. Before returning to work, make sure you have a wardrobe that fits your current figure. Find the time to eat well, get a little fresh air and maybe even some exercise. Take care of yourself, because without a Healthy You, none of the other things matter.
- Your Purse is Important: This is actually one of the smartest things a working mom once said to me. It’s not so much about what your purse is but where you put it. Always make sure you put your laptop, your purse or something critical that you never leave in the car next to the car seat. That way, no matter the type of morning or the commute you’re having, you will always check that second seat to make sure you have everything you need – including your baby. Enough said.
- Talk about the TaTas: If you’re still breastfeeding, talk with your HR department, your boss (if you feel comfortable) or another Mom coworker about the best way to handle pumping at work. If you’re lucky enough to have an office that makes it easier, but many companies use cubicles and open workspaces. Returning to work doesn’t have to mean breastfeeding stops, so be sure to ask the right questions to the right people.
American author Jill Churchill once said, “There is no way to be a perfect mother and a million ways to be a good one.” So get out there and find your way. You’ve got this!
“9 Secrets for a Successful Return to Work after Maternity Leave.” The Reformed Idealist Mom. idealistmom.com/work-after-maternity-leave/
“Work After Baby: Making the Successful Transition.” What to Expect. www.whattoexpect.com/first-year/week-12/back-to-work-transitions.aspx