Your baby’s arrival is a magical time in a parent’s life. The sleepless nights and exhaustion are met with loving smiles and warm cuddles, making it all worth it.
As you spend time with your baby and become familiar with their needs and quirks, you fall into a comfortable routine. However, before you know it, time passes, and you realize it will soon be time to return to work.
According to the Mayo Clinic, “over 50% of women return to work after maternity leave.” Leaving your little one behind to return to work may be unbearable.
You may also feel somewhat insecure after being away from the office for so long. The rush of emotions and feelings can be overwhelming at this time.
Being a working mother is not easy. However, there are things you can do before returning to work from maternity leave for a smoother transition.
Things to Consider Before Returning to Work After Maternity Leave
Connect With Your Office
It is important to ease back into workplace culture. Connect with your manager and HR department a few weeks before your return date.
Schedule your return date for later in the week. Going back to work on a Monday may tax you and your family. Beginning work on a Wednesday or Thursday will allow you to ease into work and will allow you to readjust things at home during the weekend if needed. If you plan to pump breast milk at work, talk to your employer about setting up a safe place. According to a provision in the Affordable Care Act, companies must provide both a non-bathroom location and a reasonable amount of time for moms to express milk.
Set boundaries as needed to maintain a healthy work/life balance. Remember, many co-workers may not be very understanding as there are many misconceptions about parenthood and maternity leave. Don’t let your co-workers’ comments get to you; focus on setting your priorities, boundaries, and expectations. Allow yourself some grace as you transition back into office life.
Find Childcare and Back-ups
As the end of your maternity approaches and your return to work is on the horizon, you may feel a rush of emotions. As difficult as it may seem to leave your precious baby behind, you need to start planning for suitable childcare. Start looking for reliable childcare several weeks ahead of your return to work. If partnered, decide whether you want a nanny or a daycare center. Ideally, this discussion should take place before your baby arrives, as many daycare centers often have a waiting list for enrollment. If you didn’t do so, don’t fret. Research and choose the type of childcare most suitable for your lifestyle.
Plan for a backup, whether a nanny or a family member. More often than not, your baby may become ill on the same day as an important presentation or meeting. Having a contingency plan with your partner will help reduce stress.
Once you’ve selected your childcare, do a practice run. Don’t make your first day back to work the same as your baby’s first day in childcare. It will be too emotional, and you will not be able to focus on your return to your workplace. Additionally, a trial run may help you work out any issues.
Prioritize Your Health – Physical and Mental
Returning to work can be fraught with emotions. You may feel anxiety, guilt, anger, sadness, and excitement all at the same time.
This can be confusing, but don’t fight your emotions. Allow yourself to feel and know it is normal, and you will get through it.
Track your moods. If you have difficulty letting go of certain feelings, contact a healthcare professional to help you through your emotions.
Make a list of self-care practices that may help you navigate the different challenges you may face. You can categorize them by the time required to have options when pressed for time.
Come up with a self-care plan and schedule it. Don’t wait until you have a breakdown to recharge—practice self-compassion. Being a working mom is not easy. Just as caring for your newborn during the first few days was a challenge, so will the early days of returning to work.
Remind yourself it won’t always be that way, and give yourself some grace. Set realistic expectations for yourself at home and work. And be sure to ask for help whenever you need it.
Eat healthy, nutritious meals and snacks, drink plenty of water, and move your body daily, even if it’s parking a little farther from the office or grocery store, to get those extra steps. Be kind to yourself; remember, your body is still recovering from pregnancy and childbirth.
Returning to work after maternity leave is not easy. Knowing you must leave your baby behind as your maternity leave ends can have you feeling many emotions.
However, with proper planning and communication, you can ensure everyone involved’s transition back to work is as smooth as possible. Remember to check in with yourself and practice self-compassion and love. Before you know it, you will be a thriving working mom.
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