Returning to work after having a baby brings on a whirlwind of emotions. From excitement about going back to work to guilt for not being home with your baby, these emotions can be confusing and tricky to navigate. But rest assured, it’s perfectly normal to have doubts and second thoughts when returning to work, even if your return date has been long thought out and pre-planned.
From someone who’s been there, allow me to walk you through returning to work as a new mom and how to find a healthy balance between your career and motherhood.
Preparing to Return to Work after Baby
If I had one main piece of advice for returning to work after maternity leave, it would be preparation. This may sound a bit vague, but advanced preparation is truly key to feeling confident and comfortable when going back to work. Going from spending 24/7 with your beautiful newborn to being in an office the majority of your day is going to feel odd enough. So, avoid any unnecessary stress around your return by being as prepared as possible. Here are some steps to take to prepare.
Find a caretaker
The first step in preparing to go back to work is to find a caretaker for your child. If you are hiring a babysitter or a nanny, do not rush the hiring process. It’s critical that you and your partner feel comfortable with the person who will be caring for the most important thing in your life. Choose someone whom you trust and who will make you feel at ease while you are in the office.
The saying, “it takes a village to raise a child” couldn’t be more true. Recruit additional help and support from nearby family members or friends. A strong support network is essential for navigating life as a new mother.
Communicate with your boss
The next step is to prepare for the changes that you will experience at work as a new mother. Such changes include times during the day that you will need to breast pump, as well as potential changes in your schedule. For example, I know some mothers who have made a gradual return to work, starting part-time and transitioning to full-time. Some make the decision to only work mornings or afternoons while others, like myself, went immediately back into full-time work. Establish a line of communication between yourself and your employer/manager to discuss these matters. Strong communication will help both you and your company know what to expect upon your return to work.
And speaking of communication, you should also inform the necessary people that you may need to excuse yourself throughout the day to pump. Establish a pumping schedule that works for you and see if your company has a private room or wellness room that you can use. Inform your coworkers so that everyone is on the same page before you even return to the office.
Accept the changes you are going through
The last thing you must prepare for is in regards to the different emotions you are going to experience. Brace yourself for the possibility that you may feel nervous, anxious, uncomfortable, and you might even cry when being separated from your baby for the first time. This is perfectly natural, regardless of how long you have prepared and anticipated going back to work.
My first day back at work was certainly no walk in the park. I was really looking forward to being around my coworkers again and getting back on the work grind after having my baby. But the second I sat down at my desk, I felt a wave of guilt and sadness wash over me. I remember going to the bathroom and calling my sitter to check on my baby only 30 minutes into the workday. And this was after months of preparation and knowing that my return to work was well on the horizon.
My point is, no amount of preparation can prevent you from the multitude of emotions that await working mothers on their first day back to work. Remind yourself that these feelings are perfectly normal and that you are not alone.
Achieving A Work-Baby Balance
Once you get into the swing of things, you will need to learn how to balance life as a working mom. The truth is, returning to work after baby is only half the battle. The other half is discovering how to establish a healthy balance between your work life and your mom life. If I’m being honest, this concept did take me some time to figure out. But after much trial and error, I’ve found that these tips are essential to achieving a work-baby balance.
Separation of work and baby
Establish a clear divide between your work life and your baby life. In other words, when you are at work, be at work. And when you are with your baby, be completely with your baby. When in the office, avoid complaining to your coworkers about how exhausted you may be. I know this is easier said than done, but try not to give off the impression that you are overwhelmed or cause your boss to think you can’t handle your tasks. Being a working mom is no easy feat, but save the venting sessions for your spouse or your girlfriends.
Likewise, make it a point to enjoy your time with your baby. Take advantage of the precious moments you have with your little one either in the mornings by waking up a little earlier than normal or in the evenings when you return home. These early moments go by so fast, and before you know it, your baby will be walking, talking, and driving to school. Put the work aside when you are at home and allow yourself time that is solely focused on your baby.
Become a master of routine
I know it may sound a bit boring to call yourself a ‘master of routine.’ But when it comes to balancing motherhood and a career, you will be proud to hold such a title. Save yourself time and stress in the mornings by establishing a daily routine that both you and your partner are on board with. Prepare lunches and bottles in advance, have clothes laid out the night before, and pack any baby essentials or diaper bags that your caretaker may need. Not only will a routine get you out the door faster and smoother, but it will allow you to actually enjoy your mornings with your little one before leaving for the day.
An effective routine doesn’t have to end with mornings. Take advantage of your weekend days off by prepping for the week. Get your grocery shopping done, as well as any laundry or other chores that will help take the pressure off your week.
Take care of yourself
Finally, an essential component when managing work and a baby is scheduling time to care for yourself. While maintaining a job and caring for your baby are both incredibly rewarding, it is also hard work and can easily lead to burnout if you don’t buffer in some self-care. Treat yourself to lunch or dinner with other moms. Get your nails done or meet your girlfriends for a spin or yoga class on the weekends. Maintain a healthy diet and drink plenty of water throughout the day. And don’t forget to ensure you are getting plenty of rest.
Remember that there is nothing selfish about self-care. It will only make you feel your best and, therefore, perform your best as both an employee and a mother.
Your Return to Work Checklist
- Find childcare (babysitter, nanny, family member)
- Create an emergency contact list for your caregiver
- Establish a network of other moms/friends/family for support
- Communicate with your boss/HR
- Changes in schedule or hours
- Part-time versus full-time
- Breast pumping at work
- Practice breast pumping prior to returning to work
- Establish your breast pumping location in the office
- Pack pumping bag prior to returning to work
- Establish a routine at home
- Enjoy time with your baby at home
- Schedule in “you” time