How to Return to Work After Maternity Leave
Returning to work after having a baby can be very difficult. You may find yourself physically exhausted after spending late nights with a crying infant and then rushing to the office in the mornings. In addition, you may find going back to work emotionally taxing – many new mothers feel sad, anxious, or guilty about leaving their babies in someone else’s care. Fortunately, there are ways to make the process easier.
Preparing for Your Return to Work
Keep a positive attitude.Remember that, unless you were planning to be a stay-at-home mom, you made the decision to balance a career and a family – and that’s a perfectly valid choice. It’s best to come to terms with your decision as quickly as possible, so don’t second guess yourself! Let go of your guilt, and you’ll be more likely to go back to work with the right mindset.
Bond with your baby.Once you go back to work, your time with your baby will be limited, so use the rest of your maternity leave to bond as much as possible: hold and cuddle your baby, sing and laugh and make faces with your baby, and enjoy the extended time that you have together.
Establish a cuddling routine that will work once your maternity leave is over.There are plenty of ways to continue bonding with your baby once you go back to work. You can start preparing now. Consider:
Find someone you trust to care for your baby.Dependable childcare is crucial to your success at work, and you won’t feel comfortable unless you know that the person caring for your baby is someone you can trust.
- Ask family and friends if they are available to provide childcare, or if they have recommendations for childcare providers.
- Ask potential childcare providers for references, and follow up to learn as much as possible about the person who may be caring for your child.
- If you are considering a daycare facility, go for at least one tour, and ask if you can sit in and watch a typical day.
- Make arrangements for back-up childcare. Ideally, a friend or relative will be able to take your baby on short notice if, for some reason, your regular childcare falls through. If not, research drop-in childcare options and ask people you know for suggestions.
- Check to see if your company offers childcare benefits. Some employers do offer childcare at the office; others offer financial help with the cost.
Transitioning Back to Work
Practice your new routine before your maternity leave ends.Once you have thought about your routine and established a childcare plan, it can help to have a practice run. This will help you identify potential problems and feel more prepared for going back to work. For the best results:
- Set a wake-up schedule for you and your baby.
- Go through your regular hygiene routines – including whatever additional steps you would take to be dressed and ready for a work day.
- Be productive during the times you will be spending at work.
- Identify steps that can be completed in the evening in order to make mornings easier, and start doing those things.
- Consider starting childcare during this time. This involves some unnecessary expense, but it will ease your stress. Once you go back to work, your baby will already be more comfortable with the new routine.
Meet with your boss.When your maternity leave ends, schedule a meeting with your supervisor. Get an update on what’s being going on in your workplace, and then bring up any questions or concerns you might have regarding the transition.
- Consider asking if you can return to work mid-week to ease the transition for you and your baby.
- Discuss options like telecommuting or part-time hours during the initial transition. These adjustments may allow you to ease back into your work routine.
- Ask for any special considerations you may need. If you plan to continue breastfeeding, for example, you may need to ask for a clean and private room where you can pump breast milk during the day.
Balancing Work and Motherhood
Get creative with communication.There are ways to keep in touch with your baby throughout the work day. If you live close to the office, consider going home during your lunch break to feed and spend time with your baby. If you live further away, you may be able to schedule Skype sessions. If not, you can leave a picture of yourself with your child or make a recording of you talking or singing for your childcare provider to play for your baby.
- Be aware of your baby’s individual needs. If seeing you briefly during the day seems to upset your baby even more, leading to additional stretches of distress and crying, you might decide that it’s better to say goodbye once in the morning and then wait until the end of the workday to reunite for some cuddling time.
Take care of yourself.You may feel emotionally drained as you try to meet the demands of motherhood and a career simultaneously. Don’t forget to take time for yourself. Relax in a warm bath once the baby is asleep, or curl up with a good book. Get your hair done, or go for a run, or buy some new clothes – whatever makes you happy and restores your energy.
Manage your attitude and emotions.A positive attitude will make balancing a career and a baby much easier, so:
- Address any feelings of guilt. Reaffirm that you are doing what you think is best for your family.
- Cultivate a sense of accomplishment. Motherhood is challenging; work is challenging. You are doing both.
- Stay positive. You might feel anxious or depressed at first, but try to keep a positive attitude. You and your baby will get used to your new routine; it will get easier.
- Accept help from others. No one can do everything perfectly all the time, and the transition back to work can be overwhelming. If a coworker offers to help with one of your more stressful tasks, or a friend offers to watch your baby for an evening so that you can have time to yourself or a night out with your partner, accept the offer!
- Talk regularly with your partner, or with a friend or family member. When you feel overwhelmed or depressed, it’s important to have someone who will listen to you without judgment. Sometimes fifteen minutes of venting is all you need.
- Lower some of your standards, at least temporarily. It might be impossible to lower your standards at work, but you can absolutely let go of some of your household routines. Laundry can wait a little longer; you can vacuum every other week instead of every week. Identify which of your chores can be modified or postponed, and allow yourself to do that.
Sources and Citations
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Video: Tips For Returning Back To Work With After Baby
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