Returning to work after maternity leave can be both an exciting and daunting experience. You are likely looking forward to resuming your career, but may also feel anxious about how everything will come together. If you don’t feel entirely ready, or are terrified at the idea of leaving your child to be cared for by someone else, you should know that this is totally normal. It’s going to be an adjustment for sure, but we’ve collected some tips from other career moms that will make the process of successfully returning to work after taking maternity leave a little easier.
1) Give yourself plenty of time to prepare.
Make a plan for how you will transition back into the workforce gradually, and do a dry run before the actual day. Practice getting up in the morning, feeding baby and / or pumping, getting yourself dressed and ready, and even practice driving to daycare and / or commuting to the office. This will help reduce stress and allow you to adjust more easily.
If possible, start with a shorter work week and then gradually add on hours as you feel more comfortable. This will give you time to ease back into the workforce while still being able to spend quality time with your baby.
One mom shared: “The best advice I ever got was to not return on a Monday. If you return on Thursday or even Friday, it will give you a little time to ease back in before tackling an entire work week all in one shot.”
2) Set up your child care before your actual return date.
This may seem like an obvious one, but it’s important to have your childcare situation set up and confirmed before you return to work. This will help reduce any last minute stress or scrambling. It’s also important to communicate with your childcare provider about your expectations and needs. Be clear about things like feeding schedules, napping times, and any other special requests.
If you can, start the child care routine a few days or even weeks before your return date. This will let you tackle the change and new stress one thing at a time, instead of all at once, making it a little bit easier to manage. It will also give you a little time to collect yourself mentally before your start date back at work.
You may even realize that, while you thought you were stressed about returning to work, you were actually just stressed about putting your child into daycare.
3. If you will be pumping at work, make sure you have a good plan in place.
If you plan on pumping at work, it’s important to have a good system in place before returning. This includes having a clean and private space to pump, as well as a good storage system for your milk. You’ll also want to make sure you have a good pump that will fit your needs.
It can be helpful to talk to your employer about your pumping needs before returning, so that they can make any necessary accommodations. It’s also important to let your co-workers know about your pumping schedule, so that they can be respectful of your time and space.
One working mom shared: “I was really stressed about how I was going to make pumping work with my job, but it ended up being easier than I thought. My boss was totally understanding and accommodating, and my co-workers were really supportive. I actually found that pumping gave me a little break during the day to relax and regroup, which was really nice.”
Pumping at work can be challenging, but it is possible with a little planning and preparation.
4. Connect with other working mothers.
There is nothing like talking to someone who has been in your shoes before! Ask them about their experiences returning to work, what challenges they faced, and what advice they would give you.
If you don’t have any friends or family who are working mothers, there are plenty of online communities and forums where you can connect with other moms in similar situations.
One working mom shared: “I was really nervous about returning to work, but talking to my friends who had already been through it really helped me feel more prepared and less scared. It was also nice to know that I wasn’t alone in feeling like a total juggling act!”
No matter how you do it, connecting with other working mothers is a great way to get information and support.
5) Celebrate your accomplishments, big and small!
It’s totally normal to feel like you’re just treading water in your career the first year back. Give yourself time and remind yourself that you are feeding and raising another human being. You probably aren’t getting a lot of sleep, and you’re doing the equivalent of two full time jobs.
So cut yourself some slack!
That being said, it’s still important to celebrate your accomplishments, big and small. Maybe you had a great meeting with your boss, or closed a big deal. Maybe you didn’t totally lose your cool when your baby had a blow out in the middle of an important call. Whatever it is, give yourself a pat on the back!
One working mom shared: “I remember feeling like I was just barely keeping my head above water those first few months back. But looking back, I can see how much I actually accomplished. I may not have been at the top of my game, but I was still doing a pretty darn good job.”
Remember to take a step back and give yourself the recognition you deserve. Things may not be the same as they were before baby, but you’re a super hero now more than ever.
Returning to work after having a baby can be a daunting task, but it is possible to do successfully with a little preparation, support, and time. By following these tips, you can set yourself up for a smooth transition back into the workforce. If you would like to talk to someone about making a plan that will work for you, check out Hire This Mom (a career coaching service for working moms.)