If you’re a working mom, maternity leave eventually comes to an end and back to work you go. Whether it’s 2 weeks or 20 weeks, prepping yourself to leave your sweet, snuggly newborn seems traumatizing, overwhelming, and perhaps even impossible. For me, I never seriously considered becoming a stay at home mom, but I dreaded returning to work – even for a job I love.
If you’re breastfeeding, there’s the question of pumping at work. There’s anxiety about your position and career status when you return. Not to mention your household – you’ve got childcare to consider, added laundry to manage, dinners to plan, a house to clean, groceries to buy. Don’t even think about date nights with your spouse. Shew, that’s enough to overwhelm me just thinking about it!
I’m here to set your mind at ease, with some simple tips to gear up for your return to work. Sure, it’s hard to think about, but you’ll be better off to plan ahead than suddenly jump back into the work scene.
When should I go back to work?
This is both practical, and a gut-feeling for you. From a practical standpoint, your employer probably has a leave policy in accordance with state/federal guidelines. You may or may not have a disability or PTO plan to pay for your time away, and only you can know your budget needs. Bottom line – I would take as much time as your company allows, and your budget can afford. Start a great savings plan as early in your pregnancy as possible to alleviate financial concerns, and have open conversations with your boss about your plan. If things change during your leave, don’t delay in updating your supervisor and/or HR department.
How will I keep breastfeeding?
I was able to work full-time and breastfeed Little M for over a year. I’m writing an entire series about breastfeeding while working, including pumping at work, work travel while breastfeeding, when to stop pumping, pumping schedules, and more. Follow me on Instagram for new post notifications!
Who will care for my baby?
Childcare is one of the most frightening parts about returning to work. If you’re starting with a blank slate, start by asking your friends, family, and coworkers for childcare recommendations. Our childcare situation is with an in-home provider, recommended through a co-worker of mine. I would have never found her just by doing Google and Facebook searches. You might also consider a close relative, licensed daycare facility, or nanny share. I was pretty panicked about this part, but finally got something nailed down a few weeks before d-day.
How do I handle being away from my baby all day?
After you’ve been with your sweet little one all day, it’s hard to imagine being away. I had to remind myself that the days weren’t all snuggles and kisses. The reality was that my baby was good, but really needy. I spent my days covered in spit-up, trying to manage to get out of the house, make solid naps happen, and housework. I also reminded myself of the things I enjoyed about my job, and the financial responsibilty.
This is something you have to ease into gradually if possible. I did a half-day trial run at daycare while I worked from home, then a few half-work/half-PTO weeks to gradually build up to a full workweek. I still had some rough days, but all in all, this made it better.
What will it be like to work again?
The first day I was back in the office, I spent forever trying to find something to wear. Once I made it out the door and to work TWO MINUTES EARLY, I felt very accomplished. For the first time in weeks, I was out of the house by myself, with adult interaction, wearing nice clothes and carrying something other than a diaper bag. Honestly, the first two or three days were more excitement about getting back in routine.
It was hard to ease back into my job, and as women I think we all deal with feelings of insecurity. The best way to conquer this is to jump back in, speak up to be on projects, and take ownership of what needs to be done. If you find all of your work has been “given away”, talk to your boss about the plan to move tasks back to you. You’ll probably find that most of your team members are anxious to have your help again, regardless of how well adjusted they seem.
I hope these thoughts help prepare you for day 1! Try to find some others moms at your workplace to chit-chat with; they often offer a lot of tips and advice for new moms. If you don’t have any other moms, join a Facebook group. There are hundreds of mom-focused groups with a lot of like-minded working mamas.
You got this mama!