Let’s face it: one of the hardest parts about becoming a new mom is the transition back to work. Whether you work part-time, full-time, from the office or from home, there’s no doubt about the fact that going back to work after maternity leave can be a challenging transition with its own unique hardships and benefits. For me, I was both scared and excited to go back to work. I was eager to get out of the house, put “real clothes” on, and be around adults again. But I was also afraid that it might be too much to manage, that I’d miss my baby too badly, or that I wouldn’t be able to juggle it all.
No matter what your work situation is like, there are a few things you can do to better prepare for the day your maternity leave ends.
Here are 5 tips to prepare to go back to work after maternity leave:
- SET REALISTIC GOALS AND EXPECTATIONS. Now that you have a baby, your priorities have likely shifted in many ways since before you became a mom. The version of you that shows up to the office every day is different than the version of you who was there before you left on maternity leave. Take this time to reflect on what is MOST important to you at this time of your life and how your career fits into that. How can you measure your success? How will you balance tasks at work so you still have enough energy at the end of the day to come home and focus on your baby and your family? This might mean letting certain things go at work that used to be important to you, giving yourself longer periods of time to complete tasks, or asking coworkers for help. It could also mean saying “no” to things that will take up time and energy that could be better used elsewhere. Know that your at-home expectations will likely need to change. You probably won’t have time to cook dinner every night, stay on top of the laundry, and clean the dishes as often as you’d like. Try to let go of the pressure to have it all done, all the time. Cook meals in bulk so you can freeze and store leftovers, try a grocery-delivery service, ask dad to make dinner and help around the house – make it easier on yourself wherever possible!
- PUMPING 101. If you’re breastfeeding and pumping when you return to work, talk to your manager/HR team about logistics. Where will you pump? How often will you get breaks and for how long? Know your legal rights based on the state in which you work, and do what you can to feel supported in this area. Check out my resources page here for outside resources specifically related to breastfeeding support and information. Pumping was honestly the hardest part about going back to work for me, and many women struggle with it. Know that you aren’t alone if you’re having difficulties with pumping, especially in the office. Do what you can now by knowing your rights and equipping yourself with the support and knowledge needed to set yourself up for success!
- JOIN A NEW MOMMY GROUP. Especially a working moms’ group! It helps to have a space where you can ask questions and share your experiences with other moms who are going through similar things. Try looking on Facebook for moms groups, or join Meetup.com for local events. Connect with other moms at work and talk to them about their experience going back into the office after mat leave ended. Share how you’re feeling with supportive, understanding women who can relate to what you’re going through!
- DON’T BE TOO HARD ON YOURSELF! Know that your transition back into the workplace after having a baby will be like any other major change in life. There will be good days, bad days, and neutral days. You will face new challenges and new opportunities in your role that weren’t there before you had your baby (i.e. waking up every 2 hours in the night then facing an 8+ hour workday!). At the same time, you might find that you have an increased desire to perform well, to utilize your time more productively, or even discover new career-related aspirations and goals now that you’re a mom. Try to hold space for yourself through these changes, knowing that all you can do is your best and that will look different day-to-day. You will face enough mom guilt, you don’t need to subject yourself to additional WORK guilt. Cut yourself some slack! Also, take a personal day (“sick day”) when you need one to rest, recover, or have some much-needed alone time.
- EMBRACE CHANGE. As a mom, you’ll come to see that change is CONSTANT. Just when you think you’ve figured it out or mastered some aspect of parenting, your baby will change or something new will happen! Returning to work after maternity leave will consist of many changes too, so rather than focusing on how difficult change might feel, try to embrace the ups and downs. Remember that this is preparing you for what’s to come, and any difficulty you are experiencing now is actually an opportunity for growth.
Moms, what other tips do you have about returning to work after mat leave ends? Expecting mamas, what concerns do you have about going back? Comment below and share your thoughts!