Going back to work after maternity leave can be a scary and overwhelming process. But it doesn’t have to be. Learn three tips to help make this struggle to balance a new baby with daily life a lot easier.
My budget was getting a little tight, so I actually returned early, just after Christmas.
My mother in law kept my daughter a total of 10 hours each day, including my lunch break and travel time. It was great to be able to bring her in her pajamas, still sleeping. My mother-in-law would dress, feed, and take care of her overall while I was at work.
My weekly routine was simple. On Mondays, I brought supplies for the week (bottles, breastmilk/formula, diapers, wipes, five outfits for the week, extra clothes for accidents, etc.).
Here’s what I did to prepare for going back to work after maternity leave:
1. Create Routines
My day was broken into four distinct phases: before work, work, after work, at home.
- Make sure everyone is up.
- Start the coffee pot.
- Get my son dressed.
- Get dressed.
- Do minimal primping, brush teeth, grab what I need, and head out the door.
- Drop the baby off at my mother-in-law’s house.
At work (Morning)
There were many more tasks than this, but I focused on my three most important tasks. I worked as the Manager of Customer Service and Marketing for a small paper company.
- Check email
- Set most important tasks for the day
- Prepare for and lead meeting(s)
- go to a restaurant, the grocery store, eat lunch at desk, or eat lunch in the break room
At work (Afternoon)
Again, there were many more tasks, but I focused on my three most important tasks.
- Check email
- Review progress and continue work on most important tasks for the day
- Update to do list, master task list, and project status reports
- pick up baby
- pick up seven-year-old son from grandparents or after school program
- drive home
- once home, feed the baby
- cook or reheat dinner for the remainder of the family
- prepare for tomorrow
- optional bonus: plan outfits for the entire week on Sunday
When I went back to work, I packed my lunch, chose my clothes and made sure I didn’t forget my pump parts. (all the things I didn’t want to think about come morning time)
What should you do on the weekend? Here are my tips on How to Spend Your Weekend.
2. Arrange childcare you are comfortable with
My mother-in-law cared for my daughter every day since she was about six weeks old. It was an amazing blessing to know that she would be in great hands when I went back to work. They have formed an unbreakable bond.
There were never any tears because she was with Grandma!
Because of that, I could focus on work and not worry about what was going on with my baby. I tried to stay focused as much as possible: “when you’re at work, be at work” and “when you’re at home, be at home.”
3. Anticipate and prepare for challenges
Think about which aspect might be the most stressful and troubleshoot it (missing baby, dinner, workload, work/life balance).
What were my biggest challenges? Sleep and pumping.
You’re going to be tired. How do you overcome this? Take naps, go to bed earlier, lower your expectations (at home and at work), prepare the night before (to get as much sleep as you can in the morning).
It’s true what people say – sleep when the baby is sleep.
I did the minimal amount I could during the week so we could get the most important things done and I could go to bed.
It’s natural to want to get things done once the baby is asleep, but you will not be able to accumulate as much sleep as you’ll need if you don’t get in the bed even earlier than you normally would. You won’t get to experience uninterrupted to sleep for a while!
Breastfeeding & Pumping
I knew that I would have to get up in the middle of the night for the first few months to breastfeed or we would alternate bottle feeding once I switched to formula.
I breastfeed for the first six months or so. I struggled with becoming successful at pumping, so I didn’t breastfeed as long as I wanted.
It was really tough for me to continue breastfeeding once I returned to work. All of the planning and commitment it took to keep it up at work overwhelmed me. (I would try harder and be more persistent if I had it to do all over again.)
Missing Out on “Firsts”
Another challenge I worried about was missing her “firsts.” I kept in mind that her “firsts” happened when I saw them (not when my mother-in-law did, although we celebrated those, too!). Here are 10 firsts you should definitely celebrate with your child.
To further combat feelings of missing out, we created new rituals (bath time, bedtime routines, and evening strolls). These were ours and ours alone!
At work, I minimized the challenges of returning to work by getting reacquainted with open projects, getting caught up on emails, starting back on a Monday, and having a staff meeting.
Expect at least the first month to be challenging and don’t beat yourself up. Call your partner or a friend if you need to hear a supportive voice.