No matter how long you have for maternity leave, all moms can agree on one thing: it goes by way too quickly.
One of the most difficult, traumatizing, anxiety-inducing, heart-wrenching experiences is leaving your precious little one to return to work. I remember my first day back like it was yesterday. On my drive in, I cried. Then I got to the office and cried some more. It was tough, but I got through it, and you will too.
Fortunately, as time goes by and you get back into your work routine, it does get easier – or at least more bearable. So, to the mamas preparing to return to work, here are ten tips to help make your transition a little easier.
Find the best possible childcare for your babe
In my opinion, this is by far the most important thing you can do. If you know your child is safe, loved, cared for, learning, and having fun, you won’t worry as much or feel as guilty for being away.
Prepare yourself for your new routine
In the weeks leading up to your return, do what you can to get used to your new routine:
- Start waking up when you need to so your body will adjust.
- Get your work wardrobe washed, ironed and organized so your clothes are ready to put on and go in the morning.
- If you’re taking your baby to daycare, do a practice drive to time how much longer your morning commute will be.
- Don’t forget to include the time it takes to walk into daycare, chat with the teachers, and play for a couple minutes. This alone adds 15 minutes to my routine.
Prepare your baby for your new routine
Although the transition will probably be harder on you, your baby may take a little time to adjust too. If you can, start your childcare a week early. Just a couple hours each day will help you and your baby ease your way into the new routine. It will also give your caregiver time to work out any kinks while you’re easily accessible.
Set yourself up for working-mom breastfeeding success
For breastfeeding moms, one of the most stressful things is pumping enough milk to provide for your baby. The rule is baby needs 1 to 1.5 ounces for every hour you’re away – less than most moms think they need.
Since that amount doesn’t increase as your baby gets older (like it does with formula), if your caregiver isn’t familiar with bottle feeding breastfed babies, you could run into some issues. Look for a caregiver who’s familiar with or willing to learn about paced feeding (This video is a great resource).
If you haven’t introduced bottles, get your baby accustomed to bottle feeding by having someone else feed her. Leave the room while your baby is being fed – if you’re there, she’ll want to drink straight from the tap, so it’s best for you both if you’re not.
Go back halfway through your work week
If possible, ease back into your full time routine with shorter days, or a shorter week. I went back on a Wednesday after lunch. Rather than having to suffer through five full days, I just had to get through two and a half, and then Maddie and I had the whole weekend to cuddle together.
Pictures and videos will help you get through your day
You’re going to miss your little one so much. Taking a quick break from work to look through your pictures or watch a quick video is a good way to feel a little closer when you’re so far apart – especially while you’re pumping.
Enjoy your paycheck
Whether you’re working because you love your job or doing it because you have to, everyone enjoys payday. Life is expensive. Babies are expensive. Bringing in the extra income will afford you and your family opportunities and experiences that may be less attainable without your income.
Remind yourself that you’re a role model for your child
As a working mother, you’re not only making a financial contribution to your family, but you’re also serving as a positive role model for your child – especially if you have a daughter. Be proud of yourself for choosing to work. By doing so, you are giving your children something to aspire toward in their future, challenging traditional gender roles, asserting your own financial independence, and hopefully, teaching your children to eventually find a career they love because that’s what they see you doing.
You may actually LOVE being back at work – and that’s okay
Hopefully, you love what you do, and you’ll actually really enjoy being back at work. There is a lot to love about working: a sense of contribution, financial independence, asserting your own identity, adult time and conversation, and so on. Enjoy your time at work. And congratulations on finding a career you love!
On the other hand, you may decide after being back for a while that you just can’t do it. As long as you’re willing to make the necessary financial adjustments to stay at home, that’s okay too.
Just take it one day at a time and make thoughtful decisions. Whatever you do, don’t make yourself feel guilty for your choices.
Take a deep breath. It will be fine.
This transition is hard, but it will be okay. Be patient with yourself. Give yourself permission to experience your emotions, especially during the two weeks. If you feel like crying, cry. If you feel like calling to check on baby, call. Find a fellow mommy friend at work who can be there for you when you’re feeling down. Every working mom has been there, and they will all tell you the same thing – you and baby will be okay.
Most importantly, treasure your time with your family when you are together. As working moms, we may not be able to spend all of our time with our loved ones, but we can make the most of the time we do have together.