Returning to work after maternity leave can be one of the most bittersweet parts of new-parenthood. You have this awesome new little person that you’ve snuggled with for weeks or months and the thought of leaving him or her for 8 hours a day is heart-wrenching. But maybe you can’t imagine giving up the career you’ve worked so hard for or you can’t afford to stay at home with your child. Whatever your situation, you are now facing the work-world once again.
This isn’t an easy task, emotions aside. Whether you’re returning to work after a few weeks, months, or even years, it can be a challenge to get reacquainted with the demands of your job, not to mention figuring out childcare arrangements, transportation to and from daycare, and deciding which parent will stay home if the child gets sick. It might be helpful if one parent has a flexible work schedule to fit it all in, or if both parents split the day-to-day responsibilities.
I recently returned to my job after being on a 12-week leave after the birth of my third child. It was just as difficult as it was when I had my first and second children. Nevertheless, I know that my income is just as important to my family’s well-being as my husband’s income, and I’m proud to show my children that I will work as hard as I can to provide for their needs. It isn’t always easy (okay, it’s NEVER easy!), but I’ve compiled a few tips to help make the adjustment from home to work a little easier for you, your spouse, and of course your new baby!
Stay connected to your baby – Keep a digital photo frame on your desk with rotating pictures of your baby, or ask your childcare provider to text you an update or photo a few times a week. It might make those long work hours go a little more quickly.
Be an advocate – If your company doesn’t provide whatever it is that would make your return to work easier—whether it’s an adjustment to your work schedule or finding a private room to pump breastmilk—speak up! Many companies can provide flex-time, part-time, telecommuting options, or job-sharing. A private room is a must for any mother who continues breastfeeding after she returns to work. If your workplace doesn’t currently have a designated “new moms room”, chances are there’s a spare storage closet or conference room that you can use for this purpose. If these options don’t exist in your workplace, you can pave the way to create that coveted work-life balance. There may be another coworker in your shoes who is too timid to ask for these things. So go on, be the guinea pig! You (and your company!) could be the better for it.
Streamline your evening schedule – With 3 small kids our evenings can get really hectic and there’s always so much to get done: dinner, dishes, baths, homework, pack lunches, wash diapers, THE LIST GOES ON AND ON. Some nights things run like a well-oiled machine. Other nights, we lament that our evenings don’t allow for much downtime with the kids. But I feel much more in control and prepared at work when my home-life is organized. When I’m in the office I can focus on work instead of thinking about the fact that we have nothing in the pantry for tonight’s dinner.
It may not work for all families, but it might be helpful to assign certain chores for certain nights of the week – like grocery-shopping on Sundays, house-cleaning on Mondays, or laundry on Thursdays. A coworker of mine prepares a week’s worth of dinners on Sundays which really helps her stay on top of her kids’ demanding school and sports schedules during the week. Write down the To-Dos that must be done each night and brainstorm the fastest/easiest way to cross them off. You can do it!
Don’t put pressure on yourself – I’ll be honest, I think I’m still trying to figure out the difference between things that need to be done and things I want done. In my opinion it’s all important: that promotion at work, getting back into my exercise routine, sending my kids go to school in clean clothes, making sure the house isn’t a total wreck. But the reality is nobody is expecting you to be a rock-star at home OR at work, especially after you’ve just had a baby! Figure out the essential things that need to be accomplished and worry about the rest out later. We moms were made for multi-tasking, but we also have to pace ourselves. Do your best but don’t try to be perfect!
Most importantly, take the time to enjoy your new baby! As every grandparent on the planet says, your time with your baby is fleeting. He’ll be grown and gone before you can stop to catch your breath. At the end of the day our goal as parents is to meet their needs to the best of our ability, whether we work outside of the home or not. The rest is just details. All they really need is love, attention, and support, and if you can do that and still chase down that awesome career, then you’ll be a rock-star in the eyes of the ones who matters most – your kids!