Returning to Work After Maternity Leave
If you plan to return to the workplace after having your baby, that transition is likely in the back of your mind as you care for your newborn. This thought, particularly in the first weeks, might be an overwhelming one as you expend all of yourself in newborn care. I encourage you to shove that cute little thought far, far away for a spell. Be “all in” as adjust to learning to care for your infant. Embrace your baby fully, and rest (I use that word lightly) assured that eventually your mind will be ready to think through your return.
The Preparation Begins Before Baby Arrives
Ideally, the preparation for your return to work begins while you are still pregnant. Here are a few things it is best to take care of ahead of time:
–Research and buy your breast bump and any accompanying supplies. I recommend buying a pump that has the capability to be battery operated in the event that you find yourself needing to pump in a less-than-ideal spot that doesn’t have access to an outlet. In addition, you may want to consider buying a car adapter so that you can pump in your car, if necessary. (In which case you could also consider purchasing car blinds for privacy.)
–Most definitely have your childcare plan arranged ahead before baby’s arrival. This takes time and research. You’ll be meeting potential candidates and touring facilities, all of which you won’t have the time to be doing while caring for a newborn.
–Another item to think through is work apparel– set aside some work maternity clothes that you wore in your second trimester and/or buy a couple of things (keep the tags on in case you guess wrong) a few sizes up from your pre-baby weight. The last thing you’ll want to think about is your wardrobe. On a similar note, be sure your tops are suited for, well, your top. If you are nursing, you will need to make sure you have a nursing bra and nursing pads to prevent leakage.
Expect To Be Emotional
My next point has nothing tangible to grasp – no task to do or item to buy. However, its influence is just as important.
I encourage you to prepare for your emotions as you return to work. You may feel very sad, very worried, very anxious, very relieved….or a combination of all of these. Whatever you feel – IT IS NORMAL.
You will have just spent weeks bonding with your newborn, caring for him, and going through physical strain and stress. You may miss your baby terribly….or feel incredible guilt…..or you may feel truly glad to not have the burden of full-time care on you anymore. Nobody can predict how you’ll feel, but I can say with certainty you will feel SOMETHING. Give yourself grace with whatever you are experiencing and don’t make rash decisions about anything during this time period.
As the date for your return to work approaches, get your logistical ducks in a row.
–Consider showering and laying out your outfit the evening (or even afternoon) before.
–Sort out your diaper bag and purse Likely they’ve been functioning as one in the same. Now the diaper bag will stay with your baby and you’ll need your purse with you at work. Be sure to pull out what you need. (I recommend having a clutch/pouch with your phone, wallet and other necessities that will easily slip into and out of the diaper bag depending on whether you are with baby or not.)
–Consider assembling a small make-up bag of beauty supplies–for the train, the car or perhaps at work. There may be nights when baby keeps you up much of the night and you don’t have much time to pull yourself together before you leave.
–Also plan ahead each day or weekend with your food and caffeine needs. Stock up on breakfast bars, fruit, K-cups, and freezer meals. Have your coffee mug ready, your lunch ready to grab from the fridge, etc. And – I’m a little old school but swear by the Post-It note reminder system. Leave yourself a note to remember your breast pump, your smoothie or your laptop wherever you will see it. (Yes, yes, or use your app of choice – whatever will get the job to make sure you never, ever, EVER forget your fill in the blank.)
–And that’s just for you. Your baby will need planned ahead for as well. Have the diaper bag (or areas of your home if you have in-home childcare) ready to go with necessary supplies. Make sure there are enough diapers, wipes, formula or breastmilk, etc. Think through any notes or forms of communication that need to be sent to your childcare provider. As the saying goes, those who fail to plan, plan to fail.
–On a professional note, take a moment to think through the job position you are about to return to. Is there anything you need to become abreast of before returning? Are there any skills or terminology you’d like to have handy and ready to go? Do what you need to to feel competent in your return.
Stepping Through The Door
Finally, when you step foot back in the workplace door – know that it won’t be exactly the same. You may have a little bit of mommy brain and struggle to be as sharp as usual. Don’t fret – you’ll get your mojo back. Have a little coffee (half decaf if you’re more comfortable) or your protein drink. Do what it takes to make yourself as alert as possible. And put as many good foods into your system as you can to get yourself feeling the best that you can.
If you plan to pump while at work, visit that space and make sure everything is situated. Figure out how and when you will take these breaks, and communicate whatever is necessary to your manager and/or coworkers.
At last, take a quick moment to celebrate. You did it – you got this far! I can’t promise it will be smooth sailing from now on, but to be this far is something. There will be some bumps in the road as you transition back to the workplace, but as long as you expect them you won’t be surprised when they come.
My hope for you is that it will be a corner of your world where you feel like yourself. Caring for your newborn is amazing but comes with few boundaries, and the workplace can offer a nice sense of control to counter that. Best wishes on your transition back!