No matter how much time you have for maternity leave, it always seems to fly by in a flash. One day your whole world revolves around nursing, changing diapers and snuggling with your new baby, and the next you have to start thinking about babysitters, commuting, and dealing with the outside world. Leaving your kids when you go off to work for the first time after maternity leave is probably one of the hardest things you’ll have to do as a mother, but there are a few things you can do to ease the transition.
- Take Some Time to Research Care Options
When it comes to childcare, there are a number of options including nannies, daycare centres and family members. Before you make a decision, weigh out your options and think about what is realistic and feasible for you, and what you feel the most comfortable with. If you’re thinking about a nanny, do your background research and look into references to make sure the candidate is a good fit. If you’re going the daycare route, ask around about centres with good reputations. And if a family member has offered help, think about whether they are dependable and if you really want to ask them to take on such a huge task. Go with your instincts and once you’ve settled on a decision, trust that you’ve made the right choice.
- Know That Your Baby is Going to be Just Fine
Although many mums feel insanely guilty ‘abandoning’ their baby to another person, the truth is it’s often harder on you than it is for your child. Sure, your baby may cry as you walk out the door, but kids are pretty adaptable and are generally happy as long as their needs are being met. Don’t be afraid either of your child forming a one-on-one bond with another significant adult. This is normal and actually a very good thing, as the more love your child has in their life, the better they will thrive. And of course no one will ever replace you as mum. That’s an unbreakable bond between mother and child.
- Meet With Your Boss Before The Big Day
If possible, try to arrange a meeting with your boss before you actually go back to work. This way you can get caught up on what’s been going on since you’ve been gone and get an idea of what is currently on the go and what you will be expected to jump into. This also gives you a chance to discuss options with your employer like how many hours you can reasonably put in, whether you can work remotely part of the time, and if it’s going to be a problem if you have to leave early some days. You might also want to discuss a trial period of only a few hours a week at first to see how things go and how much you can realistically manage.
- Practice and Preparation Make Perfect
You never know how things are going to go until you actually try them, so it pays to do a practice run before you actually dive back into work. Choose a day close to your return date and go through your routine. Set your alarm, get dressed in work clothes, feed your baby and get him or her ready for daycare or the babysitter, and then make the commute to work just to see how long it takes you. Another way to make that first day a little bit less stressful is start preparing a few days before. Lay out your work clothes, pump milk if you’re nursing, prepare some meals that you can pop in the fridge, make sure you’ve filled up the car with petrol and have your work bag or briefcase ready to go.
- It’s OK to Start Off Slow
Now that you’re actually back at the office, go easy on yourself so that you don’t get too overwhelmed. Set realistic goals for yourself, do what you can, and don’t feel like you have to say yes to everyone or take on a huge workload just to prove yourself. Understand that it’s going to take time to get back into your work routine, and don’t get frustrated if you find yourself struggling a bit in the beginning. There may be times too when you’re exhausted, missing your child and wondering if you should just quit, but trust us—almost every working mum has felt this way at some point and it does get better with time.
- Find a Confidant
If there’s ever a time when you really need support, this is probably it. Having someone to talk to who understands where you’re coming from can help alleviate some of your back-to-work stress. If there are women in your office who are also working mums, reach out and ask for advice. They can give you some great tips on how to cope and remind you that you’re not alone. If there is no one at your office to reach out to, you can also connect with other working mums at daycare, in play groups, and even online forums.
- Focus on the Positives
During your first few weeks back to work you may be so busy and frazzled that you can’t see the forest from the trees. But it is important to take a step back every so often and look at all the amazing things that are going on in your life. Think about how blessed you are to have both a beautiful child and a rewarding career. Instead of focusing on what you you’re struggling with, remind yourself of your accomplishments, even if they are simple things like sending your child off to daycare without a fit of tears or remembering to bring a healthy lunch so you didn’t have to pig out at the vending machine.
- Make Time for Yourself
“But I don’t have a second to spare!” you might say. Not true. You can always find a little pocket of time just for you if you make yourself a priority. This is not selfish, it’s actually self-preservation. The happier, healthier and more balanced you are, the better you will be able to take care of your family, and the more productive you will be at work. Try scheduling in at least 30 minutes a day and one day a week where you do the things you love do like reading the newspaper, listening to music, or chilling out in the park or at the beach.