The first few weeks after a baby is born fly by in a blur and before you know it, it's time to return to work from maternity leave. You might feel excited to return to a rewarding job. You might wonder how you're going to manage it all. You might feel pain at the thought of leaving your baby. Or you might feel all these emotions.
Nothing will completely eliminate the challenges of returning to work after having a baby. This first step is just one of many transitions you will make throughout life with your child. Below are some tried and true tricks from veteran parents that can cut down on the back-to-work blues.
Tips for Returning from Maternity Leave
- Streamline your schedule. In your previous life, you may have had your routine down pat, with plenty of time for going to the gym, reading the paper, or lingering over a cup of coffee before work. Chances are, your mornings will feel more rushed now. Do everything you can to simplify your morning routine, leaving plenty of time to feed and play with your baby and have a few minutes to yourself. Lay out your clothes the night before. Pack the diaper bag and prep breakfast and coffee before you go to bed. Build at least 15 minutes into your schedule for the inevitable last-minute diaper change or feeding. Practice this schedule even before you return to work so you feel confident and prepared.
- Find child care well ahead of time. Start interviewing caregivers or programs several weeks before you return to work, or even before your baby is born. You'll have more choices if you plan early. Finding a caregiver or child care program that you feel comfortable with is one of the most important aspects of returning to work. When you know your baby is in good hands, most of the other worries tend to slip away.
- Make sleep a priority. One of the most challenging aspects of new parenthood is the lack of sleep, which quickly exacerbates feelings of anxiety or frustration. You might have been a night owl in the past, but for your health and sanity, adopt an early bedtime for a while. You'll be happier and more productive, both at home and at work if you get as much rest as possible.
- Stay connected. It's easy to lose track of friends in the first few months after your baby arrives. Make a point, though, to reach out to friends and family occasionally. Build friendships with other new parents. These relationships will become a lifeline of support.
- Expect ambivalent emotions. For many new parents, having a baby (especially the first) can mean a transformation in terms of your goals, values, and lifestyle. What mattered in your life before may or may not reflect how you feel now. As you prepare to go back to work after maternity leave, expect to have some feelings of discord. Guilt is an almost universal feeling during early parenthood. You feel guilty about leaving your baby with a caregiver. You feel guilty about enjoying your time at the office. Accept that you will probably feel a mix of emotions about returning to work. Give yourself time to process these feelings.
Give yourself a break if returning to work seems more difficult than you expected. The first year of infancy is a time of tremendous change for parents, whether you return to work outside the home or not. You're learning so many new skills while simultaneously juggling all your old responsibilities. Add in the fog of sleep deprivation and you're bound to have some crazy days. Remember that the sweet, joyful, but challenging, phase of early infancy is fleeting. Soon both you and your baby will settle into a comfortable routine.
More on This Topic