Whatever people think, being a mom is a great challenge. Rumor has it that it’s much harder than slaying a dragon or cooking ramen. Taking care of your child requires stamina, perseverance and the totality of your heart.
But what happens after the maternity leave ends is another matter entirely. Whether you took three weeks, two months or even one year off from work, going back is rarely easy.
It’s actually rather difficult on all fronts: mental, emotional, physical and logistical. In fact, 67% percent of moms report anxiety when returning to work for the first time after having a baby.
But the change doesn’t necessarily need to hit you that hard. It only takes a bit of preparation and knowing what to expect. We bring you 8 useful tips to ease the burden and make your transition as painless — and seamless — as possible.
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1. Transition slowly and carry out practice runs
The first piece of advice: going from 0 to 100 hurts. Try to avoid going back to working full time from the beginning.
If you can, start by working from home a few days or weeks before you actually have to leave the house and go back to work.
If nothing else, it'll give you time to dig your way out of your email inbox and ease back in.
Moreover, you’ll still be able to watch your baby from across the room and take breaks from time to time. This time will also help lower the emotional strain of the separation anxiety.
Finally, start spending time away from your baby to get used to it a bit more easily. Start with short intervals of 10 minutes and gradually increase the length of the time you're gone.
2. Choose a job you love, so it doesn’t feel like work
If you hated your job before you gave birth, it's not likely to change now.
So if you feel uncomfortable, it’s time to do something about it. However, try to avoid making any rash decisions. Wait a few months and see how you feel about making any changes. If that doesn’t help, find a job with an environment that you genuinely like and that lifts your spirits.
Leaving your little one with other caregivers may be emotionally challenging. Still, that emotion can be balanced out by positive feelings of self-esteem and self-worth that you get from being at work.
When you feel good about what you do, it invariably translates to your family environment in a positive way and your little one will soak up all of that goodness.
3. Hire a caregiver who you can trust
This is possibly the most important thing in the whole process.
The last thing you want is to be at work worrying that your nanny/daycare is falling short in any area when it comes to your loved one. If you're having any doubts when talking to them, do not compromise.
Gauge the caregiver’s character and ability, create a rapport with her and give guidance on how you like things to be done. You need to be able to fully trust that whoever is taking care of your kids is doing a superb job. Taking the time to find a good fit will allow you to feel much more confident in your work life too.
Once you've chosen a caregiver, go through a few trial sessions and practice runs at least a week before you go back to work. This will ensure your child feels comfortable with them even before you start working.
On the other hand, you still need to have a plan B in the event that the primary caregiver is not available. Reach out to your friends, relatives or neighbors trusted by you and your family.
4. Keep your life organized to conserve energy
As a mother, you can’t afford to expend resources on things that take up unnecessary energy.
Get rid of anything in your home that's not absolutely necessary. For example, think of physical items such as clothes, toys or appliances — anything that’s taking up unnecessary space in your life or home.
You also need to learn to say “no” whenever appropriate. If there are too many social gatherings in your calendar, simply cut them down. Pick only those invitations that work best for you as a new mom.
Last but not least, are you sweating your heart out working out? Consider quitting that. Treat yourself to activities you can truly enjoy and save your energy for those you love.
5. Look for support
Do you have a community you can turn to — be that a local group of moms, your church or any support groups? The supportive voice of other mothers can ease the transition to work by taking off some of the burden.
Besides, it’s always good to know there are other moms out there going through something similar and who just get it. Because empathy and understanding is more than anything else.
6. Look good — and feel good
Chances are you’ve spent the last few months in leggings and milk covered T-shirts. Now it’s time to get back into work clothes mode.
It doesn’t matter if you wear a uniform, office attire or casual clothes. Returning to work is a great excuse to buy some new clothes. Find a few outfits that will make you feel comfortable and attractive.
Clothes usually call for some new accessories, shoes or a new work bag. And don’t ever feel guilty — after the last couple months you’ve had, you also definitely deserve a new haircut, have a pedicure/manicure or even a massage.
If the time allows, you can even set up a meeting with your work friends for a coffee or a glass of wine and catch up on what has been happening at work.
7. Plan your prep time and get organised
You work all day and care for your baby all evening and all night. But you still need to figure out when to do everything else you need to do — housework, shopping, cooking, exercising, social life and bunch of other mundane tasks.
This may become overwhelming really fast and it’s too easy to feel guilty for not catching up on daily chores. How dare you do things that take attention away from the baby when you’ve been away from him all day?
Keep these things in mind to declutter your daily life from things that are just too banal to be important:
- Pick out your outfits for the following week on Sunday night after the baby goes to bed. Lay out your and baby’s clothes ready for the morning so you won’t be running round deciding what to wear.
- Iron all your clothes the night before, too, so you don’t have to sacrifice that precious morning together-time to do it.
- Start a meal planfor the week. Make a big tray of food and pre-package your lunches the night before. There is nothing worse than getting home from a long day at work, having to bath and put the nbaby to sleep and then starting to think what’s for dinner. The weekly plan means that whoever is home first can start cooking. You will also be able to check the night before if you need to get anything out to defrost or if there are any ingredients to pick up on the day.
- Embrace online grocery shopping. It will save you time and your sanity.
- If your budget is not against, hire a cleaner. Time with your family is precious. And it’s one less thing to worry about after a long week at work, after all.
- If you exercise, do so with your baby. Seriously, it can be great fun for both you and your little one. And a 15-pound living weight really adds to the entertainment!
- Get a good diary or wall planner and use it. Don’t forget to sync your online calendars to stay organised. If you’re taking turns with your partner to pick up from childcare make sure you both have it in your diaries.
8. Tackle the mom-guilt thoughts
A million worries running rampant through your mind?
- "I’m not doing a good job because I’m not taking care of my kids 100% of the time."
- "Why should someone else be taking care of my kids while I go off to work?."
- "I’m a bad mom."
You’re not alone. In fact, it’s very common for moms going back to work to feel the cocktail of guilt, worry and sadness about leaving their little one behind.
These types of thoughts can occupy your mind and sap emotional energy that could be deployed elsewhere. But ignoring them does no good. You need to challenge them.
Talk to your friends and relatives about ways to ease your conscience. Remember that most babies usually have no trouble staying with a childcare provider during the day as long as they’re being fed, changed and treated with love.
But if the feelings of guilt persist for a longer period of time, don’t hesitate to make a more radical change. Ask for the permission to work from home or switch to a part-time job. This will help you spend more time with your baby and chase those thoughts of guilt away.
Going back to work after maternity leave can be easier
Maternity leave is the most precious time that belongs to you and your newborn. But when this period ends, it’s really difficult to maintain that healthy balance between your professional and personal life.
But if you take control and become empowered as a mom (whether that means going back to work full-time, staying home or something in between) you can lead your life feeling content and engaged.
Nothing compares to a happy and easygoing mom, really. And as you’ll be enjoying the present moment, you will see your baby thrive too. And that is priceless.