You may encounter a few bumps along the way when returning back to work after maternity leave and this normal; even with subsequent babies. In fact going back to work after my second son was a lot more challenging than when I had just one child. With J, I was back at work when he was just 6 weeks old, mom guilt and all.
With CJ, I didn’t return to work until he turned 3 months old; because with J just starting full time school, recovering from a CS, exclusively breastfeeding CJ, refurbishing the nursery to suit 2 kids, setting up my business, among a ton of other things, I just wasn’t in the right place to return to a full time job. But I did, and I’m soooo grateful I took the leap.
Working mothers, actually ALL mothers, have to face several challenges, but by planning well in advance, this can be definitely taken care of.
With returning to work after my second son – CJ, my main concerns were: What if my child doesn’t settle in with the nanny? What if J doesn’t settle down well in his new school? What if I can’t get the hang of my job? How will I manage the morning rush, the drop-off, the pick-up, the dinner, the bed-time – and still be good at my paid job?
Unfortunately there’s no magical one-size-fits-all solution. But here’s 10 practical tips that helped make the transition back to work a bit easier, and i hope it helps you too:
….you plan to fail. At least, so they say lol.
If you know me, you know i make lists and schedules, about everything! Meal tables, visit schedules, school and doctor’s appointments, grocery lists and budget, vaccination appointments, things to do, activity table, what to do in my free time, to do list for office work, and so on – lists can make your life so much easier.
Sometimes i have a list of the schedules / tables / lists i have to make! lol “The key is not to prioritize what’s on your schedule, but to schedule your priorities” – Stephen Covey
2. Child Care Solution
Start early on to make arrangements for a reliable, suitable child care solution – perhaps a nanny, or grandmas free baby-sitting, or a day care. Once you are able to sort out a reliable child care solution, returning to work becomes a lot easier and more feasible.
3. Have a plan B for baby / nanny sick days
More likely than not you would need back up care at least once – the nanny could be ill or your baby could catch a flu from crèche. Make sure to be prepared with backup plans to deal with such situations effectively – when your baby is sick or the caregiver is unavailable.
Unfortunately, and this isn’t fair on working mothers, taking unplanned time off does tend to send a negative signal; especially so soon after a long maternity leave. It could give an impression that this is potentially the start of a pattern of absences.
In my case, I wanted to get back to work and prove myself a little before I had to start those occasional but inevitable requests to work from take an unexpected sick day off, so I discussed with The Hubs and my sister that either one of them may have to spare a few hours or a day off if the need arises.
Sometimes there’s just nothing you can do – maybe your partner can’t take time off either, maybe you don’t have family nearby to help out, but it’s good to plan in advance what you would do when you need to take unplanned time out.
If possible, schedule your resumption date for the middle / end of the week – perhaps a Thursday; you may find it easier to get the hang of things if you start off having a shorter week. Also by missing the start of the week , you resume work on a less stressful period in the week.
5. Set reasonable expectations
Pre-babies I worked late most days, traveled a lot, resumed VERY early, worked weekends, worked from home, read and replied e-mails from my phone on-the-go, bla bla bla. My work was my life, basically.
However, now I detest a culture of working late for the sake of it, but it’s rife in so many jobs. I’ve come to realize that if I put my mind to it, and I do most days, I’m able to get my work done by the end of the working day.
Beats me why I ever worked so long and late in the first place.
Plus now I need to leave work on time to attend to a million other things – dinner, homework, breastfeeding, next day lunch prep, husband, religious activities, pick up from school, playground time, and the list goes on…
If like me you’re no longer able to work late, I would suggest that you practice closing on time on the first day of your resumption to work. Even if you are able to work late that first day or first week, I strongly feel that it’s better to set the scene from the start.
Trust me, I hate being seen as the mum returning from maternity leave who is running out the door as soon as the clock hits five, but if this is your new reality, it’s probably better to set the tone and emphasis this to your employer as politely and sincerely as possible.
Otherwise you’re setting a false expectation for your boss, and your colleagues. By not leaving on time the first few days, you’re demonstrating that you do have the ability to stay late, but that you’re subsequently choosing not to, and that’s harder to stand over.
Remember, it is difficult to achieve a perfect balance between work and family, so don’t add pressure to your life by setting unrealistic goals for yourself.
6. Create a schedule that works for your family and own it!
When I had my first baby – J, in 2014, I used to think we had to play with him after work each evening in order to have “quality time” – it was like we were penciling it in. We would sit with him playing toys, building bricks, and so on.
Like clock work I’ll start bath time routine at 7:00pm so he’s in bed by 7:30pm, after all that’s what the books say – bedtime is 7:00 / 7:30pm. I was trying to prove to myself that I was a “good mom”, so even if I got back from work at 6:00pm, I could only spend an hour in his company.
We eventually worked out that instead of fitting in this so called quality time and then rushing bed-time, the trick is to spend a long time in the nursery doing bath time, stories and cuddles with no rush, no stress with the goal being to have him in bed by 8:00 / 8:30pm.
Now with two kids we still do the same – dinner, homework and bedtime routine starts as early as 6.30 / 7:00pm (depending on when I get back from the gym) and it’s a long, slow process but it’s our chance to catch up with what went on in their lives that day; together with their minder.
In other families, there might be a completely different way of having quality time and bedtime may be a lot earlier or later, especially if wake up time is pretty early. But the point is to think about how it might work and how to do it in the least stressful way possible for you and your children after a long day apart.
7. Wear what fits….
Plan and ready your wardrobe for the coming week on weekends. Wash and iron OR dry clean your clothes during the weekend so that you are not rushed during the mornings.
Don’t try to squeeze into your pre-pregnancy clothes. Because they probably won’t fit. Then you’ll feel horrible because you expect you should have gone back to your pre-baby size. Just give yourself a break and be patient.
Plus nothing aids return to work like new work clothes. Shallow? Yup! but ultimately true.
8. New routine test run
Pick a day near the end of your leave to try out your new schedule; so if you need to be up at 6:00am every day, start getting up at 6:00am before your leave is over and try out how long it would take you to feed, bath and get you and your baby ready for the day.
You could discover it takes you more or less time to do certain things and a practice day could help remove some stress on that first day back in the office.
9. If you plan on breastfeeding….
If you are breastfeeding your baby, you might consider continuing to breastfeed after returning to work i.e. maintaining morning and evening feeds – which can be a lovely way to reconnect with your little bubba!
If you plan to breastfeed after returning to work, make plans in advance of where and how you would pump during working hours and come up with a pumping schedule that works best for you, your employer and most importantly your baby. If you follow me on snapchat (@oby_o) you would have seen that when i returned to work i would pump twice during the day at work – 10:00am and 1:00pm. everyday. like clock work. My colleagues were kind and understanding enough to give me privacy in whatever space i was occupying to express milk, and sometimes i used a car adapter and pumped in the comfort of my car.
Most importantly, before returning to work, invest in a durable electric double pump and accessories for expressing milk. Also schedule a detailed plan on if and how you would express and preserve b-milk during working hours. I used the medela carry bag, breast milk bags, and ice packs to preserve the expressed milk for hours until i got home from work.
10. Let Go Of Mommy Guilt:
No matter how much you enjoy your job, and certainly if you don’t, returning to work after maternity leave is often daunting. Even if you feel “ready to go back” it’s hard leaving your baby in the care of another person – even if only for a few hours!!
Naturally, mom guilt may creep in. Let go of it. Millions of working moms bring up amazing children! Don’t worry – your baby will be fine and will not hold your ‘working mommy’ status against you. In fact, you well may turn out to be his / her role model!
Remember why you chose to or have to work. It may be because you need the money or because you need to work to stay sane, or because you enjoy your job and it gives you a sense of fulfillment, or because you love your career progression – whatever be the reason, remind yourself of it whenever you feel overwhelmed.
If you feel envy for the stay at home mother next door, remember that the grass is greener on the other side! Parenting is hard, whether you are a working mom or a stay at home mom. So, don’t compare.
Balancing family and work can be quite tricky and can cause both mental and physical exhaustion. Try maintaining your calm, and especially avoid venting your frustration at your colleagues or your kids. Slowly, you will get used to the routine and get better at multitasking too. Give it time.
And if after some time, you’re still unable to cope with your new routine, talk to your boss about possible flexible timing options, or discuss with your partner / family other work options; you can decide to stay home a little longer, work from home, work part time, work fewer hours, change to a more flexible job or set up your own business.
We’re not in this for any parenting prizes – it’s OK to just muddle through or take a back seat for a while – take the path of least resistance.
Are you returning to work after maternity leave? What is it you are worried about the most? What tips have you used to help you transition back to work? Share with us!!!