Regardless of your reasons for going back to work after your maternity leave, it’s common for moms to feel anxious about making the transition from being home with their babies to working full or part-time. Even if you’re eager to return to the adult world, your office, your colleagues, the meetings and the adrenaline, when the first day of work approaches, you may feel increasingly stressed. This is because maternity leave is such a unique moment in a woman’s life, especially with a first baby.
Many women feel nostalgic about this magical period even before it’s over. In addition, there might be some guilt. Even if they are happy to return to work, the vast majority of mothers feel guilty about leaving their child with a caregiver or in a daycare center.
Planning and anticipating: The key to a successful re-entry
One of the key things to focus on in order to ease the anxiety and facilitate the return to work is to map out a plan for your return to work. Your baby feels your stress, so reducing it is beneficial for both of you! You and your little one will be calmer and happier if you have a sense of control and steps to follow.
- A couple of weeks before you go back to work, create a schedule for your baby. Starting this process while you’re still home with your child full-time will help both of you adjust to the change. Your little one will feel a sense of security and continuity if he or she keeps up with the same daily routine that he or she had when you were still on maternity leave.
- Take some time to get to know your baby’s caregiver or daycare center staff and get them to know your child. Share some of his or her favorite songs, stories, and activities. Explain to them your little one’s routines, personality, or any health issues. This will ease the transition for you and your baby.
- If you’re planning to pump breast milk, visit your workplace to see where you’ll be pumping and storing. Find out if it’s possible to store milk in the office fridge, or if you’ll need to purchase, rent, or borrow another option for preserving your milk.
Prepare yourself mentally for going back to the office
- Accept the fact that things may be different when you return to your office or workplace. Priorities will have changed and projects will have progressed. Your duties may have been assigned to someone else, who probably has done things differently than you. And, of course, the first days you’ll be out of the loop on the office happenings, both official and unofficial.
- Your successful reentry will also be helped along by getting a head start. Ask for reading materials, meet with office colleagues for lunch and catch-up. You may even want to get a head start on projects, training, or emails before your first day back to work.
Of equal importance: Have a plan for your relationship!
- Discuss upcoming time pressures and emotions that will come with your return to work. You and your partner might have been engulfed in the positive emotions and the slower pace of the maternity leave “bubble”, but both of you will need to adjust to a new rhythm, especially if both of you are working.
- Make “alone-time” a priority. If possible, before you go back to work, hire a babysitter or ask a relative to take care of your baby so that you can go out for dinner, a movie, or even a cup of coffee at least once a week.
Finally, keep in mind that, just like many other transitions in our lives, going back to work post-maternity leave is stressful. Be realistic about your return to work and expect that it may take a few weeks for you, your child, and partner to get used to your new routines. If you take care of your own needs, including rest, nutrition, exercise, and stress management, you’ll be more likely to make a successful soft landing back into the workplace and enjoy your life as a working mom to the fullest.
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