Maternity leave is such a special time. Unfortunately, here in the U.S. the time we get off to care for our new babies is varied, and is often far shorter than we’d like it to be. For me, the 10 weeks I had off with my baby girl were wonderful, but they flew by and before I knew it, it was time to return to working full time. Thankfully, I work for a company that values family and understands the need for parents to be flexible, but the adjustment still took some getting used to. Going from being able to spend all day with my baby to juggling her care with a 40-hour work week certainly comes with its challenges.
Here are a few tips for making that transition as smooth as possible:
1. Have a good childcare option in place
This is a no-brainer, but I think it’s worth including, because it’s such a critical piece for your transition back into work. If you can, give yourself the peace of mind that comes along with having this decision in place a few weeks or even months before your baby arrives. I had an older friend tell me that she always felt fine about being a working mom as long as her kids’ childcare situation was a good one, and I’ve certainly found that to be true for me as well. If you’re looking for something outside of the traditional daycare route (like I was), mom groups on Facebook can prove to be an excellent resource for information and connections.
2. Anticipate a new routine
During maternity leave, you and your baby develop a happy little existence – and much of that is turned on its head when you go back to work. Say goodbye to those sleepy, snuggly mornings, and say hello to rushing around the house (in what I call “tornado mode”) trying to get yourself ready, your lunch packed, extra diapers added to the diaper bag, etc. Things change, but it’s okay. Keep go with the flow as the name of the game, and you’ll be just fine.
3. Check in before you go back
To avoid surprises, try to set up some time to chat (either in person or over the phone) with your boss before you head back to work. Hopefully, you’ve been completely disconnected during your leave, but to make your return easier use this time to talk about things like leadership changes that may have taken place while you were out and your priorities when you return.
4. Prepare to relish the grown-up time
As much as I loved being home during maternity leave – and as hard as it was to go back to work those first few days – there’s something to be said for getting to completely shift your brain away from your baby and instead focus on [insert your line of work here] for several hours each day. It honestly does make the time with your baby even sweeter, too. (The whole “absence makes the heart grow fonder” thing and all.) Try to make the most of these dual identities you have, and enjoy your time where you’re free to be with other adults without changing a single diaper.