Returning to work after having a baby is a huge life and career adjustment. It isn’t easy and as well as getting back into the swing of things with your job, you also need to balance the needs of your baby, typically with much less sleep than you are used to! Many mothers who return to work feel pressure to be the same employee they were before they left, even though having a baby completely overhauls the way you think and feel about your day.
Those first few weeks, or even days, back in work takes a lot of adjustment, patience and boundary-setting, both in terms of your home and work life. After you’ve been on maternity leave, heading back to work requires a lot of pre-planning: childcare arrangements, setting schedules with your partner, sorting our routines. If you’re planning a return to work soon after having a baby, here are some things to expect and prepare for.
Remember to be patient with yourself
A lot of new mothers return to work and put a lot of pressure on themselves. You don’t need to be perfect on your first day back and you need to remember that no one is expecting that from you. Give yourself a few weeks to get back into the swing of things and give yourself plenty of breathing room to get things done and your first day back should be relaxed and enjoyable, rather than full-on and stressful.
Avoid scheduling in big meetings or presentations straight away, but meet your colleagues, managers and coworkers for catch-up sessions, perhaps over a coffee or lunch out. If you know that you’re bound to have a lot on your plate, schedule blocks of time into your calendar where you can reply to emails and catch up on reports and projects.
Your baby is in good hands
Having confidence in your childcare means that not only will your little one be well-looked after whilst you are at work, but will make sure that you are generally more relaxed when you are away from them. If you are planning you return to work a few months in advance, take time to look for your childcare early and get to know your baby’s caregiver in before you return to the office.
There are many different routes to take when looking for childcare, whether you choose the nanny, nursery or family member option, be sure to get things started a few weeks before you’re planned return to work so that both you and your baby can get used to the new routine. If a family member is looking after your baby whilst you work, such as a grandparent or auntie, then don’t be afraid to set clear boundaries and expectations of what your baby needs. Feeding and nap times are especially important so that your routine when you get home from work isn’t thrown out of sync.
Don’t be afraid to set boundaries
A lot of moms who return to work do so on a reduced working schedule, so you might find that you need to set boundaries in a number of different ways. Be sure to clearly explain your working hours to your coworkers and look at ways that you can all work together in a way which makes sense and benefits you all.
You may have to start saying “no” to more things if they begin to interfere with your work/life balance, so don’t be afraid to say this to your coworkers. When you get home, be sure to put your phone in a different room so you don’t get tempted to check your emails whilst tea is cooking or before bed. Use your time at home to catch up with your family and relax.
You might miss milestones
If you’re planning on returning to work whilst your baby is at an age where developments are around almost every corner, you need to remember that you might not be there to catch every milestone they make. If this is your first baby, then this can be an upsetting thought, but you also need to make sure that your baby is prepared to achieve these milestones when you might not be there.
For example, if your baby is starting to make signs that they are ready to crawl, let your childcare know so that they can keep an extra watchful eye over them. If you’re weaning your little one onto solid foods, make sure that you have some of the weaning essentials (baby-friendly bowl and cutlery set, weaning bibs, change of clothes etc) to make the learning process easier for them. Although you might miss the first times, don’t forget that your baby is learning and growing and it is great that they’re hitting these milestones.