10 steps to help you confidently return to work as a new mom.
Congratulations on becoming a new mom! Everything in your life is now in a state of great transformation, which means you have a lot of hard (but exciting) decisions ahead of you. One of these choices involves your career. It might seem irrelevant in comparison to the wondrous things that are happening in your personal life right now, but, as baby gets older, you might begin to ponder your professional life more and more.
Returning to work after maternity leave can feel daunting. It’s natural to wonder what you missed while you were gone, be concerned that you may not be as good at your job anymore, or worry that you and your baby simply won’t survive without each other. Is management going to expect you to make up for lost time? Will you be able to keep up with the demands of both your job and parenthood? If these questions are starting to “freak you out”, don’t worry. Here are a few things you can do to prepare for the transition so you can go back to work feeling calm and confident.
- Figure out the babysitting situation. Your first priority is probably determining who is going to take care of baby. Depending on where you live childcare can be quite expensive, and some places have very long waits, so it’s never too early to cross this off your list. If you’re lucky enough to have friends or relatives nearby, you can also ask them if they’re willing to babysit.
- Gradually set into your work routine. The sooner you can start preparing for your work schedule, the better. Practice waking up on time, eating during what would be your lunch hour, and going to bed when you’d need to. Activities like this will make going back to work much easier when the time comes because your mind and body will have adjusted and it will feel more natural.
- Be open with your manager. It’s a good idea to communicate with your boss before your first day. In addition to expressing your enthusiasm to return, you should also set realistic expectations about how you’ll ease back into your role. If possible, you should negotiate a schedule that will help you transition, too. For instance, you can ask to work afternoons only for the first couple of weeks, or be assigned to team-based projects until you’re ready to take them on solo.
- Reintroduce yourself to the team. Some of the staff you knew before taking maternity leave might not still be there when you return, so you may want to send a quick email to your co-workers reintroducing yourself. It’s a great chance to meet any new hires, rekindle connections with old colleagues, and generally get started on the right foot.
- Ease into your workload. Be careful to not overwhelm yourself once you’re back on the job. You could be tempted to say yes to every request that comes your way, but that’s the shortest route to burnout. In order to work to the best of your ability, you must know and respect your limits.
- Put your health first. This goes for both physical and mental health. Take walking breaks, eat healthy snacks and lunches, drink plenty of water, listen to music, doodle, stretch… do whatever else it takes to keep you focused, relaxed, and fresh while you’re at work. (And don’t let this good behavior stop when you get home!)
- Find ways to reduce the distance. You’re probably going to miss baby at least a few times throughout the day. To ease the pain, decorate your workspace with photos of her/him or artwork s/he has created. You might also have a spare moment to check in with the babysitter by phone or text from time to time. If your employer is especially accommodating, they may even allow you to bring baby into work some days.
- Exercise your rights. Familiarize yourself with the laws in your state pertaining to being a working parent. This is crucial if you’re considering something that might affect your job, such as breastfeeding in the workplace or taking time off if your child gets sick. Understand how you’re protected under the law as a new mother.
- Know that things won’t be perfect. Even with all this preparation you might still feel guilty, overwhelmed, or helpless sometimes. That’s totally okay. As you’re already well aware, being a mother can be the hardest job in the world, and juggling all these responsibilities can take everything out of you. Be patient with yourself and learn to let certain things go. Not every event is a crisis, and not everything is important. Just do the best you can, ask for help when you need it, and allow yourself to be human.
- Talk to HR. Your human resources team is there to support you through this transition. At your request they might be able to negotiate flexible working hours for you, set up a private room where you can breastfeed, or even arrange on-site childcare if available. Whatever your needs are, don’t hesitate to ask HR how they can help.
How HR can further support new parents
Unfortunately, many new parents struggle to get adequate assistance at work. If you work at a company that uses LifeSpeak, however, you have access to the highest quality parenting resources and expert advice through our online library. For more parenting and childcare tips, just log into your LifeSpeak account or ask your HR department to contact us.
Also published on Medium.