Tips on Surviving Your Return to Work after Maternity Leave

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Nothing changes your life like having a baby. There are all the changes to your body and way of thinking, all the work to prepare for the delivery, and all the adjustments you weren’t prepared for in getting used to the baby’s needs. As if that’s not enough, there’s learning how to leave your precious little one in someone else’s care so you can return to work.

Some parts of preparing for your return to work should start long before you deliver your baby, like lining up the childcare provider. Here are some tips on how to make that transition back to work a little smoother:

Thoroughly research your childcare.
Many childcare centers have long waiting lists—some up to a year! This is definitely something you don’t want to attend to at the last minute. After doing all of your research and choosing which center you want, don’t just leave it at that. Make periodic visits to the facility while you’re on maternity leave so that they recognize you as an involved parent. This gives you a good chance to make sure this center is the right fit for your family. Also make sure you have backup childcare ready in case something happens to your primary childcare provider. Oftentimes, relatives will be glad to fill in for a day.

Schedule some trial runs for childcare.
Before you begin working again, practice being away from your baby. Leave your child at the childcare facility for an afternoon so everyone can get used to the new arrangement. You won’t have the angst of leaving your baby for the first time piled on top of your anxiety about starting work again.

Learn to be more organized.
Work at getting your house in order so it’s easier to care for when you’re even busier. Learn as many organizing tips as you can for household chores, grocery shopping, planning activities, etc. The more you can implement before going back to work the better prepared you’ll be for when the unexpected happens, as it always does when you have a baby.

Return midweek.
Make your first week back to work a short one. You’ll have the weekend to reassess what’s working for you and what isn’t without the drain of a full week’s workload on your mind.

Learn how to use the breast pump.
You don’t want to try it for the first time when you’re at work. You’re just setting yourself up for embarrassment and your baby needs practice taking the bottle so that he isn’t spending his first day away from you hungry and crying. You can pump before you go to work, as soon as you get home and pump extra on the weekends to build up your store in the refrigerator. Breast milk can also be frozen.

Get plenty of rest at night and begin cutting out your naps.
When you’re back to work, you won’t have the luxury of napping anytime during the day when you feel exhausted. You need to train your body back to the workday schedule a couple of weeks before you actually return. And have an agreement with your spouse the night before you return to work, that you get to sleep undisturbed and he’ll take care of the baby.

Keep one calendar for all family and business appointments.
If your child is sick and you need to be at home, you’ll need to know who to notify and what appointments need to be rescheduled. It’s not going to do you any good to have your business schedule on your desk at the office.

Discuss with your spouse which household chores each will do.
This is an area that you really need to work as a team, and if each one is aware of what needs to be done and by whom, it will make your household a much more pleasant place to be. As a working mom, you’re not going to have the time or energy to do it all.

The week before returning to work do trial runs.
Create a schedule for getting ready in the morning. Up until now, your partner has had that time getting ready for work unhampered, but now it’s going to have to be teamwork to allow both of you to tend the baby and get out the door on time with everything needed for the day: actually dressing for work, packing everything you and the baby need for the day, taking the baby to childcare, and then using your time alone for thinking about what’s working and what isn’t. It’s helpful to make a list of what the baby needs, so you don’t leave the milk in the refrigerator.

No matter how much you plan, the best thing you can do for your family is to be flexible and just do your best. Perfection isn’t the goal, having a happy family is and don’t forget to ask for help when you need it!

Carmela Guizar-Sanchez is a PAMP member and co-owner of Simplify Home Solutions, a lifestyle and household concierge service. She has a daughter age 6 and son age 3 and recently welcomed her newest bundle of joy, another son. You can find more of her tips at www.simplifyhomesolutions.com.

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