After spending weeks of quality time with your new baby, it's time to head back to the workplace. Returning to work after maternity leave is a big life change that requires resolve and patience to get back into the swing of things, but with the right preparation, you'll go back refreshed, focused, and ready to get to work. Follow these tips to enjoy a smooth transition that will keep you balanced both at work and at home.
Be Disciplined About Your Sleep Schedule
Getting plenty of sleep is basically impossible if your baby is still waking up every few hours, but it's still important to take whatever sleep you can get. Talk to your partner and others in your support network about a plan to help you get as much sleep as possible in the weeks leading up to your return. Even though your sleep is likely to be interrupted, practice good sleep hygiene and turn off electronics at least an hour before bed and refrain from caffeine at night.
Practice Your Routine
Full-time parenthood puts you into a routine that's much different from your normal work flow. To get back on track, practice going through the motions of a regular working day. It's a good idea to start doing this two weeks before you are scheduled to go back to work. Your baby needs time to get used to the new schedule as well. Get up on time, get dressed, and run through whatever else you normally do before leaving for work. Time how long it takes you to get ready and commute. Dropping your baby off at daycare a few hours a day and gradually increasing to full days by the time you go back to work will make for a better transition for everyone.
Ask for Help
This can be an overwhelming time, but you don't have to go through it alone. Create a supportive network of people you can turn to, both at work and in your home life. Is there a neighbor or friend you can call when you need child care? Can a co-worker take on a few extra tasks until you're settled in? Don't be afraid to ask for the help you need.
Create a Nursing Strategy
If you pump, you'll need to figure out how to fit your breastfeeding needs into your work schedule. Bring all of your breastfeeding tools with you to work, and be prepared to make a quick exit if you need to pump immediately. It's a good idea to contact your human resources department to find out about securing a pumping room that will provide you with more privacy than a restroom.
Returning to a barrage of emails and a jam-packed calendar is no fun, but getting yourself organized will make life easier. Go over all your tasks and prioritize them. Set lower-priority tasks aside so you can focus on your most time-sensitive responsibilities. Check in with your supervisors and co-workers to determine the most pressing tasks.
Take Care of Yourself
Be kind to yourself. Getting back to work may be emotionally or physically taxing, and self-care is key to staying levelheaded. That's why it's important to make time for the activities that you love. Treat yourself to a movie, spa day, or outing with friends. Be sure to incorporate healthy eating and exercise into your routine. Remember that these acts aren't luxuries — they're necessities for your overall well-being. Find ways to care for yourself at work too, such as taking breaks at regular intervals.
With all the adjustments to make and things to relearn, returning to work after maternity leave can be challenging at first. Some people also feel guilty or sad about spending less time at home with their babies. Dealing with these feelings will become easier as time goes on, as will maneuvering through your work routine. Even though you've gone through the work grind before, mentally prepare yourself for a different experience this time around. You may forget how to do some things and need a refresher, or you might find yourself returning to a new situation — and that's perfectly fine. Simply remind yourself that you just need a little time to reboot.