Staying home just isn’t my cup of tea. Don’t get me wrong. I love my kids but, well, I love them in doses; like, two days at a time on the weekends. So when I had my kids, there was really no question going back to work after maternity leave. It was just when I would go back. With that came a dozen questions, mental breakdowns, and moments of confusion as to how I was going to handle the transition back to work.
Here’s a few survival tips I’ve learned to ease myself back into the workplace:
Practice Makes Perfect
If you are pumping, do a few practice sessions. Drive the route you’ll take when you drop the baby off at your chosen childcare, and then time the distance between there and work. If you can, do a practice run. Drop off the baby a day or two early, and go get some coffee. If you can find a spot to pump, give it a try. Then pick up the baby. Breathe. See? baby and mama are just fine.
First Day Drop-Off
If possible, have your significant other drop the baby off; it helps take the edge off, especially on the first day. When you do it yourself the first time, have a tissue box ready in the car, keep chatter with caregivers to a minimum (unless you are feeling brave), and my personal favorite, run out as fast as you can! If you need to cry in front of them, it’s okay, they’ve seen it. If you cry in your car like I did for many days, that’s fine too. Just remember mama, you are teaching your child independence and the importance of self-worth (yours in this case). It’s okay to be a working mom. You can do it!
Understand the Rules of Your Childcare Provider
It’s important to be on the same page about your baby’s needs with your childcare, no matter who it is. Take the time to familiarize yourself with their needs and if they have specific rules. Prepare yourself to be flexible in your expectations and ideas.
Communicate with Your Employer
It’s easy to come back from maternity leave vulnerable, tired, and eager to please. Don’t overdo it, and don’t over-promise your ability to deliver. If you will be pumping, make sure your employer understands your schedule. If there’s flexibility in your return to work, don’t be shy taking advantage of it. I remember coming back from maternity leave with a mountain of work. Some of the best advice I got was to delete all the emails. I did, and it was a great feeling. Delete. Delete. Delete. I also blocked out 30 minutes every 2-3 hours in my schedule for pumping. But talk to your supervisor first. It never hurts to over-communicate.
Prepare for Pumping
If you are pumping for your little one, make sure you have everything you need; your breast pump, extra bottles (in case it’s a waterfall), and extra tubing are a good start. Ideally, all pumping supplies should be with you. ALWAYS. Store extras at work. I also SWORE by my pumping bra. It’s hard to find a good one so try a few out. The hands-free kind were a winner for me. That way, I could multitask while pumping, and if you’re over-communicating with your employer, you already know a great spot at work to pump!
You are not hurting your baby by working. It’s hard getting back into the groove, but you’ll be fine. If your milk supply is low, it’s likely stress, so try to take it easy when you’re pumping. For me, as soon as I stopped staring at my pump, my supply was back up. Your body, mind and family need you to relax. And if it helps to cry, just LET IT OUT!
Re-entering the workforce after maternity leave with little ones (or even big ones) can be hard, but I promise that you will survive and the babies will be just fine. I now cherish my weekends even more with the kids, and you will too.