Balancing a new baby with an old career can be exhausting. As maternity time dwindles, the thought of returning to work can be overwhelming. Burdened with apprehension heavier than a new baby’s diaper bag can make returning to work feel impossible. But a little planning and preparation can help pave a smooth path back to the office.
There’s no job description or owner’s manual for a new baby, but that doesn’t mean you can’t rise to the challenge. As a nurse and mother of 16 year-old twins, I still recall the challenge of returning to work after maternity leave. Balancing a career and raising twins has improved my organizational skills and made me realize that focusing on these three rights could’ve prevented more than one wrong turn on the rocky road back to work.
Plan for the right supplies
It’s not just baby stuff you’ll need when you’re packing your diaper bag. Stock up on supplies to organize your calendar, your space and don’t forget healthy snacks to maintain your energy.
Whether you prefer a standard desk calendar, or a calendar app, choose something that has adequate space to organize your work and personal life and then prepare it before you return to work.
Include things such as:
- Upcoming events and doctor’s appointments
- Childcare schedules and numbers
- Important phone numbers for you, your family and babysitters, which include emergency contacts and poison control
Rushing around in the morning looking for your keys or a file for work doesn’t start your day off well. Organize a space in your home with essential items so you can grab them on your way out the door.
- Determine if you or your partner will get the baby ready and who will drop off and pick up.
- Choose a special framed picture of your baby to show off to your coworkers or fill a digital photo frame and enjoy every adorable expression without cluttering your workspace.
- Go from home to the office looking fashionable by choosing a diaper bag that fits your style.
Plan for healthy snacks, a filling lunch and nutritious meals, because you may no longer be eating for two, but you’re still eating for you to maintain a steady energy level and conquer fatigue.
- You may feel ready to return to work, but your body can take much longer to fully recover and requires healthy nourishment, especially if you’re nursing.
- Plan healthy lunches so you don’t grab a quick sugary snack that leaves you depleted by the afternoon.
- Prepare and freeze dinners in advance to avoid extra trips to the grocery store.
Organize the right amount of time
Your time is no longer your own and your old morning routine isn’t going to work when you add a baby to your schedule. Plan for today, tomorrow and the unexpected—and don’t forget to plan time for yourself. A little bit of evening preparation once the baby goes to sleep can go a long way.
- Try on your work clothes because often clothing doesn’t fit the same as it did before baby. Consider buying something new that makes you feel confident.
- Determine how much time you’ll need in the morning and then add thirty minutes.
- Do a practice run to make sure you have adequate time to get ready, drop off the baby, and get to work.
No matter how perfect your organization and planning skills may be, anticipate fatigue and interruptions.
- Develop a backup plan for your caregiver in case of closings, illnesses, or weather emergencies.
- Distraction and fatigue often accompany the mental and physical exhaustion of caring for a new baby. Plan a break during your workday to recharge.
- Don’t be too hard on yourself and give yourself time to adjust your schedule and adapt it as needed.
Don’t forget to schedule in time for yourself so you don’t suffer from feelings of being overwhelmed and exhausted.
- Don’t neglect activities that you enjoy. This time invested in yourself will enable you to renew your energy for your family.
- Most parents endure sleep deprivation, which can leave you struggling to focus and concentrate. Work on getting your baby on a sleep schedule prior to returning to work.
- Even Moms and Dads need time off now and then. Plan a date night.
Strive for the right attitude
Maintaining a positive attitude can benefit your office and your baby. Consider how much you’ve accomplished in the last nine months.
Meet with your boss to find out what has changed and ensure that his/her expectations meet yours. If possible, plan a lunch or a phone call.
Ask questions such as:
- What has changed at work?
- Is a mid week start possible for an easier adjustment and an opportunity to practice a new routine?
- Are there options to change my regular schedule to a more flexible one?
Just say no to extra tasks and consider the value of hiring help.
- Just say no to that extra television show, or record it so you can say yes to extra sleep.
- Allow grandparents, friends, or a babysitter to help.
- Hire someone to clean.
Shift a negative mindset by considering the positive benefits of work.
- The ability to flex your social skills with other adults and focus on something besides diapers and bottles.
- Coffee, lunch and conversations with coworkers can be a pleasant reminder that you are more than a mom.
- The support and advice from other parents can validate that you’re not alone in balancing work and motherhood.
The long days of juggling work, family and new baby might seem like they will last forever. But the time will fly by before you know it. Planning and preparation can make your transition back to work after maternity leave smoother and allow you to relax and focus on that wonderful new bundle of joy.