Going back to work after maternity leave was much more difficult than I had expected it to be. There was a feeling of guilt, anxiety, and fear of not being able to do it all right. All the worst possible imaginary situations would come to my mind of which the most worrisome was about my child’s growth and development.
I am very sure many mothers face these and I think this is the most difficult phase of a mother’s life. In this post, I am sharing some tips and learning that I found very helpful when I returned back to work as a new mom. These made the transition back to work easier. I hope they will ease your journey back to work easier and motivate you to return back to work more confidently.
My back-to-work journey
I am the kind of person who likes to plan everything. So definitely when it came to having a baby and going back I had a notepad and pen with me all around. Initially, the list made me overwhelmed and since I and my husband live in a city different from where we were born and raised we had no family to support. I had a maternity leave of 6 months so, when I went back to work my daughter was six and a half months old then now that she is 3 years old, we have made use of all possible situation options possible. We had a nanny, daycare, covid lockdown, work from home, mother-in-law staying with us, and my sister staying with us. And just while writing this post I am feeling really how far we have come and so will you too.
Let’s get started with preparing to get back to work.
12 things new mom must do when returning to work after maternity leave
Here are 12 tips that will make your back-to-work journey as a new mom easy
Tip 1: Build your mindset
Whether it is a financial need or your passion to continue your work don’t let anything make you feel guilty about your choice to go back to work. All that matters is that you are trying to be a good mom and making the best possible attempt.
People may judge you for your choice don’t let them affect you. You cannot be a good mom if you do not make yourself happy. You are doing this to have happy family others should just not matter.
Prepare yourself that for some time you will have many things to take care of and once the kid is a little grown up you will actually miss all these.
Talk with some working moms and know their experiences, it will help you prepare better. At times when I would find everything overwhelming, I would remind myself if so many other women can do why can’t you?
You can do this Mommy!
Tip 2: Plan your return to work
The timeline to return back to work after maternity leave may differ depending on the law in your state. I had a 6-month maternity leave. I tried to work till the due date so I get more time with the baby and also made a conscious effort to save my other paid leaves so that I could spend more time with the baby (Working while pregnant gets difficult but saving those leaves is really worth it.) So, if you are allowed by your doctor try to work till the very last day.
A month before your date to resume work talk to your manager and HR to explore options for flexibility of work or extending your leave.
You can try options like:
- Work from home
- Hybrid Work model (few day offices and few days work from home)
- Half day half Pay
- Utilize your personal leaves to extend your maternity leave
- Leave without pay
- Different work times so that you and your husband can try to complement the schedule and at least 1 parent will be available.
Don’t hesitate to talk and explore options, even a little bit of flexibility can make things better for the family.
Tip 3: Find the right caregiver
Start thinking about your caregiver option long before as many things need to be done before you finally have one.
Ideally, the best caregiver for your kid can be a grandparent so either your parents or your in-laws can help you with these. With grandparents, many of the safety concerns are reduced. But if they are unavailable or may not be healthy enough to take care of the baby. You should look for other options.
When kids are very young like less than 1 year having a nanny at home is better than daycare. You should start looking for them well in advance as finding the right nanny is difficult. You should do thorough interviews for their experience, hygiene, background, and reviews from others to find the right fit. Maybe you need to go for police verification too. Spend enough time till you are satisfied.
The last option is opting for daycare. Once the kid is 1 year old I found daycare to be a better option than a nanny. But definitely, you should do thorough research for the right daycare.
I suggest finding one that is closer to your workplace in case of emergency so you can quickly be available. Make many visits and surprise visits to ensure the safety, hygiene, and staff are competent and good for you. Check online reviews, and talk to parents of kids who are already enrolled in the daycare.
Always enroll with daycare that has vigilance cameras and better are the ones that give live streaming options to parents.
Have some backup options in case the nanny is on leave, or daycare is not working. Mostly for such days, I would put a leave in advance at work. In case I cannot skip work I would ask my husband to put the leave.
Finding the right caregiver is the most important thing to do before you return back to work after maternity leave. Know that over the period you may move from 1 option to other due to changing circumstances and the need of your child. Caregivers may be expensive but realize that it will only be for some time and once they grow these expenses will come down and they are worth the need.
Discuss options with your partner and let them know their support if required.
Tip 4: Prepare your child and yourself
A month before you resume back to work. Make a draft schedule for yourself based on the time you would leave for work and come back from work and the things that you would like to get done in this time. According to the same start to make a routine for your child too. If you want to give a bath and feed your baby in the morning before going to work, start to put your child on a schedule to wake up on time in the morning to do the same.
Also, putting your child on schedule will make it easier for the caregiver to take better care and you can monitor effectively.
Tip 5: Transition to bottle feeding and solid food
You need to make sure your child moves to bottle feeding before getting back to work after maternity leave. For someone completely breastfeeding, it is difficult to make this move.
Your complete focus should be to get your kid to bottle feed so that while you are away your child can have pumped milk. Also, you should start a solid food diet too to ensure complete nutrition.
When I returned to work my child was 6 ad a half months so I had to make the transition to both bottles as well as solid food like purees. I think food transition is very important before going back to work as it will ensure proper nutrition for your child and when kids are well fed they are easier to handle.
Tip 6: Make a schedule for baby
Before going to work make a detailed schedule for your baby, this will serve 2 purposes, the child knows what to expect now and the caregiver can follow it too. Secondly, with a good schedule, you can structure a good day for your kid with the right routine and activities and monitor. Without scheduling the caregivers often just do as they like and what is easier for them.
Your child’s schedule must include things like sleep time, diaper change, milk time, food time, tummy time, etc.
Some things you will need to make your kid learn like sleeping, and feeding time. Some things you need to observe like when and how many times diaper change is required when they need play and what kind etc.
Paste the schedule at the commonplace in the house for everyone’s reference.
Tip 7: Prepare the caregiver
You need to spend time with the caregiver along with the baby to make them comfortable and acquainted with each other. Once the baby is comfortable with the caregiver things get easier.
Make the caregiver aware of the schedule that the baby follows. Share with them do’s and don’t for your child based on your child’s liking and preferences. Also, share with them emergency contact numbers.
Let them observe for a few days and then let them take lead and you can observe so that the child and the caregiver get prepared for things in your absence.
Start to be away from kids gradually, for a few days go out for an hour or 2, and then join work for half a day for a few days till you feel comfortable to go for a complete full day.
If you opt for daycare then you be with them at daycare and be present with the child for a few hours initially and gradually reduce the time till you can finally see off.
A sudden change of things and the absence of a mother may not be well accepted by the child.
In the case of a nanny at home, it is best to put a surveillance camera for the areas you will have the nanny and child and keep looking at the surveillance video frequently for some days.
Whether it’s a nanny or grandparents taking care of your child make sure everything is available for their needs so that they give complete attention to your child.
Tip 8: Baby essentials
Set a baby station or make a cabby for all the things that your child will need throughout the day and hand it to the caregiver before you leave for work each day so that all the supplies like diapers, wipes, extra set of clothes, sterilized bottles, rash cream, etc. are easily accessible to them and they do not have to search them in need.
Also, prepare the food for the day for the kids and inform them when and how it has to be given.
The idea is to make things easily available to them and free them of any additional work like making food etc so that they give their undivided attention only to your child.
Tip 9: Plan and prep
Plan for the entire week, do meal planning, and prepare a food chart for the baby too. List all the fruits, vegetables, groceries, and baby essentials required for the entire week and stock things on a weekend. Use delivery services to save time.
Where possible do basic preparation like boiling vegetables or making purees to save time.
Invest in good quality food storage containers to store all your baby food, and sterilize them before storage.
P.S. You may like my post 10 Things for working mom weekend routine
Tip 10: Bonding activities
There are some activities that are just unique to you and your baby. For me bathing the baby and tummy time was such a time. So I would ensure to give her a bath myself before going to work and would not leave it for the caregiver. After coming back from work I would give her tummy time.
By keeping these bonding activities with yourself you do not feel the guilt of going back to work after maternity leave and continue building a bond with your child. Also, the child feels there are still fun things to experience with their mother even though she is not there for the day.
So make sure to spend time with the child for some fun bonding activities like reading bedtime, playing games, and singing lullabies. It helps them understand eventually that mom is still there for fun things but has to do work too.
P.S. You may like to read Secrets to spend quality time with your kids in a busy life
Tip 11: Pumping and breastfeeding
For mothers who breastfeed and would like to continue it is very important to figure out the pumping and breastfeeding routine. It takes time for your body to adjust to changes in feeding patterns. Like other schedules start with the pumping and breastfeeding routine 15 days before joining work.
There are different ways:
- Giving only breast milk in which case you should pump frequently to have stock for the time you are at work.
- Breastfeed when you are at home and formula milk while you are at work.
- Breastfeed only at night and formula milk throughout the day
In any case, you will need to give your body time to understand the new situation and regulate milk production.
If it is possible for you and your workplace as suitable facilities you can pump at work and carry an icepack and pumping bag with you at work.
If that is not the case you can pump only before and after work at home but during work time you may feel discomfort for a few days. There were days for me when at work I would rush to the bathroom to express milk just because it was very painful.
It is best to have a stock of breast pads, keep a few in your office bag and have a quality pumping bra.
Tip 12: Make peace with imperfection
The last and most important tip that I would like to share with all returning moms is to make peace with imperfection. Your to-do list may not all get done, you will have a messy house and loads of laundry to catch up on. You may have something important at work and your kid may not feel well. You will be up in the middle of the night to put your child back to sleep and still have to be on time at work. But all of this will just pass soon, believe me.
As working moms, learn to accept imperfections, and instead of striving for perfection, focus on being present and doing the best you can. There will be crying and breakdown but by trying to do your best and spending quality time with your child after work, you can do this. A messy house can stay so for a day more but our mental health and well-being are much more important.
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So these are the 12 tips that I have learned during my journey of getting back to work. I am sure you will find them very helpful for you and your child’s transition back to work after maternity leave.
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