Maternity leave goes by all too quickly (in my experience). When my son was born I had roughly 14 weeks off, and it seemed like I was starting to get into the groove of postpartum life when I had to start planning for my return to work. When I was preparing to go back, the main thing on my mind was, “How am I going to do this?” Not that my experience should be any sort of example to anyone else, but I did discover a number of things moms should do before going back to work.
Ultimately, I only stayed in that job for a few more months before transitioning (yet again, because motherhood is nothing if not constant alterations and continued adjustment) to brief stint as a stay-at-home mom, before eventually landing on being a work-from-home mom. But I digress, as that's another story for another day. Looking back at those early months, it was a crazy time full of a seemingly endless parade of changes in a ridiculously short period of time.
Still, and always, I am grateful for it. I think that period of time in my mom-life helped me figure out what was best for my family (and myself). Hopefully these suggestions might help moms who are about to tackle one of the biggest transitions of the bunch, too: the return to work after having a baby.
If You’re Breastfeeding, Assemble The Pump...
Let’s see, how do I put this? Well, the pump takes some getting used to. Unless, of course, you’re practiced in using machinery to extract some of your bodily fluids, which I most definitely was not. Even once I was in the groove with the pump, I would still occasionally put a piece on it incorrectly (or find that one of the tubes was twisted).
My suggestion: get comfortable with all of that before you’re sitting by yourself in the break room for the first time.
...And Practice With It
I had a steep learning curve with the pump early into my leave, so by the time I went back to work, it was routine. However, I can only imagine how tricky it would be to be getting the hang of it while adjusting to work, too. Please don’t do that to yourself.
Do A Childcare Dry Run
Maybe your little one is at a daycare. Maybe he’s with a family member. Maybe your partner is taking him or her while you’re out. Either way, it doesn’t hurt to get everyone (including and especially you) comfortable with the routine before you’re on the clock.
Figure Out What Clothes You Have That Fit
If only it were as simple as going straight back to your pre-pregnancy clothes. Even if your weight is close to what it was before, your clothes might fit differently. Just please trust me that you want to figure this out before that first morning you’re due back in the office.
Print Out And Frame Some Of Your Favorite Pictures
Not only are they for you to look at, they are for other people to see and so you can hear your supportive co-workers telling you on a regular basis how cute your baby is. It’ll help.
Give Yourself Permission To Have All The Feelings
There’s no right or wrong way to feel about returning to work. I know some moms who were beyond excited to go back, and didn't find that transition to be anything other than a chance to get back to being themselves. I know some who were totally distraught, and felt like they were losing a piece of themselves when they left their baby.
You’re allowed to have a strong reaction, or no reaction, or a medium-sized reaction, and you don’t need to feel like you’re doing something wrong.
Plan Ahead For Lunch And Snacks And Drinks
Especially if you’re breastfeeding, you don’t want to be off-kilter when it comes to hunger or thirst, or nutrition in general. If you’re relying on coffee to get through (like I was *cough*) then be sure to factor that in. Keeping up a milk supply isn’t easy.
Decide On A Mantra
In other words, tell yourself whatever you need to tell yourself to stay strong. I’m a huge fan of silent pep talks, and have made it through many long days thanks to them.
Pre-Pack Your Bag Or Purse
Perhaps you’re picking up on a theme here, which is to get as much done as early as possible; ideally, before the morning you’re expected to show up at work. The fewer things you have to think about beyond saying goodbye to your baby and getting yourself where you need to be, the better.
Soak Up All The Baby Snuggles You Can
I haven’t figured out a way to bottle the smell of a baby’s head, but perhaps you might? Either way, soak up all the baby goodness you can. But remember, it’ll still be there after work so you’ve definitely got that to look forward to.