For working moms, the end of maternity leave is an inevitability. It may reach its conclusion after six weeks (thanks, America) or six months. It could be paid or unpaid or a combination. But the fact remains that if you want to keep your job, it will come to an end. And that final week is going to be stressful and fraught with emotion. Mom will need to rely on her support system, so if you're part of it, take note of these nice things you can do for a mom on her last week of maternity leave.
After I had my first baby, I didn't go back to work. My daughter was born in May, and as a veteran teacher I had enough sick leave to take me through the end of the school year. After that, I'd decided to be a stay-at-home mom. Fast forward three years, and I'm pregnant again with two part-time jobs. I'm taking about 12 weeks of leave (although, as a freelancer, I'm not technically entitled to anything) to coincide with my kid's summer break as well my expected delivery date. This time, however, I'm going back.
I know it's going to be a difficult transition, but it's not one I intend to shoulder on my own. If you do the following, you can make sure that I (and working moms like me) don't have to:
Frame A Picture Of Her Baby
If there's one thing a new mom likes more than pictures of her adorable baby, it's showing off pictures of said adorable baby. She's going to miss that sweet face, too, so a nice framed photo of her little one for her desk at work will allow both her and her co-workers to admire her bundle of perfection.
Extend Your Best Pumping Advice
If mom plans on breastfeeding, she'll have to pump at work to both maintain her supply and have enough breast milk to feed baby while she's gone. If you pumped successfully at work, let her in on your secrets. Did you schedule pumping sessions into your Google Calendar? Did you invest in special gear? Let her know.
Protect Her Time With Her Baby
During the last week of maternity, you may need to play gatekeeper with visitors. Hopefully, friends and family will have had their chance to snuggle baby and won't be offended if you give them a firm "you shall not pass." Other people should understand that mom needs to soak in as much time as possible with her baby, but at least this way, they can be mad at you and not her.
Help Her Prep Meals
By the time maternity leave reaches its conclusion, the meal train has probably run dry (farewell, tater tot casserole, we hardly knew ye). It's not exactly going to get easier to fix dinner after the old 9-to-5, either. Take an afternoon and help mama make some freezer meals or implement some of those lunch box hacks you've been pinning.
Cross Some Things Off Her List
Lots of moms go into maternity leave thinking they're going to get so much done, only to realize that keeping a tiny human alive is a full-time job. Maybe you can't help her perfect her recipe for strawberry-rhubarb crisp, but you could probably address envelopes for birth announcements or iron cute designs on onesies.
Offer To Watch The Baby
One of the biggest anxieties for new moms returning to work is when they have entrust their baby to someone who is, essentially, a stranger. It might ease mom's fear a little bit if, even for a few hours that first week, her little one doesn't have to be in daycare. You might even offer to help with the morning routine or do drop-off for her the first few days.
Take Her Shopping
For most of us, our bodies don't immediately snap back into shape after having a baby. It will be awhile before we can get into our pre-baby clothes. Friends don't let friends feel bad about their postpartum bodies, so take mom to get some nice work clothes for the interim. And treat her to a pedicure while you're at it.
Listen To Her
Returning to work after maternity leave is likely to be an emotional rollercoaster, running the gamut from excitement to sadness to guilt. Be supportive of mom's decision (maybe working is an important part of her identity and wellbeing) and situation (maybe she doesn't want to work, but she needs the health insurance). Above all, validate her feelings — she's going to have a lot of them.