Going back to work after giving birth is like every cliché come to life. Perhaps part of you is a little excited to get a break from the baby (and hello, even experience adult conversation again), and feel like you’re returning to a previous part of yourself that new motherhood has totally taken over. And then, there’s the other side of you, you know the one that’s screaming inside at the thought of being separated from your sweet infant. There is so much stress, fear, and anxiety that comes with leaving your little one in the hands of someone else other than you. So if you’re worried about leaving baby to go back to work, here’s how to cope.
It’s pretty normal to be totally torn about returning back to work. You might feel guilty for being happy about going back, or conversely, you might feel like you never, ever want to work again in your entire life and just stay home with your little sweetie. But first and foremost, don’t chastise yourself for going back to work, whether it’s because you want to, or have to. “It's important to remember that you're not a bad mom because you're going back to work,” Nicole Moore, a relationship expert, explains to Romper. “Often, the hardest thing about leaving your baby to go back to work is the worry that doing so will cause permanent damage to your child.” But instead of focusing on fear, realize the reason you’re worrying so much is because you love your baby so much — and that, in and of itself, makes you a good momma.
Here’s how you can make being a working mom work for you.
Even if you’ve been at your job for a while, you’re still going to experience a learning curve as a new working mom. You might find that you’ll need a friend who already knows the ropes to help get you through this challenging time, Christine Michel Carter, a workplace expert, tells Romper. “On your first day back at work, set up a lunch or coffee (in person or virtual) with another working mom – perhaps someone from your office who has been through maternity leave and returns before,” suggests Carter. “She will know exactly what you’re going through and be able to offer you some important perspectives on this time of transition.” And it always helps to have someone who’s been there, done that, and can get you through it all.
Speak With Your Boss
If possible, you should reach out to your boss before returning to work. This can help prepare you without feeling like you’re about to start the first day of school all over again and are completely unprepared for it. “Make sure to ask your boss questions about what you may have missed or what may have changed while you were gone,” Beth Finkelstein, founder of B&D Coaching, tells Romper. “Be sure to share any changes you anticipate on your end when you return — for example, if you've always kept your office door open in the past, but will need to shut it to pump, mention this to your boss.” The fewer surprises you can create, the better.
Although the workforce has undergone an evolution of sorts as it relates to remote work, there’s still so much more to be done to ensure that the workplace is favorable for all workers, no matter what age or stage of life they’re in. And that’s why it’s critical for you to raise your concerns with your boss before on-ramping back into the workforce. “As a new mom returning to the workforce, time is going to be one of your biggest concerns,” Moore says. “You might not be able to stay late or come in early and there will be times where you'll have to leave work to care for your baby.” Communicating these new needs will help put you both on the same page, reduce your stress in feeling like you have to do it all just as you did before, and quell any potential confusion that can arise if you do have to leave work to care for your baby.
Set Yourself Up For Success
If you haven’t discovered it by now, getting yourself out of the house when you have an itty bitty baby is incredibly difficult. So you’re going to need to find ways to make the segue smoother so that your mornings are not so manic. “Do whatever you can ahead of time to make your first few days back easier,” says Moore. “This could mean anything from freezing some dinners to planning a few outfits.” A few extra minutes of prep time the night before or a little earlier in the morning can make a huge difference.
And if you’re dreading that first week back, don’t start on a Monday, advises Carter. “Make your week shorter by starting back on a Wednesday or Thursday,” she says. “Having trouble getting out the door in the morning? Pour your own cereal into a bowl the night before. Not sure when you’ll pump? If you have control over your calendar, block pumping times for a year out while you’re still on leave.”
Find Other Working Mom Friends
Never has having mom friends been so utterly important as when you’re transitioning back to the workforce. You’re going to need all the bits of advice, tips, and moral support in the days and weeks after you begin working again. “One of the best ways to cope with the tough transition of leaving your baby to go back to work is by getting support from friends, family members or even a therapist,” says Moore. “It's important not to bottle up all of your feelings and carry the burden of them alone.” This isn’t the time to try to be Wonder Woman, after all. Be sure to share your feelings with friends and colleagues you feel comfortable with, and find out their own strategies for survival. As Moore points out: “Sometimes just hearing that other people went through the same thing and survived can be all you need to ease the anxiety.”
Focus On The Positives
When you go back to work, it can all feel like what you’re giving up… as opposed to what you’re gaining. You feel like you’ve lost time at work, and when you have to return, you’ll feel like you’re losing out on precious time with your baby. But it’s a simple mindshift that can help you see things in a more positive light. “The best way to celebrate the new season of returning to work after a baby without dreading it is to focus on what you're gaining, instead of on what you're losing,” advises Moore. “Yes, you'll have less time with your baby but you will have more time with someone who matters just as much, yourself.” And by focusing on the benefits that work brings (i.e. you’re earning an income while still pursuing your own purpose and adding onto your accomplishments), suddenly, it doesn’t feel all doom and gloom anymore.
Even if you’re excited at the thought of going back to work, it can still be nervewracking as you prepare to enter this stage of life with a baby in tow. By being prepared and managing your expectations of yourself and your boss’ and seeing how working can help your family, you’ll somehow make work become less laborious — and something you love instead.