This past weekend, I helped host a baby shower for my cousin, Alison, who plans to return to work full-time after 12 weeks of maternity leave. (She’s so on top of things–she lined up her daycare center months in advance.) I also have several good friends who will soon embark on the lifelong journey of motherhood, and who plan to go back to work after a few months of leave.
So all this got me thinking…
What can I tell my dear cousin and friends to help prepare them for going back to work after baby?
I know, I know. Nothing can totally prepare them for what lies ahead. But surely we WMAG’ers have picked up a few pearls of wisdom to share. Right?
Below are my tips. Please feel free to post yours in the comments section. Let’s all pitch in to help our fellow working moms-to-be!
- Do as much as you can ahead of time, because once that baby comes, you won’t have the time or energy for anything else. That goes for everything from cleaning your house to assembling the bouncy seat to addressing birth announcements.
- Get your ducks in a row at the office so you don’t have to think about work during or after labor. In those last couple of weeks, treat every day at work as if it’s your last. (It’s actually kind of fun!) You never know when your water will break or the OB says “It’s time to have that baby now.”
- Don’t assume you’ll be able to get lots of fun side projects done during your maternity leave, such as painting the living room or organizing your photographs. Just because you’re not working doesn’t mean you’re on vacation (no matter what your non-parent coworkers might say). You’ll be lucky if you get a shower and three meals a day!
- Try to make the transition to your replacement (or whoever’s taking over your work duties) as seamless as possible. Not only will this make you look good, it will set you up for less mess and more success upon your return. Plus, it will (hopefully) eliminate the need for “emergency” calls/emails to you during your leave.
- If you haven’t already, make your company’s HR person your new BFF. This person will help you figure out your benefits and make sure you fill out all the right insurance forms. My HR guy, Zach, was the key reason I got my short-term disability check just two weeks after giving birth! Thanks, BFF.
- While you’re on leave, enjoy the time away from work as much as you can. Feel no guilt. Remember, you are doing the most important (and toughest) job in the world: Caring for your newborn baby in those critical first weeks/months. This is your special time to recuperate, bond, and relish the experience.
- Different people have different feelings about going back to work, and that’s … OK. Some new moms can’t wait to get back to the office, where they can dress and act like “grownups” and feel like normal human beings again. Others absolutely dread leaving their little ones for 10 hours a day–especially with a new, unfamiliar daycare provider. Many moms are somewhere in between. Just know that it does get a little easier each day, but it’s always going to be a challenge.
- Once you’re back at work, you’ll amaze yourself with how efficient you become. At work, you bust it so you can go home and see your baby. At home, you cherish every moment (well, almost every moment) you get to spend with the little one. Priorities take shape, and they shape you.
- Connect with other working moms who know what it’s like. When your eyes are bloodshot from sleep deprivation, or full of tears from missing your child, they’ll understand. And if you need to tell someone how much your child weighs now, or how many times she pooped yesterday, or how glad you are to “escape” to the office–they’ll know just what you mean.
For more helpful information and tips on becoming a working mom, check out BabyCenter’s Pregnant at Work section and the Work & Family/Life with a Baby section. I hope other WMAG’ers who read this will contribute more helpful tips in the comments section, too.
5 thoughts on “Advice for the Working Mom-to-Be: Going Back to Work After Baby”
Geez Sue! I think you covered a big chunk of them, but here are a few I can think of.
If you have a daycare center (or even babysitter) lined up to watch your child, drop in unannounced on the caregiver(s) while on your leave. Bring your child. Watch what they do, how they interact with the other children. This will help you to feel more comfortable on the day you do have to leave your son our daughter there.
If you can bear it, try leaving your child with the caregiver(s) a few times before you start work. It could be just for a few hours while you run errands or you can try an all-day trial run. Doing so can help ease the transition and possibly avoid a flood of tears on your first day back at work. I was never able to do this myself, but I think it could’ve helped me to avoid breaking down and sobbing into the refrigerator at Owen’s daycare. (I was putting his bottles in the refrigerator when it really hit me.)
Great tips, Susan! I can’t think of anything you’ve left out.
I’d add – go buy yourself a fun “going back to work outfit” – it’ll make you feel little more normal on the first day back! And I totally agree with Tela’s advice on caregiver- I did that before I went back, spent a few days with my nanny and it really helped.
Good tips! The only thing I can think to add is when you’re on leave, unplug the computer and lock away the blackberry. Don’t feel like you have to stay connected to work while you’re on maternity leave. Use the time to focus on your new baby and on you.
I’d recommend easing back into work if possible and not trying to do “back to work” and “start of daycare” at the same time. With my first, I worked part-time for two weeks before returning to my full-time schedule. My husband took some time off and we imported my mother for a week, so that by the time I put my son in daycare I had a few weeks of work under my belt. It made the transition a lot easier, so much so that I’m using the same plan with baby #2 this spring.