Your first day back after maternity leave was tough. Does it get better? Here’s your pep talk and action plan to get through these challenging days.
We survived the newborn stage. We managed to fit into our old clothes—more or less. And we’re now just getting a hang of this parenting thing.
But then… it’s time to face the first day back after maternity leave.
Just when our babies have fallen into a manageable routine and it’s becoming easier and more fun, maternity leave is over. And now we have to hand our babies to someone else to care for while we rejoin the workforce.
That’s hours and hours away from our babies. We miss the time spent sprawled on a blanket on the park, or strolling with them around the neighborhood.
To make matters worse, we’re miserable at work. We wonder how much longer we can stand being away while we’re at work.
2 factors that will make going back to work easier
That first day back after maternity leave is tough. And we wonder… will it get any better?
Yes. But you have to get these two right:
1. A positive work environment
When mothers are unhappy about their first day back after maternity leave, most of the unhappiness can be traced to what they’re going back to: An unhealthy work environment.
Long before your baby was even born, how happy were you about work? If you were unhappy with your work to begin with, leaving the baby will be less bearable compared to a mom who’s content with hers.
- Is your work flexible? For instance, you might stress about having take an impromptu day off when your baby is sick. Or maybe you need to leave work earlier than usual to pick her up from day care.
- How is your commute? Maybe your commute is long, adding extra hours away from your baby on top of the eight or more you’re already away from him.
- How about pay? Does it justify the time away from your baby, or do you feel like you’re better off elsewhere?
- Do you get along with your boss and colleagues? It’s hard to return to work when you don’t have your boss’ support.
- Are you able to pump? One of the difficult transitions on the first day back after maternity leave for nursing moms is trying to schedule pump sessions and maintaining your milk supply. Even finding the privacy to do so can be a challenge.
- Do you like your work? Money is good, sure, but if you hated work to begin with, it’ll be extra difficult to re-enter the workforce when you’d rather be with your baby.
Point is, those first few days and weeks at work are difficult because you’ve had a taste of a different life, and work just isn’t measuring up. You were on maternity leave, enjoying the time spent with your baby, only to come back to an unhealthy work environment. I’d be unhappy too.
And the second factor that makes going that first day back after maternity leave easier is…
2. Child care you love and trust
Imagine going to work worried whether your child care provider understood your instructions and nap schedule. Or wondering whether your baby isn’t getting enough one-on-one attention at the day care. Or feeling like you can’t be honest or direct with your mother-in-law.
You should be comfortable with your child care. It’s hard to focus on work when you feel like you could be doing a better job than your nanny or day care.
Choose your child care carefully. How is your relationship with this person (or people)? Do they listen? Do you trust their capabilities? Can you be open and frank without feeling like you’ve offended them?
When you feel confident with your caretaker, handing the baby off for several hours and going in to work won’t feel too terrible. And sometimes it just might even be a much-needed break.
Why the first day back after maternity leave will get better
Let’s say you’ve nailed those two factors—your work is awesome, and your child care couldn’t be better. Yet you came home from your first day at work miserable, wishing you had been with your baby instead. And you dread doing it all over again the next day, and the next.
Chin up, mama. Check out these tips on how to deal with adjusting to your first day back after maternity leave:
1. Going back to work is an adjustment
Remember when you first got your job? You had no idea what any of the terms your coworkers were talking about. You hardly knew where the restrooms were.
Or how about when you moved into your home? Remember how annoying it was not to have internet access just yet or figuring out where to place your kitchen equipment?
Any new change is a transition. Heck, we should all know that after having birthed our kids. And just as crazy of an adjustment that was, that first day back will have its own set of challenges. You need to settle back in. Get updated. Get used to getting dressed every morning.
As with any adjustment, it’ll be difficult… up until you get your groove back and work becomes second nature.
2. The grass is always greener
We’ve got green eyes whenever we see moms taking their kids to the library while you’re dashing to grab your lunch. We wish we could lolly gag all day and come and go as we please, not at 8am like how the boss wants. I wished I could be a stay-at-home mom just so I can come and go as I pleased.
Little do you know some of those same moms are looking at you with envy as well. Wishing they could get a break from the kids. Reminiscing about wearing makeup and talking to adults. Wanting to make money and a contribution to something else besides kids.
Part of the unhappiness with going back to work might stem from assuming that all is rosy on the other side. It’s not. Every situation has its pros and cons, and yours is no different. While you may only see the cons right now, remind yourself you have many benefits other moms would envy.
3. Remind yourself of the benefits of being a working mom:
- You get to earn money.
- Work gives you a break from the kids.
- You have challenging and meaningful work besides the kids.
- You’re able to hang out with other people.
- Work is (usually) easier than raising kids.
- You don’t worry about re-entering the workforce down the line.
- You’re likelier to share equal duties at home with your partner.
4. Prepare during those first few weeks
You not at work in months + You tired in the mornings = Stress.
We all know it’s more prudent to prep the night before for the following morning. This is even more important those first few weeks you’re back at work. Not only are you sleep-deprived and tired, you’re also a little rusty about your going-to-work routine.
When I went back to work, I packed my lunch, chose my clothes and made sure I didn’t forget my pump parts. The things I didn’t want to think about come morning time.
5. Your kids will remember you
One of my favorite Maya Angelou quotes goes like this:
“I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”
Kids don’t keep tabs. They won’t love you less because you’re home at six instead of at three.
Instead, they’ll remember how you made them feel—the highlights. Not whether you cut their sandwich into a dinosaur shape, but that you did little things to delight them. And not that you can’t always volunteer at field trips, but that you showered him with love from the time you came home until he fell asleep.
Transitioning back to work after maternity leave can be difficult. But when you come prepared, have a healthy work environment and child care you trust, those first few days back don’t have to be so trying.
Tips for working mom with newborns
For many of us working moms, we’re going back to work when our babies are still newborns. It’s one thing to re-enter the working world when your child is a few years older. It’s another thing to handle the emotional and physical challenges of raising a newborn and going to work.
Here are tips you can do to make that transition easier:
- If pumping, bring a picture of your baby or a relaxing book to read.
- Change your baby’s (or your) schedule a few weeks before starting work.
- Introduce your baby to the bottle a few weeks before starting work (Ideally, you want to introduce the bottle at about three weeks old).
- Encourage your child to fall asleep on her own at nights by putting her down drowsy but awake.
- Keep your wardrobe simple.
- Do a test run with your child’s caregiver or daycare.
Do you feel frazzled with all the things you need to bring to work each day? I made a FREE to-do list and packing list you can print as a reminder of everything you need for the next day. Download it below:
Get more tips about going back to work:
- The “How Do You Do It” Working Moms Guide
- What Every Mom Needs to Know about Pumping at Work
- How to Ask for a Child-Friendly, Flexible Work Schedule
- Returning to Work After Maternity Leave
- 9 Secrets for a Successful Return to Work After Maternity Leave
Your turn: What was your first day back after maternity leave like? How do you stay positive when you’re feeling down about your circumstances? Do you think going back to work gets better? When? Share your thoughts in the comments!
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