When Maternity Leave Ends: Tips for Heading Back to Work

Returning to the office post maternity leave is tough. Having made the transition twice now, I have a few tips for successfully easing back into working mama mode.

There are more working mamas in the labor force than ever before, which means there are likely more mothers returning to work after having a baby as well. After soaking up the most beautiful moments from our maternity leave, we may feel sadness, guilt, and even anxiety about heading back to the office. Even though I love my work, I experienced all three. It is normal and it is okay. You got this Mama! Here are some tips that I hope will be helpful for you.

1. Plan Ahead.

Before I even went out on maternity leave I was prepared to come back to work. In the weeks around baby’s expected arrival date I carved out work time to organize my office, stockpile essential supplies, and develop a detailed plan for my coverage with co-workers. I created a folder with passwords and new procedures that I was likely to forget. I also met with my Human Resources Department to discuss details that would arise once I was back to work. This included payments on my health insurance premiums and documentation from my healthcare provider stating I was able to return to employment. If you plan to use a breast pump at work, plan ahead and designate comfortable locations to do so.

Related: Confessions of a Working Mama

2. Do not Expect it to be Easy.

No matter how much you do plan ahead, however, do not expect your return to work to be flawless. On my first day back I could not log into the computer system correctly and was “locked out” of a few applications due to inactivity. I wish I could say I handled it gracefully, but wrapped in the emotional swell of it all, I shed some tears.  Be easy on yourself and acknowledge that delays and frustrations are likely. When you encounter them, practice deep breathing, and determine the next steps with clear focus.

3. Take a Trial Run.

We enrolled my first son in daycare when I returned to work. I went back to the office on a Tuesday, using Monday as a trial run. I woke up when my husband did Monday morning, got ready for the day, and dropped my son off at daycare early. This was beneficial for me logistically and emotionally. My husband and I navigated a busy morning together and we made needed adjustments the following day. I also had a day to cry in the parking lot and more time to sort through my emotions since I did not have to rush into the office.

After my most recent maternity leave, my family’s situation was quite different. My husband’s primary job is stay-at-home-parent and my office is now based out of my home. I wish I would have taken a test run this year too. I assumed the transition would be easier, when in fact, it wasn’t much smoother. No matter what your situation, I believe taking a day to “practice” will make the big day less stressful.

Related: How to Navigate Attachment Parenting as a Working Mom

4. Treat Yourself to Something Special.

A little something for yourself post maternity leave may perk you up a bit. I treated myself to my favorite pens and a fun new reusable coffee cup that I used my first day back to work. Other ideas could include a special take out lunch, fresh flowers for your desk, a framed photo of your baby, or a coffee date with a co-worker or friend.

5. Schedule Self-Care Time.

My most recent transition back to work resulted in lower back pain that I thought I had resolved a few weeks prior. The stress of finding my new working mother flow, combined with more sitting and less yoga, left me stiff as a board. I had not planned ahead to find time to keep my yoga practice and since have been more mindful of that.

During your initial week back to work, schedule time for self care. Consider using your lunch break for meditation, to savor a cup of tea, or to read something that inspires you. Plan time to talk a walk before, during, or after work. Call a friend. Schedule a massage or reiki session. Do whatever you need to do for you and seek the support you may need to make it happen. The great news is eventually you will find more time for self care as you settle into a new routine.

Photo credit: VGstockstudio/Shutterstock

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