Whether your maternity leave was 6 days, 6 weeks or 6 months, that first day back can be difficult. You’re leaving your little one for an extended period – maybe for the first time ever. This emotionally fraught time can be tempered with a little planning so that the practical aspects fall into place smoothly.
- Go back mid-week. Talk to your employer about starting back on a Wednesday (if you typically work Monday through Friday) so you’ll only have a few workdays before a day off. Or, if you can, consider going back part-time, then easing into the full-time schedule after a couple of weeks.
- Know how often you’ll need to pump, as well as how often you actually can pump. Ideally you’ll want to pump as often as your baby would nurse if you were together, but that isn’t always practical in the work world. Will you use break time, lunch time, other breaks throughout the day? Who will cover for you? How far is the pumping room from your usual work station? Plan ahead where you’ll pump – hopefully you have talked to your employer about the need for pumping and worked together to decide where would be best (maybe your company even has a lactation room!). Having a realistic picture of these logistics will help that first day run more efficiently. Nursing your baby one last time when you drop him off at daycare, and planning to nurse him as soon as you pick him up might lighten the workday pumping load.
- Get as much ready as you can the night before. Make sure clothes are ready for you and for baby so you don’t even need to think about it in the morning, and double-check the alarm is set. Pack your lunch, the diaper bag and your pump bag. Set it all together near the door. You may even want to go as far as having an easy after work meal planned (or premade) so you can relax with your baby when you get home.
- Do a dry run before your back to work date. Wake up when you’ll normally need to for work, shower, dress, do your hair and makeup. Then drive to work. This will allow you to determine how long everything takes, then you can add baby care, feeding and a stop at daycare to the mix. Just knowing you have enough time to do it all will leave you feeling much less rushed on your first day back
- Divide responsibilities. Work with your partner so that it’s clear who will be doing what once you return to work. Who will shop, clean, prepare meals, wash laundry, run errands? Who is taking baby to daycare or picking him up? Having a plan in place will eliminate miscommunication and facilitate the back to work routine.
- Reassess. If things aren’t working well after your return to work, you’ll need to consider ways to tweak your schedule. Is it as simple as adjusting the morning routine a little, for instance by showering the night before? If the problems are broader, is it possible to do your job in novel ways – for instance telecommuting at least occasionally? Do you need a career change to go along with the change in your motherhood status? While major shifts like this aren’t always needed, consider all aspects when you’re having difficulty with your return to work.