A week from today, I’ll be returning to work after a luxuriously extended maternity leave. I feel incredibly lucky to have been able to take more time off for our second baby (due to a miscalculation, I actually didn’t take the full leave - actually ANY time, since he was born during summer break - I should have for our first), to write and work on my own projects, to snuggle and experience the sweet newness of our sweet girl, and to help our son through the emotional transition.
But, now it’s time for my own emotional transition. No matter how much (or little) time you take when you have a baby, if you head back into the workplace, it’s Tough with a capital “T.” Okay, worse than that.
Today, I’m here with some tips that are helping me get my head back in the game and making the transition a bit less bumpy, a bit less emotional.
- Plan in advance, if possible. If you’re anything like me, your mind will be on getting back in the work groove, dealing with any anxieties of returning, and, of course, the distraction of being without your little one. If you’re a breastfeeding mama, you’ll also be figuring out your pumping schedule. The last thing you’ll want to think about is stuff like cooking and cleaning.
So, if you have the time before going back, try to do a bit of extra cleaning. Make a couple of extra meals for the freezer, or at least jot down a basic meal plan of your family’s simplest, favorite meals. Embrace the slow cooker. You’ll thank yourself when you walk into a picked-up house knowing what you’ll be eating that evening.
- Create cushions of time and fill them with simple joys. Find short, five minute spurts of time throughout the day to give yourself a mental break. Listen to your favorite Pandora station. Gaze at a picture of your child. Text the sitter to check in. Or even just have a child-free coffee break (which is now far easier than it once was) or some meditation.
And even on those crazy busy evenings, take a moment to listen to coos, splash together in the tub or write in the baby book. These will be your memories; not the meal making and diaper washing.
- Don’t overbook free time. Evenings and weekends will be more precious than ever, so plan wisely. Sure, we all have things come up that are unavoidable. But, this isn’t the time for those extra activities that keep us running 7 days a week.
In our case, this means that we’re skipping a month or so of Saturday morning kindermusik. This transition will be just as strange on our 3-year-old son, who won’t have as much time from his grandmother (who sits for us) with sister tagging along, so this is a good time to take a break and make family time a priority.
- Allow yourself the freedom to adjust. This is a tough one, especially for mothers (for some strange reason). We simply don’t cut ourselves any slack. We expect perfection out of ourselves. At least, I’m hoping I’m not the only one. ;-)
Change is hard. It takes flexibility and leeway. Allow yourself that leeway and allow yourself to be sad. Just remember that it will get easier. Just with all phases of parenting, this, too, shall pass.
- Plan for something special. Having something for your family to look forward to, even if it’s a quick day trip or looking towards a holiday on the calendar can pick up your spirits. For us, it may be a trip to the farmers’ market or even just planning a family vacation.
And, for the more mundane, the fact that we’ll have a Superintendent’s Conference Day at the end of our first week back will throw just enough of a breather into the week that it won’t feel QUITE as long.
- Most importantly, ASK FOR HELP. You know how, when you have a baby, people tell you to ask for help? Not to take on all the tasks yourself? It’s totally true, and it doesn’t end after baby’s second week. This time is just a different type of challenge, and you don’t have to deal with it all on your own.
Be sure that your partner knows that you’re in need of just that - a partner-in-crime to help, whether by doing some dishes, picking up dinner, or folding some laundry. Mention oh-so-politely that you really love your mother’s tuna casserole...and you may find yourself with an extra meal. (If only my guys ate it, too. ;-)) Whatever it takes, help yourself by accepting the offers.
What do you think - anything to add? If you’ve ever had to return to work after a baby, what are your favorite tips for your fellow parents?
MEGAN MCCOY DELLECESE writes about her life as a mom and her family’s attempts at living a realistically green life at her blog, Meg Acts Out. She has a soft spot for DIY blogs, Katharine Hepburn movies, the Monkees, and community theatre. Megan lives in upstate New York with her husband, two quirky kiddos, and three rescued cats.