photo credit: Ana Koska@ http://littlenoseandtoes.com
Congratulations, you are new Mom! Ever since your new bundle of joy made his or her grand entrance, the two of you have co-existed in this alternate universe called “maternity leave.’ However, if you have decided to continue working outside the home, at some point it will become necessary to dust off the work bag, arrange for childcare, and go back to work. This is a day all new Moms who work outside the home dread. Every Mom’s experience is different. However, based on my own experience with the transition, here are a few things you will want to consider and tips for how to deal with them:
1. The first day you go back to work will be very difficult for you. Let’s face it. Regardless of how solid the childcare is for baby– even if the caregiver is your spouse or a grandparent– the fact that you, Mom, will be separated from your baby is going to royally stink. I was able to spend 3 months home with Sweet Pea and during that time we really became our own ‘Mommy and Me’ bubble. The outside world pretty much ceased to exist. That changed the moment I stepped back into the office. All of a sudden, the last 3 months of to-do’s, deadlines, meetings, and workplace drama updates came flooding in like a tsunami, leaving my tattered and highly emotional self in its wake.
Tips to deal:
- Recognize that you will be emotional and allow for it. There is no shame.
- Reach out to other Moms in your office. The one thing that helped me cope was my friend who had just come back to work after the birth of her daughter a few months before.
- Bring a few of the best photos of your baby. Seriously, a lot of folks will want to see photographic evidence of your pride and joy. Even if they don’t though— you will need to have photos handy for your own emotional well-being. Just don’t overdo it.
- Don’t try to relive the time you were away. I came back to 16,000 (yes, you read that correctly) emails. Wow! I spent a day or two ensuring critically important emails were read and/or flagged, and then everything else was either bulk deleted or saved off into a personal folder.
- Consider going back to work in the middle of the week. That way the first work week back will not seem as long.
2. If/when you decide to enroll your baby in a childcare center, expect that their first day will also be slightly traumatic for you (especially if it coincides with your first day back to work). However, it will most likely be a lot less traumatic for your baby. Drop-off is horrible. Sweet Pea is almost 2 years old and drop-off is still horrible. However, if you have picked a provider you are comfortable with, and they are licensed in early childhood education, safety, etc…, you can breathe easier knowing that the separation crying usually lasts until about 1 minute after you leave. Then, unless your child is sick, they will be fine the rest of the day.
Tips to deal:
- Put the center’s number on speed dial. If you are concerned, call and check in on your baby’s progress. The first few weeks after returning to work, I called once a day and got a mini-report on how Sweet Pea was doing. How did she sleep? How did she eat? Did she poop yet? Her teacher was very open and always had a report ready for me… which always ended with her assurance that Sweet Pea was doing just fine. That was important.
- As horrible as drop-off is, pick-up is like a daily party! Seriously! Even as young as 4 or 5 months old, Sweet Pea would get so incredibly excited when we picked her up. Once she could sit up, she would pump her arms up and down in excitement. Once she was able to toddle.. she would literally run over to me or my husband. It wasn’t that she did not have a great time. She was just so happy to see us. That was, and still is, the best part of my day.
3. You will need to drastically and immediately hone your organizational skills. Regardless of whether you are breastfeeding or using formula, you will not be able to personally feed your baby while you work. This fact alone is going to cause a major re-prioritization of your ‘free’ time. If you are breastfeeding, you will need to pump (both at home and at work), you will need to prepare fresh bottles every day, and in the evening you will need to clean those bottles. When I first went back to work, the nightly bottle cleaning task could take upwards of 45 minutes. Just be prepared. In addition to feeding, you will now be expected to provide a regular supply of diapers, changes of clothes, wipes, ointments, and bedding so that your childcare provider will have what they need to keep baby well-fed, well-diapered, and well-rested. That is a lot of new balls to juggle.
Tips to deal:
- Use the assembly-line approach. Especially with the bottle cleaning. Rinse the bottles out as soon as you get home and let them soak. When it comes time to wash and refill, wash like with like: all the nipples at once, all the main bottles at once, etc… Then, line up the clean bottles and starting filling ’em up. I found that this could shave as much as 5 to 10 minutes off the process. An eternity of time saved.
- Keep baby staples on the level where your door is. In other words, keep diapers, wipes, clothes, etc.. handy so you can easily grab and go in the morning.
4. You are a new Mom. Life will never be the same. Ha! I know this sounds obvious, but on a fundamental level you are not the person you were before your baby was born. Clearly, being a first time Mom is the biggest adjustment, but each addition to your fold irrevocably changes you… and that is a good thing. Still, don’t be surprised if you are really hormonal (especially if you are breastfeeding), if it is way more difficult to look or feel ‘put together,’ or if you have Mom brain. You know, Mom brain- where your attention span is about as short as that of your children and you forget important details that used to be effortless— like the name of your dog.
Tips to deal:
- In a way, you probably don’t really want to deal with this. Being a Mom can be very liberating. To the extent that you feel comfortable embracing that feeling at work– let yourself. Folks evolve all the time and once your baby gets a little older, the haze of new motherhood will make way for the hyper-organization and laser-focus of the Mom who is running a household in addition to her 9-5 job.
- In the meantime, get in the habit of writing things down. Appointments, grocery lists, reminders to schedule coffee with your best friend… Documenting the things you need to remember will help mitigate the effects of Mom Brain.
- Take walks. If you are feeling hormonal, emotional, etc… just remove yourself from the situation. Take a walk, pull yourself together, and when you get back to your desk, take a look at that gorgeous picture of your baby on your desk, and remember-
Your life has changed… but you wouldn’t want it any other way!
Thanks for reading!
Federal laws governing Workplace support for Nursing Mothers: