Surviving Your First Week After Maternity Leave Ends
Returning to your job after having a baby can be a challenging time. Here’s a primer on showing up at the office in top form.
1) Let go of the guilt.
Guilt is one of those things that seems to arrive with motherhood along with tiredness, jelly belly, stained clothes and everyone’s unsolicited advice. Working outside the home doesn’t make you a bad mother – and it’s alright to look forward to the challenges of your job. Remind yourself that you’re doing what’s best for you and your family.
2) Do a trial run.
By now, you should have already settled the childcare arrangement for your baby. Whether it’s a relative, babysitter, or daycare centre, have your child begin a week or two before your maternity leave ends. Optimise the free time with errands that get you ready for work: sort out working clothes, go for a haircut, or get extra supplies for your child’s caregiver. This gives your baby the opportunity to adjust to the new people and surroundings.
3) Take small steps.
Familiarise yourself with the work environment by visiting the office to introduce your new baby to your colleagues. Check with your employer if it’s possible to work flexible hours or part time for a few weeks until your baby settles down at the caregiver’s. Clarify your job responsibilities and expectations in the first few months. You may also want to share your intention to continue breastfeeding and request for permission to take breaks throughout the day to pump.
4) Pack everything in advance.
List down what you and your baby need for the next day before you call it a night. Prepare your breastpump, containers for expressed milk, an insulated bag and ice packs. Keep a stash of breastpads and extra blouses handy, in case your breasts leak. For the baby’s bag, make sure the necessities such as milk bottles, diapers and extra clothes are ready.
5) Get organised.
Make a daily to-do list and divide it into tasks for work, and task for home. Brainstorm with your husband and decide who’s doing what, or take turns each day. Be realistic and flexible if you can’t get one or two things done. Identify what you need to do, what can wait and what you can skip entirely. Set your alarm accordingly, and get out of bed when it rings!
6) Get plenty of rest.
After being away for a couple of months, it’s normal to feel drained during your first week back no matter how prepared you are. Go to bed as soon as possible each evening. Get your husband to handle any night wakings.
7) Dress the part.
Plan out a week’s worth of work outfits to save you time each morning. Treat yourself to a couple of new things, such as a flattering pencil skirt, to update your look. Don’t forget to wear some confidence and most of all, a smile!
8) Brace yourself for illnesses.
If your baby goes to a group childcare, the first few months are usually punctuated by colds, fevers and ear infections. The only silver lining is that minor illnesses strengthen your child’s immune system.
9) Stay connected.
Develop a good relationship with your baby’s caregiver. Call or text her to find out how your baby’s doing. Ask about any important events that occurred in your absence, such as bowel movements, eating patterns or a new way of playing. Take time to periodically discuss your baby’s progress and any problems or concerns. Switch back to mummy mode once you get home and spend time to reconnect with your baby.
10) Have back-up plans.
Know what you’ll do if your baby is sick or your baby’s caregiver is unavailable on a workday – such as taking turns between your husband and yourself to take time off, or calling a relative to care for your baby.
Don’t set unrealistic targets or try to do everything yourself. Accept help when necessary. Speak up if you’re feeling guilty, sad or overwhelmed.
12) Nurture your own well-being.
Maintain a positive attitude. Relax and unwind with a favourite book or soft music at the end of the day. Cut down on unnecessary commitments. On your days off, sleep when your baby sleeps.