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back to work after baby

If you’re living in the U.S., you usually don’t get a lot of maternity leave to spend with your new baby. Which means that not only do you have to learn the ropes of motherhood pretty quickly, if you’re a working woman you have to figure out how this life-changing little bundle of joy fits into your 9-5 schedule. I asked new mommas to give me some tips on how to deal with going back to work after having a baby!

1.  Scheduling, scheduling, scheduling

Whatever your job, re-entry is going to be difficult. You’re going to have to come up with a completely new schedule for you and your baby as you settle into the work and daycare routine. So give yourself a break (and some extra time) each morning to get ready for the day. You might need to change things daily for the first few days, to see what works best for you, your family, and your baby. Try (although it might be difficult) not to stress too much the first few weeks. It’ll get easier with practice.

2.  Sort out daycare

Something a new mommy taught me: in most states daycares require a child be present for a minimum of 2 days out of the week. With childcare being expensive, not having the flexibility can be an added stress, as well as having to deal with the new strain on the budget. And how do you pick a daycare? With all the options, it can be overwhelming, not to mention the fact that you have to trust your newborn to strangers. Getting recommendations from other moms is the best way to suss out the daycare option that will suit you, and hopefully their experience will relieve your worries somewhat.

3.  Get in front of your boss

If possible, it’s best to talk to your boss before you return, so you can both be on the same page. Otherwise, make a meeting as soon as possible when you return to figure out expectations, flexibility, and role changes. The needs of a new mom are different than other coworkers, and you’ll may have to figure out daycare and pumping around meetings and projects. Getting your boss in your corner as soon as you return is the easiest way to smooth your re-entry into the workforce. Roles also might have changed while you’ve been gone, and knowing the lay of the land beforehand will be a lot less stressful than finding out your team has been rearranged on your first day back.

4.  Catch up with your coworkers

Speaking of rearranging teams, it’s a good idea to set meetings with the people you work closely with to get updates on what’s been happening while you’ve been out. If people have been covering projects or teams for you, you’ll need to know the status of each, but it’s also handy to know if people have moved roles, been promoted, or switched teams. Better to find this out sooner rather than later, as having a bunch of very confused coworkers emailing you will only add clutter to your already full mailbox. You also might want to check what others are working on, to see if priorities in your area have shifted while you’ve been gone. The best way to get caught up is to jump in at the deep end!

5.  Seek out support

Another great way to get back into the swing of things at work is to find other women in a similar situation. Whether your employer has a group just for new parents, or you can find one on social media, through your community, or friends, finding other new moms and getting advice, tips, and support on dealing with the challenges of being a working mommy will make you feel a lot less alone in the struggle. You can also band together and share stories of the ridiculous things people have said to you since being pregnant (no, maternity leave is not a holiday, and no they don’t want to know about your labour horror story).

6.  Embrace the emotions

After being inseparable from your baby for the length of your maternity leave, the new found freedom is going to feel…odd. You’re going to feel happy for the space. Then guilty you feel happy. You’re going to miss your baby like crazy, and then feel guilty for getting distracted at work. You’re head is going to be everywhere, and your emotions will be all over the place. And that is totally okay. Every new mom feels like way, you aren’t alone. Which leads me to…

7.  Take your time

It’s all a lot to get used to. Motherhood, mixed with a career, and new responsibilities, and dealing with the lack of sleep on a new schedule. You’re going to forget stuff – like your computer at home when you snuck out of work early, or the bottles for daycare when you were running late. You’re doing fine. Don’t worry if you’re not an expert by day one, or even week one. Take your time, and try and enjoy the process. It’s all part of being a mom, right?

There’s one last thing to mention when it comes to returning to work after your baby: you don’t have to if you don’t want to. Remember, it’s your choice, so make sure it’s something you want to do, and then make your decision knowing that it’s yours and yours alone to make. Mothers come in all shapes, sizes, and life experiences. You do what works best for you, your family, and your baby, and never mind what the rest of the world has to say!

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