As a first-time mother, returning from maternity leave after 4 months off, I found myself in need of support and advice. How was I going to manage the commute? Would I get much quality time with my baby? Could I concentrate in the office knowing he was being cared for by a stranger?
I didn’t have the option of not returning to work and as “d-day” drew near, I felt unsettled. I read blogs, asked friends, joined online groups and called my sisters.
Here are my top takeaways after my first month back:
Have a transition plan
The best thing I did in coming back to work was to have a nanny for the first 3 weeks before starting daycare. Not having to get the baby out the door each morning allowed me to clear my head on my commute and think about my work day priorities. Throughout the day, I was comforted knowing he was at home with a familiar face and that made the maternity leave transition more manageable for me. I got reacquainted with the professional version of myself, rather than worrying about how my little guy was adapting to strangers in a new environment.
Maybe a nanny, au pair or family member is your full-time plan, and in that case, have them start coming over a few days a week in advance of your return date. Make sure that you are comfortable with the routine and work out the kinks in advance so that the transition is as smooth as possible for mom, baby and caregiver.
Ask for what you need after maternity leave
There’s that age-old saying, “If you don’t ask, you won’t get.” Every new parent has a different home situation, a different commute and unique feelings about leaving their child in someone else’s care. It’s OK to communicate your specific needs with your manager or HR team and see if they will accommodate you.
Depending on your company, you might have a more flexible return-from-maternity-plan, other places are more rigid. If what you need is to work from home 1 day a week for the first month, ask for it. The worst that can happen is management says no, but you won’t know until you ask.
Don’t schedule meetings too close to either end of your day
Morning and evening commutes are hectic enough. To avoid extra stress, don’t schedule early morning and late afternoon meetings when you can help it. There is nothing worse than being stuck in a meeting, unable to focus, because you know you’re going to be late to pick up your child. Traffic and trains can be unpredictable, so giving yourself a buffer before/after meetings and calls can help alleviate the travel stress. Remember that if you’re stuck on a train or in traffic, chances are your colleagues and other parents are too!
There are so many people going through the exact same challenges as you are.. RIGHT NOW. Right this very moment. Having a safe space to vent and express concerns can do wonders to calm anxiety. Online support groups can be a great, safe place to find answers to questions you might be too embarrassed to ask in person. Google your question and you will find tons of forums, chock full of other mothers asking the same thing. Sift through the replies, you can pick up helpful tips and lessons from absolute strangers.
Take it one step further. If there are other working mothers at your company, start a support group. You can create a private chat group online or even meet once a month for lunch. Swap stories, share your favorite products and bring in clothes that no longer fit your little one. Trading gear and donating what’s left over is a nice little way for your group to give back!
From one working parent to another, you’re doing great!