10 Tips For New Mothers To Join Back Work After Maternity Leave
Motherhood is a crazy happy journey. Suddenly your life changes completely with new priorities and concerns. Life is all about tending the little human who is completely dependent on you. At first, everything seems overwhelming. The struggle of breastfeeding(not as natural as it is portrayed), the wild sleepless nights and trying to figure out why the baby is crying, wreck the nerves. Then things start pacing down. We, the new mothers, start gaining confidence and the situation somewhat improves. Just when everything begins to fall into place, another challenge arrives. It's time to re-join the office after the maternity break.
Back during pregnancy, deciding when you’d return to work after maternity leave might have seemed pretty straightforward. But now that reality beckons, you would be surprised by the flood of emotions that swamp your thoughts.
The transition likely feels anything but simple. It was months ago that you last visited the office premises. You’ve been out of the flow of the office for weeks or months. And now that you are re-joining you must try and establish a new balance at home and the workplace, even as you struggle to cope with the demands new motherhood places on us.
I joined back in my office when my baby was around 6 months. Being in a bank I could not avail any work from home option. So here I share some practical pointers for how to navigate those challenging weeks back at work.
- Plan the alternative child care well ahead along with a backup plan
The first job is to find good child care, whether you choose a nanny, a day care centre or home care. Test out options much ahead of your return. With a calm mind, consider your choices. Let the baby be familiar with the alternate caregiver, be it a nanny or a family member. Don’t make the first day you go back to work the first day your child goes to a new caregiver. Give the baby time to settle down with the alternate caregiver. Start with small practice sessions – like step out for an hour or two and let the caregiver handle her completely. If you have decided to use a day care facility, start with smaller hours before you leave him for the day. In this way, both you and the little one would gain confidence. Also, plan backup child care. It’s smart to have a backup sitter, family member or close friend who can babysit in case your caregiver cancels, the day care is closed or there’s another emergency.
- Fix the routine of the baby
Babies and toddlers do best when their days are organized and predictable. Try to maintain the same routine. Not every day will be the same. Routine will fail sometimes. But, most of the time this will save a lot of hassle. The baby’s daytime routine and mother's new work schedule need to be coordinated by the time one decides to go back to work. For this, a healthy eating and sleep schedule is a must. If the little one sleeps late, wakes at odd hours the working schedule of the mom is hampered. So prepare a sleep routine. Set a bedtime and wake-up time that supports your work schedule. For a better sleeping schedule, you can add some pre-sleep activities which will let the baby know it is time to sleep. Finish the dinner early and around the same time every day. Give him a sponge bath, change him into a nightdress, relax in a dark or dimly lit room or you can incorporate a bedtime story ritual.
- Put the baby on the family pot –
We mothers fuss a lot about our baby's food once solid is started after 6 months of age. Instead of investing in commercial baby food or separate pureed or mashed cooking for the baby, start with the same kind of food the family eats in baby size minus the salt and chilly. You can look up more about baby-led weaning(BLW) on the internet. The advantage – time and effort for cooking decreases. You no longer need to think about making or purchasing suitable purées. One can simply offer their babies BLW-appropriate versions of the family meals and use the saved time in more useful activities.
- Schedule everything well ahead –
Start with making daily to-do lists. Time management is the key element. Tick out all those not important and not urgent jobs from your list. Figure out what can wait - maybe a little while, or maybe forever. In the workplace prioritize the jobs as per importance and try to avoid the small talks. You have a duty to finish and leave for another duty. Discuss with the colleagues about your situation and start sharing loads that can be shared. At the home front make a list of the menu well ahead, perhaps during the weekend and follow the same. Utilize the weekends. If you can, prepare some items that can be used during the week. If you are pumping your breast milk, ensure to keep that time aside. Most importantly in daily routine, set aside time for completely spending with your child without any distraction. I will explain more about this in the next point.
- Focus on Quality time spent and not the quantity
You know your baby wants to spend time with you – and you with her. It is important to know that it’s not the quantity of time together but rather the quality of time together. If you spend a meaningful 30 minutes with the baby, snuggling him, reading a book to him, playing his favourite game, that is better than being in the same room with your baby for an hour while your baby plays and you scroll the mobile. So, if you worry that you’re not spending enough time with your child, remember to make the moments you do have together count by engaging the most. Take plenty of photos, capture videos together. These are the moments that will be cherished forever. Plus these photos and videos help to calm you down when you miss him a lot during office time.
- Invest in CCTV
This is from my personal experience. It is the best investment I have ever made. Currently, you get those cameras that are movement-sensitive and allow two-way voice communication. Believe me when I say that would comfort your nerves when you leave your baby with the nanny at home. You can give your instruction, check on the baby whenever you want. And these cameras are not overly expensive. You can see how he is eating, or keep an eye when the baby is sleeping and the nanny is at some other place. For day care, choose one with a CCTV facility. This helps to soothe the anxious nerve and ensures safety.
- Do a wardrobe check
Laughing at this point? Are you? Don’t. This is important. For months you have spent inside the home in comfortable maternity clothes. Now you need to dive deep down your wardrobe and pull out those office clothes. Try clothes on to check they still fit appropriately, since both pregnancy and breastfeeding can change your figure. If required before joining restock a few office attire. If you are breastfeeding, invest in good nursing pads as you never know when leaking will start.
- Join mom-groups
There are several Facebook and WhatsApp groups where you can connect with fellow new mothers, experienced mothers where you will get good suggestions and resources that will make your life easier. Moreover discussing with moms sailing on the same boat reduces the tension and helps to make decisions. Several groups suggest quick and easy recipes, tricks and ways to start solids for babies. Then there will be groups that give a good lead for emergency maid services. Keep those contacts handy.
- Seek support
Don’t hesitate to take support from your partner, family members or colleagues. This is the time you would need all the help in the world. Share the chores, learn to delegate responsibilities. And most importantly learn to be happy with others’ jobs. Maybe you would have done it differently but, give others a chance. You don’t have to take all the onus of the world. At least not now.
- Throw away the mom guilt
The final and the most important tip. Mom guilt now, more than ever, is going to be strong, but it doesn’t have to be. Do not burden yourself with the guilt trip for not being present with your baby 24X7. The dynamics of motherhood have changed in the past decades. The narrative of a "good mother" -one who attends to every need of their family and puts everyone before herself, is nothing but a patriarchal ploy used for ages to keep down the women. Work to relax those judgments and meet yourself with compassion and understanding. Spring clean your surroundings and keep the judgmental lot away from yourself. And ultimately learn to be gentle with yourself. You are giving the best possible efforts and your baby will understand. Your little one will grow up learning the value of financial independence, sharing of loads and will vouch for strong women. So fellow mommas do not give up your career dreams if you can figure out ways to handle both.
Have a Trial Run
Prepare yourself for your new morning routine: plan a trial run complete with setting an alarm, dropping off the baby with the nanny or the childcare, and staying away from the baby for a few hours. The going-to-office routine before the baby came might have been sorted. But, now things have changed. A trial run will give you time to work out any gaps and develop your new routine with your baby.
Getting back the same momentum at the office might take some time. But, don’t give up. Remember, millions of mothers do it regularly, you can do it too. The key is to believe in yourself. Trust that you are the right mother for your kids and you would be fine in balancing both the world. And, of course, chalk out the plans well in advance and face the world with your chin up.
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Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in this post are the personal views of the author. They do not necessarily reflect the views of The Mom Store.
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