Inside: Preparing to return to work after maternity leave? Take it from these moms – it’s hard, but you’ve got this!
Where do we even start with the confusing, emotional, exciting, and anxiety-producing time that is the return to work after maternity leave?
Whether you are returning to work after maternity leave after 8 weeks, 3 months, a year or more, you are going through a major life change that’s hard to explain unless you’ve been there. A brand new baby, a new identity, pants with buttons again? Yikes…it’s a lot.
Luckily, these moms I solicited advice from in real life and on the ‘gram HAVE been there and while everyone’s experience is going to be different, the advice they have to share is gold!
Scroll on through and you’re going to find the words that resonate with you and give you exactly the inspiration, motivation, and support you need during this big transition.
You’ve got this, mama!
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Advice from Real Moms on the Return to Work After Maternity Leave
It’s Okay to Be Sad (And Happy!)
“It’s hard. You’re allowed to cry. But also, you’re allowed to enjoy going to work.”
Every piece of advice in here is wonderful, but this one is going first because I think it’s something we all need to know. The return to work after maternity leave means being away from your baby and that’s hard. But returning to work after maternity leave also means eating lunch sitting down, talking to adults, and going to the bathroom whenever you want, and that’s nice.
Which brings us to our next point…
“Becoming a mom doesn’t make you any less you. It’s okay to love your work and be excited to go back!”
You are a kick-butt professional and you have worked incredibly hard to get where you are in your career. If you love your job, that’s amazing! You can love your baby and love your job. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.
Use Your Words
“Communicate what you need!”
I love this return to work after maternity leave advice. Communication is key!
In a perfect world, our partners, kids, and colleagues could read our minds (only the relevant stuff!) and then do the things we need. But that’s not reality. It’s so important to ask for what we need at the office and at home to curb the overwhelm.
“It’s okay to change your mind. This is new to you, and if you need to step back, forward, sideways or carve out a whole new path, there’s nothing wrong with that.”
For some reason we expect ourselves to know how we’re going to feel after having a baby and becoming a mother (for the first, second, or third time.) Yet when a baby is born, a mother is born too and your world changes.
For me, I thought I would go back to work part-time after my second child was born. Honestly though, that was harder than full-time – both financially and from the pressure of getting everything done in a short amount of time. So, after about three months of driving myself bananas, I went back to full-time status. You’re allowed to change your mind – once, twice, many times – and then go seek out the arrangement that works best for you and your family.
What’s for Dinner Advice
“Don’t try to do it all perfectly. If that means making easy dinners or ordering out, do it.”
Spoiler alert: It’s not possible for one person to do all the things. You can do a lot of things, but not all the things. Order out, switch off who is making dinner, microwave some nuggets. Do what you got to do and don’t be worried about Pinterest perfection.
“Cook on the weekends in big quantities. Divide and freeze.”
Freezer meals are awesome for when you have a newborn, but they become a game changer again when you head back to work after maternity leave. You will be SO glad to have a lasagna stored away in the freezer, especially that first week back.
Check out some meal prep tips from cookbook author and working mom, Ruthy Kirwan!
Pumping at Work Advice
“Bring an extra shirt at all times if you’re pumping!”
Now that’s just practical! No one wants to imagine a spilled milk incident or springing a leak in a staff meeting, but it can happen. Throw an extra shirt in your bag or in your desk drawer and cross that worry off your list.
“If you can, borrow a spare breast pump from a friend and buy extra parts. Having one pump at the office and one pump at home means once less things to carry back and forth.”
Breastfeeding did not work out with either of my kids despite my best intentions. I was bummed out about it at first, but they are fine. So there’s my two cents on that. Ditch the guilt!
But if you are pumping at work, an extra pump can make life a lot easier. More offices are getting on board with fully outfitted lactation rooms, too, including a pump that you can use with your own parts. Dear employers – more of this, please and thank you!
The Baby Will Be Okay!
“It will be way harder for you than baby, you’ve got this.”
I’ll tell you, I needed to hear this piece of advice about fifty thousand times. Leaving Jack for the first time I was terrified that he would be unhappy, uncomfortable, or develop some serious abandonment issues. He wasn’t unhappy, he wasn’t uncomfortable, and six years in, we seem to be good on the abandonment issue part.
It was true, that first ugly cry back into the office day was harder for me than him. Same deal with my daughter Norah. They were, and are, totally fine!
“Ask the babysitter to send random pics throughout the day.”
And because it’s going to be harder for you than the baby, ease the pain a bit with pictures!
My first week back to work, my husband took time off so he was sending constant photo updates. And when the kids went to daycare, the daycare provider offered an app and they would upload pictures throughout the day. Pictures of those smiley faces make it so much easier.
“Ease into if you can. A couple of days at work or half days helps a lot (It will be fine if you can’t too.)”
Let’s hear it for the family-friendly workplaces that promote easing back in after maternity leave! If this is a policy your organization has in place, say yes. If it’s not a policy your organization has in place, ask. This doesn’t have to be a permanent arrangement (or maybe it will be) but even in the short term it makes a big difference.
“Don’t pressure yourself to take on more than normal because you’re coming off leave.“
As you return to work after maternity leave, you might feel like you need to prove yourself back in the office. I get that. You’re a hard worker and you don’t want anyone to forget it.
However, if you push yourself too hard you could burn out quickly. Plus, remember you weren’t twiddling your thumbs for three months and now you’re behind on work. You were birthing a child, recovering from birthing a child, and learning how to parent that child. You also made a coverage plan before you left so stuff got done. Good on you!
Jump back into your job, but please remember you’re human and don’t be afraid to set boundaries.
Be Kind To Yourself
“Let go of the mom guilt. Also, if you figure out how to do this please let me know!”
Mom guilt is THE WORST and I wish I could wave a magic wand and make it disappear. I don’t know that we can entirely though, because as working mothers we are sharing our time, our energy, and our hearts and finding that perfect balance…well, I don’t know if we can.
Here’s what I know for sure. You do your best to be your best wherever you are at the moment, and you can take comfort in the fact that other moms are feeling the same way. A little torn, a little confused, and doing the very best they know how. You aren’t alone.
“Be kind to yourself. There’s no right way to do this, so trust you’re doing what’s best for your family.”
For some people going back to work is a choice, for many others, it is a necessity, and in either case, you made the choice you needed to make for your financial situation, your family’s well-being, and for you. You matter in this equation too, my friend!
Whatever the situation, I know it’s hard on your heart to return to work after maternity leave, but you can do this. You really can. You’re smart, capable, strong, and that color you’re wearing looks lovely on you, I must say. (Wink!)
Big Hugs to You as you Return to Work After Maternity Leave!
I hope all of these words of wisdom from other working moms will help you as you return to work after maternity leave.
And if you need a few more words, check out my book, When Mommy Grows Up. It’s all about working mom life, defining success on your own terms, and building a life and career you love. Plus, as an added bonus, it’s funny!
Lots of love to you, new mama!