Going Back to Work From Maternity Leave: You Can Do It!
Taking maternity leave allows a new mother to spend quality time bonding with her newborn child. It’s also important for her own recovery. While advancements are being made towards the length of time given to new mothers particularly in the state of Massachusetts, oftentimes whether for personal desire or for financial reasons women may choose to return earlier. When this time comes to an end it can be difficult for her to face the idea of returning to work. Whether she’ll be working from an office or from home, there are many emotions involved.
Easing into this transition is no easy task, however, there are a few ways in which you can make this process easier.
First, you’ll want to work out all of the logistics of your return. Coordinate a meeting with your company about the details of your return. It’s important that you’re on the same page as your manager and team members. Showing up to work the first day back aware of what’s been happening while you were away, is a good way to show your manager that you are prepared and ready for this return. Work with them to plan the first few weeks back as they shift the workload back over to you. You should also have an open discussion with your human resources department about benefits that may be available to you such as a private room for pumping needs or flexible hours.
Preparing yourself and your child for this transition requires practice, planning and time. Organizing everything you’ll both need ahead of time will help to calm your nerves. Lay out the clothes that both of you plan to wear the night before, and your meals and bags. This makes hectic mornings go much smoother. Attempt to make a dry run of the commute from where you will be dropping your child off (if applicable) to where you work. It’s also helpful after you establish childcare for your baby to spend time becoming acquainted with them. If you’ve hired a nanny have them come over for a few hours. If it’s a daycare, start bringing your baby there a few days before your return.
One thing that many mothers neglect, is their own self-care. Balancing your life and career is hard enough. It’s understandable why many women make this their last priority. Its human nature to place others needs before your own. Though neglecting your own needs, can lead to negative consequences in both your physical and mental health. Make an active decision to make time for activities that you enjoy like yoga or painting. It’s also important to return to work looking and feeling good about yourself. For example, if you find that your professional clothes don’t fit as well postpartum, invest in new pieces that will make you feel good. Opt for options that are practical, like a comfortable nursing bra and loose blouses. As simple as it may seem, it’s even important to remind yourself of the simple things like taking a deep breath or stretching.
Take this process as slow as possible. There’s no need to rush into this. Your employer will understand that it may take you a few weeks to fully return to your position at full strength. If it’s possible to return in the middle of the week, do so. This will allow your first week to feel a little more manageable since it will be shorter. You may also consider having the discussion with your employer about working remotely whether temporarily for a few days or on a more regular basis.
Ask others for help when you feel overwhelmed. Raising a child is hard enough but managing your career on top of that is even more difficult. Find your support system. You’re going to need them when things start to get hectic. Even just having someone come over to watch your child for a few hours so you can have a peaceful trip to the grocery store or take a nap makes a big difference.
There are many critics who will judge mothers for choosing to have careers. These judgments will come from many different sources and might invoke the inevitable “mom guilt” within you. However, you are choosing to do what is best for you and your family. Remember this and ignore them. It’s as simple as that. Family always comes first. Many women have built successful careers that give them great joy. We should be praising these women for chasing their dreams while being a great mother, not shaming them.
Many women may be pleasantly surprised to learn that a study has shown that children actually benefit more by having a full-time working mother. These children were shown to be more likely to acquire a job, have higher salaries and take on leadership roles. With statistics such as this, it’s clear that you’re making the right choice. As hard as this transition may be, know that you are strong, brave, and capable of succeeding.