Maternity leave is glorious. Not glamorous by any means, but glorious for sure. I think all working moms agree that maternity leave is never long enough, am I right? It’s no secret that the U.S. is on a very short list of countries that do not mandate paid leave for new mothers. It’s a darn shame but that’s the way it is. However, my main problem with maternity leave is that, at some point, it has to end.
During my pregnancy, I read a ton of magazine articles, blog posts and pamphlets about how to prepare for the first few weeks at home with our new baby but I didn’t dedicate any research to prep for the end of my maternity leave. As the weeks went by, the knot in my stomach continued to grow and I realized that there should be an entire chapter in those “what to expect” books about how incredibly difficult it will be to leave your baby at daycare and return to work. Seriously, why isn’t there a widely-known term for these feelings similar to the postpartum “baby blues”? After talking with other moms I quickly learned that the void and guilt I was feeling is completely normal and that I’m not the only one fighting back tears when I think about someone other than me snuggling my daughter all day.
Going back to work is an emotional roller coaster, but it can also make you feel a little bit like Super Woman. You know… like, “Look at me, I can do it all!!!”. It may not be pretty but it’s doable and for many families (like ours) it’s unavoidable. So if you are wrapping up maternity leave and heading back to the working world, here are a few things to keep in mind…
Add an hour to your morning routine.
The only thing I hate more than my morning alarm is being rushed to get out the door. Practice your new routine a few times before you return to work. Then, take however much time you think it will take to get baby ready and add another 20 minutes for incidentals. Best case scenario you can log a little cuddle-time before you have to leave, worst case scenario you’ll have time to throw your freshly-puked-on blouse in the washer. Either way it’s a win.
You need a high-quality insulated mug.
There is no use in hiding the need for coffee! You’ll be rushing around to get everyone where they need to be before work and you don’t want to spill hot coffee on your little love, or on the only clean shirt left in your closet so do yourself a favor and invest in a couple nice insulated travel mugs/cups. I highly recommend Tervis tumblers, they work awesome for hot or cold drinks (in case you’re addicted to iced coffee like me), they’re dishwasher safe and they come in all sorts of fun designs including some Hawkeye styles. Locally you can snag them at Bed, Bath, and Beyond but don’t forget to purchase some lids (often sold separately).
Freezer meals are your friend.
This takes a little pre-planning but is well worth the effort. Pinterest is full of awesome make-and-freeze recipes to stock your freezer and although it’s a little labor intensive on the front end it’s worth the convenience when you need it most. Check out some ICMB favorites here, here and here.
Lunch breaks are no longer for lunch.
Noon is the golden hour to be dedicated to paying bills, running errands without children, making emergency trips for more coffee, and maybe squeezing in a work out. Just remember to smile at your fellow mothers as you wait in the check-out lane to buy more diapers and grab some protein bars while you’re at it… moms have to eat too, ya know.
Be realistic about your wardrobe.
Unfortunately, when maternity leave ends you probably have to stop wearing yoga pants everyday. Remember that your body has been through a lot of changes and you may need to refresh your wardrobe a bit. Try on your pre-baby clothes before it’s time to return to work and make sure you have some staple pieces that you can easily throw on and feel comfortable wearing.
Take advantage of technology.
Ask your daycare provider to text you a midday photo to help ease your mind. Or better yet, use a synchronizing app to track your child’s main activities so you can easily stay on the same page and feel connected throughout the day. We didn’t want to seem like the needy parents and hesitated to ask our daycare provider to utilize an app but she found it so helpful for her own tracking that she quickly began using it for all the youngsters and happily logged all of Skylar’s feedings, diapers, naps and moods. It’s extremely practical as you work together to lock down new routines. For app recommendations check out this post!
Last but not least… Make sleep a priority.
That extra 30 minutes of sleep is more important than scrubbing the bathroom floor or folding another load of laundry at the end of the night. Bedtime routines are important for baby but can also help parents stay sane! Give yourself a break and do your best to squeeze in as much nighttime zzz’s as possible, even if it seems impossible.
Are you a working mom? If so, what tips do you have for mastering this juggling act?