I went back to work in the new year after my second maternity leave. So far, the transition back to work and the daycare drop-off and pick-up schedules are going smoothly. Reflecting on my second maternity leave, I notice several differences that helped make an easier transition — maybe my maternity leave reflections will help you, too.
Reflections For A Smooth Maternity Leave
I’m Out of the Fourth Trimester:
With this baby, I was off of work for 18 weeks. With my first baby, I had a more standard 12-week leave, so I was returning to work right when we were getting used to each other . . . and about to start establishing a routine. This time, it was a relief to have a month or so under our belts operating on a more standard schedule and sleep routine.
Second-Time Parenthood is Much Easier for Me:
During my first maternity leave, I spent a lot — a lot — of time being anxious and worried. This time, I spent more of my energy relishing my baby and our time together. We enjoyed long walks, running errands, and meeting friends for lunch. Caring for an infant is always hard, but after knowing I’ve successfully been through it once before, I was at least able to let go of a lot of the anxiety and appreciate my time.
Having Support is Key:
My husband used to work odd hours and was often gone overnight. I was a first-time mom that was often alone at home, and I think this definitely led to much of the anxiety I experienced. Currently, my husband works more standard hours and also works from home — so this time, I was rarely ever by myself. Though he was in the home office working, it brought me peace of mind knowing that another adult was in the house should things get really difficult with the baby. He was able to help during lunch breaks and give me some time off during the day.
Having a close friend or family member nearby to help out during the early weeks is also absolutely a game-changer. A close friend came over on Wednesdays during lunch during my maternity leave and I knew I’d be able to take a break and have some adult conversation or get something quick done around the house.
Discussing The “Division of Labor” Early is Essential:
I learned this conversation is needed when talking about how to divide and conquer all the parenting and household tasks with your partner. With our first child, we talked in vague terms about how “we were going to keep things equal” — but didn’t discuss who exactly was responsible for what. I ended up taking on a lot and burning myself out. This time, we talked specifics around drop-off and pick-up, bedtime routines, cooking, etc. It’s gone more smoothly and I feel less frazzled at the end of each week. We do leave room for flexibility— everyone’s allowed to have plans come up— but as a standard, we keep up with our routine. The book, Fair Play, inspired me to have this talk around specifics with my spouse.