You can’t even imagine being away from your precious little bundle of joy for five minutes, let alone eight hours. And nobody warns you about the pain and guilt that strikes when dropping your baby off at daycare for your first full day back in the office.
If you’re one of the roughly 300,000 American women who took maternity leave and is about to return to work, though, don’t worry. ENTITY’s got your back!
With some help from Kelly Holmes, mother-of-three and author of “Happy You, Happy Family,” here are four expert tips on transitioning from 24/7 mommy to working mother.
It’s not a bad idea to practice being away from your little one. This will help you to get a taste of how you might feel when you’re back in the office. And since practice makes perfect, grab a babysitter for an hour and take a trip to the mall or the grocery store.
After you become comfortable leaving your child in someone else’s care, Holmes believes one of the best ways to ease back into a work schedule is through a dry run. Start by picking a day near the end of your maternity leave to test out your new schedule. “If you’ll need to be in the office by 8:00 AM, set the alarm for when you’ll need to get up,” she says. Then allow yourself enough time to run through your new morning routine.
“You may discover you’ll need twenty minutes, not ten, to feed your baby. Or that getting to the daycare in rush-hour traffic takes twice as long as you thought,” says Holmes. And since practice makes perfect, dedicating a morning to your new routine will help iron out the kinks before you need to show up on your first day back at work.
Organizing our external environment can give us clarity and increase efficiency in all parts – physical, mental, and emotional – of our lives, according to Dr. Eliaz, an integrative medical doctor and licensed acupuncturist. In other words, the more you stay organized, the better off you’ll be. This way of thinking can be new mothers’ secret weapon for success.
You certainly don’t want to head off to work, only to turn right back around because you forgot something at home. It’s hard enough leaving your little one for the first time; when you see him or her again that morning, you might even guilt yourself into staying home for the rest of the day. One way to battle these baby blues is by acknowledging these feelings beforehand. You should also realize you aren’t the only new parent to struggle with leaving your baby for the day. A 2015 Pew Research survey found that 26 percent of working moms and 48 percent of working dads feel like they don’t spend enough time with their kids.
Another way to remain organized is to making sure that, if you’re breastfeeding, you’ve gathered all your pumping tools and found a comfortable space to pump at work.
Unfortunately, only “40% of women had access to both break time and a private space — not a bathroom — for expressing milk, despite federal law requiring both of these,” according to one study reported by the Jacobs Institute of Women’s Health.
If you find yourself without access to a private office, talk to your employer. Ask if there are any vacant offices available, so you can pump in private. And, even if privacy isn’t an issue, things are still bound to get a little messy. Holmes’ suggests keeping extra nursing pads at your desk in case of leaking.
As for your baby, it’s best to keep all of his/her daily bottles – plus a few extra – in the refrigerator, ready for use. You should also check in with your babysitter the night before to confirm that he or she will show up on time, and knows where everything (especially diapers, bottles, clothes etc.) is located.
One last but very major organization trick is dedicating Sundays to meal-prepping. Plan and prepare three to four meals to stick in the freezer for easy dinners for the rest of the week. Or, you could just do all the chopping, seasoning, etc for meals, so that when you get home, you just need to pour the ingredients into a casserole dish and throw the whole thing into the oven. Meal prep will save you time, energy and stress when you get home after a long day at work.
And, as Holmes points out, “a little less stress is something every mama needs.”
“Coming back from leave, you may be anxious to prove your value all over again to your boss and your teammates. This is a normal emotion after you’ve been out of pocket for several weeks, if not several months,” says Holmes. “This drive to prove ourselves can lead us to take on more work than is humanly possible.”
The lesson here? Learn to say “no,” and don’t apologize for it.
“Setting healthy boundaries is essential to staying happy as a mother and an employee; therefore, it’s important to get comfortable saying no if a new assignment or task comes up that doesn’t align with your career goals,” says Holmes. “Everyone has a project list, and everyone has to prioritize what’s on their own list. You’re no different, and that’s no reason to apologize.”
Just like when you first started your job, getting back into the swing of work will be extra tiring. This is why saying “no” to extra projects is crucial to developing a steady work routine, prioritizing mommy time and allowing you to get enough sleep.
“You don’t want to be a stressed and frustrated mom who doesn’t get enough sleep, snaps at her partner and loses her grip on the joy of motherhood,” Holmes points out.
Holmes wishes she knew about all the creative options available to her for child care before she returned back to the office after maternity leave.
The mother of three now realizes that, when it comes to child care, mothers have more options than “sticking your baby in daycare 50 hours a week” or “quitting and staying home.”
Holmes suggests starting a babysitting co-op with another family or two. This way, you and the other participating parents can trade off watching everyone’s kids. Another option is to ask a grandparent who lives in town to watch your baby one or two days a week. Or you and your partner could both scale back to part-time jobs and work opposite schedules to avoid the cost of putting your baby in daycare.
She stresses “the beauty of thinking outside the box on child care is that you’ll save some serious money and get more time with your little one.”
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The truth is, being a successful business woman is hard enough without adding motherhood into the mix. However, excelling in both roles is completely possible as long as you prepare, take advantage of tips like these and remember that bumps will happen. After all, you’re only human – though you might feel like superwoman the first week you nail balancing work and home life.
So, once you’re ready to return to work, do your research and prep, take a deep breath…and kick some major booty!
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