With all the planning you’re doing to get ready for baby, sometimes planning your own work-baby balance gets pushed to the back-burner. It makes sense: the last thing you want to do is think about leaving your new bundle of joy before they are even born. But, unfortunately, if you are a working mom, you will need to make a plan for returning to work post baby.
Before we begin the checklist, there is one item that is the most important when it comes to going back to work: Don’t feel guilty. So many moms near the end of their maternity leave find the hardest part is the guilt they feel for leaving their child. Never feel guilty about going out and providing for you and your family or for making your career just as much as a priority as you make your loved ones. With that said, let’s get started with the going to work after baby checklist.
Before Baby Comes:
1. Speak with Your Boss
You may have already talked to your boss about when you plan to leave work, how much time you will need off and who will fill in for you while you are gone (if you haven’t, try to do this around 12 weeks, or as soon as you feel comfortable sharing the news). But as you near the end of your pregnancy, you should also talk to your HR department or supervisor about your plan for returning. A few things you should have on your list during the discussion are how you will enter back into working (will it be a few days a week to start or will you come back full force), the change in your schedule to account for daycare pick-ups and drop-offs, pumping if you are breastfeeding and the understanding that sometimes, you will have to leave early due to a sick child. You should also discuss how you will transition back into your role.
2. Make a Plan
Once you talk to your boss, supervisor or HR department, take the plan into your own hands. Spend a day creating a document with everything you do, all of the items you are responsible for and even what your day-to-day is like. Delegate who in the office will be taking over these tasks and how they will transition back to you once you return. If you plan to breastfeed, schedule time in your shared office calendar now for pumping—try to schedule about 30-minutes every single day. If you don’t end up needing it, you can take it off, but if you do, you’ll be happy you scheduled it ahead of time.
3. Figure out Childcare
Whether you are putting your child into daycare, hiring a nanny or leaving your baby with relatives while you are at work, you need to have a plan in place pretty early on. In many cities, getting into a good daycare means being put on a waitlist and waiting months and months to hear whether or not you got in. Because of this, many daycares recommend moms apply for their daycare of choice as soon as they find out they are pregnant—it may seem a bit ridiculous, but it could mean a lot less stress as week 38 rolls around. If you live in an area where this isn’t a problem or are going the nanny or family route, childcare decisions can wait until the end of the 2nd trimester. If you are going to find a nanny, try to interview a few in person a few months before you are due and if you are having relatives watch the baby, discuss a detailed plan with them about pick-up and drop-offs, nap times, how many hours they can handle and which days work for them. You never know when baby may surprise you and come early, and you don’t want to be scrambling to make these plans with a newborn in your hands.
4. Create Self-Care Techniques
Once baby comes, any semblance of alone time will be thrown out the window. When you head back to work, it gets even harder. Are you used to coming home after a hard day of work, kicking your shoes off and slouching on the couch until bedtime? No longer! The work day never really ends for a working mom, so before baby is born try to find ways to relax in quick bursts. This could mean doing a nightly 20-minute stretch or exercise routine, going to get your nails done once a week on your lunch break or even simply practicing mindfulness before bed or while you shower—whatever you do, find something that will keep you from getting too stressed out during this very stressful time of life.
After Baby Comes:
1. Get Baby Used to the Bottle
You may be breastfeeding while on maternity leave, but as soon as your time to go back to work comes, your baby will need to learn how to use, and love, the bottle. Start to wean them off the breast long before your maternity leave ends so you can get through any difficulty they may have with the change before you head back to work. If you are continuing to use breast milk, figure out the best time to pump and make bottles ahead of time. Consider pumping extra milk (if possible) and freezing it so you always have some on hand. If you are formula feeding, make sure to stock up on extra formula and bottles—you don’t want to be stuck washing bottles at 7am while trying to get ready for work.
2. Make Life as Easy as Possible
Buy a slow cooker, freeze meals, have your groceries delivered—whatever it takes to cut down on some of your own errands and chores. After a long day at work and a sleepless night with your baby, the last thing you’ll want to do on Saturday morning is head to the grocery store (unless that’s something that relaxes you!). Take help when it is given and say yes when your mother-in-law offers to watch the baby for a few hours so you can sleep, clean the house or just have some “you” time. Don’t feel bad about letting your husband cook dinner for the second week in a row—if it keeps you sane, it’s worth it!
3. Don’t Forget about You
In the hustle of returning to work and caring for this new miracle in your life, it’s easy to forget about yourself. Remember those self-care techniques you learned while you were pregnant? Use them! You may not have as much time as you thought to yourself, but anytime you do have, even if that just means time in the shower, you should make the most of it. Create happy playlists for your ride to work, practice mindfulness on your way home, and remind yourself that you are an amazing, strong woman and an even better mother to your new baby.