Going back to work after taking time to raise your baby can bring about a whole bunch (or even a roller coaster) of emotions, many all happening at the same time! 

You’re anxious about leaving your bub with strangers. You’re anxious about leaving your bub with your own family. You’re worried that they won’t get along with the other kids. You might feel some joy at being able to focus on something other than your child (and are a bit guilty because of that)!

The thing is, whatever you’re feeling is perfectly natural and normal. Transitioning back to work from being a full-time caregiver is challenging and more difficult than most people realise. By having a plan, you’ll be better prepared to adjust to your new normal.

Plan for the logistics

Getting everyone up, fed and out the door on time is a lot like herding cats. Having a routine and plan will give a leg up in getting started. 

Think through the ideal process for your morning and build a checklist of the things that need to leave the house with you, like a breast pump and your bag of work supplies. If you’re in charge of dropping off the baby, you might want to include the child on your list. Better safe than sorry.  

Senior Content Manager, Jessica Gibson, recently returned to work after 12 months of maternity leave. Gibson says, “You’re going to feel like you need to apologise all the time (you don’t).” Having a plan, she says, will help you feel a lot more at ease. “A trial run of your average week will help you, and everyone involved, start to get a feel of where the challenges lie. But you’ll never be able to plan for the nappy explosion as you walk about the door!”

Practice makes perfect*

If you’re sending bub to daycare, you’ll find that most providers recommend starting your child on short days to get them used to the new space, people and routine. This is also great for you to get used to the same. Take the time while your baby is being looked after to do something for yourself, like getting a haircut before you go back to work. Or, if you have some life admin needs, this might be a good chance to get away to the dentist or eye doctor. 

Gibson says it was a chance for her to do something she hadn’t done in over a year: sit.

I spent my daughter’s first daycare ‘trial day’ sitting on the couch, watching Netflix and drinking tea … while it was hot!
Jessica Gibson, Senior Content Manager

While you might have put expectations on yourself to return to work as if nothing has changed: it has. Nobody is expecting you to go from 1 – 100 in a day. Make your transition back to work a gradual one, and it’ll be a more pleasant experience for everyone involved. 

*there is no perfect!

Lean on your support network

One refrain you’ll hear over and over is that ‘you don’t have to go it alone’. 

During your time with your bub, you likely developed a great group of people who you know that you can trust to help when you need it. Between friends, family, your mother’s group and probably Facebook groups, you’ve developed a strong network that can help support you when you need it. 

Once you’re back at work, you’re going to learn about a whole new support network that you didn’t know existed: fellow parents. They may be new parents like you or have a lot of experience with a few different kids. Making connections with your colleagues in similar situations can help alleviate the stresses and strains you might be feeling as you get back to work. 

Talk with the experienced people during your first week back and see if they have any tips for making the transition. And, keep up with your fellow new parents to learn about what they’re going through and find ways to support each other. 

Parenting chat doesn’t have to be anything formal, just a check-in over a coffee in the break room can make a significant difference!

Keep going

There are going to be days where you feel like quitting is your only option. This feeling is a natural progression in the change you’re experiencing. You might feel that way for a day or two, or it might linger for months. 

Author Lauren Smith Brody writes in The Fifth Trimester: The Working Mom’s Guide to Style, Sanity, and Big Success After Baby that every woman she spoke with for her book had this moment. Many who experienced this compulsion to leave the workforce did so a few months after giving birth.  

For a lot of people, quitting isn’t a viable option. To help get a fresh look at your situation, Brody recommends taking a broader view and not make a rash decision: 

  • Realise that what you are going through has a finite timeframe.
  • Make a list of what you get out of your job (professional fulfilment, personal satisfaction or even just getting paid).
  • Take each day as it comes, looking for small wins. 
  • Be patient. “Try not to make any major decisions for three months,” she says. 

Embrace your new career path

Being a working parent means a new set of complications. The good news? You are going to become incredibly efficient using your new parent powers. 

The time you’ve been away from the office has been far from wasted. Not only did you help keep a human being alive, you’ve been getting an intensive education at multitasking, and now know how to do it better than anyone. 

This efficiency is going to make you extremely valuable to your employer, as you make the most of your time. 

Going back to work is absolutely going to be a challenge, but remember: everyone wants you to succeed. Don’t be afraid to ask for help when you need it, take it easy when you move back into the workforce, (try) and keep a positive mental attitude and you’ll do great, mama. 

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