Thursday, August 14, 2014

Transitioning back to work from Maternity Leave

Happy Tuesday and back to school!

The daycare drop off always seems a little tougher after a long weekend --probably because the weekend full of snuggles, and squeaky laughs and sweet sleepy babies makes it that much harder to be away.

Today was one of those tough days. Where I want to bundle him back up in his carseat, grab a latte, and head home to do nothing but enjoy his "baby-ness", all day long. There was a mom dropping her little one off for the first time this morning. I saw her tears and felt my own eyes welling up a bit.

So, inspired by this morning's events, here are some helpful tips (at least we found them helpful!) for wrapping up maternity leave and getting ready to go back to work.

First, don't think about maternity leave ending, or going back to work, until you have to. I've had "friends" start panicking about going back to work, and their child is only a few days, or a few weeks old (and by friends, I am clearly referencing myself). C is my first baby, and during the first few weeks I would gaze down at him, and then start to wonder how I would ever be able to leave him, and then I would SOB. Uncontrollably, S.O.B.   Fortunately, and with the help of a very intuitive hubby, I realized that if I spent all of my maternity leave worrying about going back to work, I wouldn't fully enjoy my time off with my little guy. So when those thoughts of having to go back started to creep in,  I worked (really hard) to remind myself that I could worry about that later, and to enjoy the sweet buns-up kneeling munchkin napping on my chest. It actually worked! After a day or two, I barely thought about going back and it remained that way until the last week of my leave. My heightened awareness helped me to really stay in the moment and savor every little last snuggle.

Based on my own experience, here are some helpful tips:

1. Don't think about going back until you have to.

2. Go back on a Wednesday or Thursday.
 (Nat shared this one with me and if you can't do anything else - do this one!  Going back for a 3 day week definitely helped me ease back into things, figure out our routine, and not panic about having enough milk stored up)

3. Have family or close friends babysit the first week. Starting a new child care routine, leaving your little one for likely the lengthiest time yet, AND getting back into the groove at work is a LOT of change for one week. If a parent, sibling, or friend can watch the baby that first week it will be one less worry on your mind. My sister stayed with us during my first week back and it was comforting to know he was having fun with his auntie while I was away. Coming home to folded laundry and dinner in the oven was an added bonus!

4. Let yourself grieve your maternity leave. Cry, complain, what you need to. It is HARD to go back. Period.

5. Develop your own mantra. As many mamas do, I felt guilty that I was not staying home full-time. To battle this guilt, I reminded myself of the benefits of work and daycare (yes, there are some!). My internal monologue usually went something like this, "He's building a great immune system...He's socializing and learning...Our time together is truly quality time and appreciated now...We can save for college...We can go on Vacation....etc, etc."

(Erin again...I use my 'driving to work' time as a time to collect my thoughts, get ready for work and think about work stuff in general.  Then, on the way home, it's all baby time...that and getting ready for dinner.  This has been a huge help.  My first few 25 minute drives to work were horrible...way too long to think about being away from my baby)

6. Call daycare.  Check in.  See how things are going.  Trust us, they're used  to hearing from mommas on their first week back to work.  They'll be happy to fill you in.  And it might just make you feel better to know that everything is going well.

I promise, it gets easier, although (only 5 months back) I am hesitant to say it will ever get easy. While there are some (most!) days that I LOVE my job and am happy to be a working mama, there are also some days where it is a struggle to leave him in the morning, and I drive to work with wet eyes.

What are your tips for going back to work post-maternity leave?