You did it! You birthed a human! In between learning how to take care of Baby and taking time to recover from childbirth, now’s a good time to create a crystal-clear vision of how you want your return to work to go. Here are a few things to consider in the final weeks before your return that can help you do just that.
As you prepare to return to work, it can be helpful to start by considering some of the material basics. What will you need to have in hand for your first big day back? You might need to think about getting comfortable work clothes, a new ID badge or key pass, a breast pump and supplies (more about that below), some easy makeup or toiletries that will help you feel your best (especially if that’s been something you’ve gone without while on leave), and anything else that will set you up for success when you return. And how about Baby? You’ll also want to figure out if you need to stock up on or otherwise prepare any extra supplies for Baby‘s childcare provider.
Preparing to pump
If you’re planning to pump, do you have and are you comfortable with all of your pumping equipment? (Read this article to learn more about what you’ll need if you’ll be pumping in the workplace.) Does your employer know you’ll be pumping? Where will you pump at work, and how will breaks for pumping shape your work schedule? Just what sort of pumping equipment and supplies will you need to bring with you, and can you can leave any of this at work? Don’t forget to think about what snacks you’ll bring too, since you’ll be plenty hungry if you’re breastfeeding!
Easing back into work
Whether you’re starting off part-time or going right back to a full-time schedule, make sure you’ve confirmed the time and date of your return with your employer. You might even consider checking your email to get a better sense of just what you’ll be returning to when you actually get back to work, although in no way are you required to respond to email right now – and if the thought of this stresses you out, skip it!
And if you can afford to do a trial run with your chosen childcare provier, consider doing so before your first real day back.
It will also help to reach out to the following people:
- Your partner: What is their work schedule like right now? And have you squared away just how you’ll each be handling household responsibilities?
- Your support network: Can anyone in your support network give you advice or assistance in your first few weeks back? Is there someone in your network who you can talk to weekly or even more frequently about the feelings you’re having? It can be very helpful to have someone who you can talk to, even for just 15 minutes, about what you’re going through. Is there someone who can be available in a pinch if you happen to need backup childcare? And is there anyone you’ll want to call and tell about your first big day back once it’s over?
- Childcare: Does your childcare provider of choice need anything else from you? Have you confirmed with them what will be Baby‘s first day in their care? If you like, can they send you pictures of Baby a few times a day or provide you with some other sort of update?
- Your boss: Have you confirmed your return date with your employer? Is there anything else you need to know before you return? And does your boss know you’ll be pumping in the workplace?
- Your co-workers: This is in no way mandatory, but if you have the mental bandwidth to do so, you could even send a message to people on your team to give them a heads up about your return.
How’s your headspace?
If you’re looking forward to getting back to work, great! If you’re feeling sad or worried, consider gently pushing yourself into a slightly more empowered headspace. Try to think about what will make you feel confident and in control as you head back to work. If you have any old, glowing reviews from work, read them. If you can find any inspirational articles, read them now and also save them for later – then you can revisit them if you’re having a particularly tough day. If you have any other favorite mantras or pieces of advice, try to memorize them so they can help power you through!
Remember, it’s entirely okay to be nervous or upset at the thought of going back to work. But you’re not just going back for your career – you’re going back for Baby‘s wellbeing, as well. It might take a few months (or even longer) until you feel totally back into the swing of things, so just know that your return to work is a unique transitional period, but with time you’ll adjust and feel like you’ve found a new normal.
A note about things not getting better: always stay on the lookout for signs of postpartum depression. If your baby blues won’t go away, if you feel extremely tired and moody and like you don’t want to interact with anyone – including Baby – or if something just feels plain wrong, reach out to your healthcare provider right away so you can get the help you need.
While being a working mom may not ever be 100% easy, over time and with experience you’ll get stronger, more skillful, and more organized about how you manage everything. When it’s time to officially return, take things one day at a time. You’ll be amazed at what you can handle, both work-wise and mom-wise.