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Things to do before parental leave ends

Unless you take care of infants for a living, being back at work probably isn’t going to be anything like being home on parental leave. It can take some time to adjust to this transition. So it’s perfectly fine, and advantageous, actually, if you take measured steps to ease yourself back into the swing of your life as a working person.

Here are some things to do to prepare yourself, your family, and your colleagues for your return to work.

Reach out to your manager about your return

Depending on your leave type, you may not be in contact at all with your employer during leave. But if you are, it can be helpful to get in touch with your manager before you return to work. You could consider sending them an email to discuss the following details:

  • The day that you and your manager (or HR) agreed that you’d return to the office.
  • Any proposed changes in your schedule. This is particularly important if you’re going to be pumping breastmilk at work and/or have childcare responsibilities that will impact your schedule.
  • Any other ideas you have to make your return smooth. For example, maybe you want to meet with your manager one-on-one the first week that you get back to learn about any company updates that you might have missed or just get in some important face time as you get reacclimated to your workplace. 

The main point of this email is to confirm that your boss knows you’re coming back on a specific day and is aware of any accommodations you’ll need once you’ve returned. This little bit of contact can go a long way in helping you feel reassured in knowing the details of your re-entry. It’s also an opportunity for you to display excitement and confidence about your return. It’s absolutely normal to feel like you’re not 100% sure how re-entry will go, but right now, it can’t hurt to project an air of competence and confidence when communicating with your employer. And if you work in the sort of job where a phone call is better, try that. 

Do a trial run, or two

Since you and your family will be getting into an entirely new routine once you return to work, it helps to do a sort of trial run of what this change will mean for Baby before the big day. This way, all of you can get more comfortable with the change logistically and emotionally, which will ease the transition for you and Baby.

If you’ll be bringing Baby to a childcare center, it’s worth visiting together a few times, since being cared for out of the home could be a big adjustment for your little one initially. You could ease into this transition even more by dropping Baby off alone for a short period of time, and then again for a longer period of time. You’ll want to check with the childcare center to see what will work for you and them.

If you’ll have in-home childcare, this might mean having your caregiver over for one day or for a few days to get Baby used to their company. These visits are a good time to introduce your caregiver to Baby’s routine, as well as where important necessities (like diapers and bottles and their favorite stuffed animal) can be found around your home. This sort of transition will probably also help you feel much more comfortable leaving Baby in your sitter’s care.

Make sure you’ve got comfortable clothes

A lot of your pre-pregnancy work clothes are probably a little snug right now, so if they’re not a feasible option for your first day back, decide in advance what you can wear that will help you be most comfortable. This might be a combination of pre-pregnancy clothes and maternity clothes.

You may even decide to round out your wardrobe with a few new items, either bought or borrowed. And if you’re planning on pumping at work, you’ll probably also want to consider wearing a nursing tops or dress. Of course, this all depends on personal preference, as well as where you’ll be pumping at work. Whatever you decide, make sure your wardrobe helps you feel comfortable and confident so you’re feeling your best when you return.

Get plans straight with your partner

Does your partner know what day you’re returning to work? Are you both on the same page regarding household responsibilities once you’re back? Who’s in charge of daycare drop-offs and pickups? Do you both have the necessary emergency contact numbers and addresses in case there’s a change of plans? Are you both aware of your backup plan for childcare? There’s a lot to discuss, and now’s a great time to ensure that the lines of communication between you two are crystal clear.

Bring in baby, maybe?

Before you return to work, you might also consider bringing Baby into work to meet your co-workers. After all, if your schedule and habits at work are going to be different because of them, giving them the chance to meet them can help them to remember this!

Of course, it’s also absolutely fine if you don’t want to visit the office before you go back to work. A lot of people choose not to visit the office during leave, so don’t feel like it’s a necessary part of re-entry.


It’s a little ironic to end a to-do list with instructions to relax, but seriously try to get as much rest as possible before your big day back. If you find yourself frantically looking for things to do to keep yourself busy, take note of that anxious energy and make a conscious effort to try to channel it into something that calms you down. That can be anything from making a pump-up playlist to blast during your commute, to taking a brisk walk outside, to cuddling with Baby and your partner while watching reality TV.

And speaking of rest, whenever possible, try to sneak in a few naps here and there. With a healthy amount of sleep under your belt, you’ll be that much more prepared to have a smooth, successful first day back on the job.

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