Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Tips for Returning to Work after Maternity Leave

I feel like there are a million articles about this out there with very similar tips, but what the hell. Here are mine:

1. Have a "practice day" at daycare. I started work at the end of June, but had to pay for the whole month of June to reserve Ben's spot in daycare. So I took advantage of that by taking him in for an afternoon a couple of weeks before I returned to work. It was great because I brought all of his supplies, learned the ropes, and got out my first cry. If that had been my true first day, I would have been super stressed because I ended up forgetting a couple of things, having to stay longer, being an emotional wreck, etc. But because it was just a practice day, it didn't matter, I didn't have anywhere I had to be. If you can't do a practice day, then try to bring all of the supplies to daycare before your first day and talk to them about the ropes of dropping off/picking up. It will just be one less thing to worry about.

2. Go back to work at the end of the week. I saw this tip a lot, and didn't really put much credence to it at first. My thought was - you have to face a full week at some point, might as well jump in the fire. For me though, it just happened that the end of my 16 weeks was on a Friday. It worked out great, and I really urge anyone to do the same if they have a choice. First, Fridays are much slower at our office, people are more likely to be out, and it is casual dress. So it was low maintenance day to return. Second, the only thing that got me through that day was knowing I had the weekend to recover and smother Ben with attention. Third, since I didn't produce that much breast milk by pumping on the first day back at work, I was comforted to know I had the weekend to try to figure that out. By the first dreaded Monday, I was refreshed and had the confidence that I had one day under my belt, and we had all survived.

3. Have your husband do the drop off. Obviously, this may not be possible for some people because you are a single mom (I totally salute you) or due to schedules. For us, it works out that Dan can go into work a bit later, and I can get home a bit earlier. See our schedule here. So Dan drops Ben off at daycare, and I pick him up. Picking up is just so much easier emotionally than the tragic dropping off. It's easier on the guys to do this because they don't feel the same guilt we do. They just don't. So on my first day back (and all the others so far), my last image of Ben before going to work  is of him playing at home with Dan. Whatever you do - try not to do both the pick up and drop off, unless you are working part-time or something. Doing both would be very hard.

4. Treat Yo'self! (Parks and Rec reference!) There are positive things regarding being back at work, and you should let yourself enjoy them. I work in downtown D.C., and I have a lunch hour. It was strange to be able to do whatever I wanted during my lunch hour without having Ben with me. I walked to Whole Foods and grocery shopped. I met friends for lunch. These things seemed luxurious to do without a baby. My future plans are to use this time for a pedicure as well (wild! I know!). I also am trying to get back into going to the gym in our building during lunch. Now, I realize this tip would be much harder for moms who have professions like teaching or nursing. But, if you can, treat yo'self! 
I'll Be OK Mommy!

5. Realize that your baby is going to be OK. No one is going to love and care for Ben like I do. He's my flesh and blood. To me, he's perfect and adorable. BUT, I'm not the baby whisperer, and I'm not perfect. I wasn't playing with him every single second during my maternity leave. Not every moment with me was a high quality moment. Other people can care for him, and his quality of life is not going to drastically go down. Of course, you want to make sure you trust and like those people, but that goes without saying.

6. Go ahead. Call. Don't feel guilty about calling and checking up on your baby those first few days. Any good childcare provider is used to this and will not make you feel bad. It was a relief to know that he had just finished a bottle, was playing happily, had a good nap, etc.

7. Realize that something's gotta give. Life is not going to be like it was before you had a baby. Something is going to have to be pushed aside to make room. One of the things for us was Shelby's evening walks. Before Ben, I would get home every evening and take Shelbs for a walk. I don't do that anymore. She still gets a walk during the day, and she has a yard to run about in, so she is not neglected in the slightest. Also, about half of the time, Dan and I don't eat dinner together. High quality dinners during the week are nonexistent. If I have time to take a bath at night, it is not nearly as long and luxurious as it used to be. Dan had to adjust his running schedule big time. Down the road, when Ben gets older, maybe we can incorporate some of this stuff back. But for now, hasta la vista.

8. This is your life now. Own it. Goodbye guilt! If only it were that easy. I am still working on this one. But here is the thing - I've made my choices, my life is what it is. I need to stop feeling guilty and apologizing for it and just live it. If you are truly unhappy, then examine your life to see where you can make changes - maybe a different work schedule, working from home, or trying your hardest to budget so you can stay home altogether. But if you are not truly unhappy or if you don't have any other options, stop second guessing yourself, because it won't accomplish anything.

That's all I've got! Notice I didn't put anything up there about cooking meals ahead or something. That is because I didn't do that. I'm sure it is a good tip, and it would have been awesome to have some easy meals ready for me. BUT, I am not a cook giant meals and freeze them kind of person. I'm just not efficient like that and never got around to it. So I can't give that advice.

Good luck to anyone reading this and going back to work! It's not easy, but what is? But people do it everyday, so you can too.

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