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The transition from childless professional to new mom is life-altering, but the transition from maternity leave recluse to working mama can be even tougher. Not only does returning to work involve jumping back into a position you haven’t thought about in 3+ months, but you’ll also be required to leave behind that beautiful little baby, still fresh from the womb. When you go back to work, it’s a big adjustment for you and your entire family. You can make the transition a little smoother with a little bit of planning.
Transitioning Back To Work After Maternity Leave
Probably one of the most stressful aspects of returning to work for me was deciding who I would entrust my child to while I was gone. I remember signing up for Care.com and spending hours just pouring over the dozens of apps that came through, feeling completely overwhelmed. I researched a dozen local daycares, and toured at least a handful. The task of finding trustworthy childcare seemed incredibly daunting. After all that, we got lucky when we nabbed a nanny who had been working for our extended family for generations. We ended up with childcare that I had 100% confidence in.
The point is, do your homework and start your search early. First, you need decide what kind of childcare is right for you; a nanny, in-home daycare, or your local Montessori. After you’ve narrowed it down by type, start researching your local options. Then, schedule interviews and go for tours. Checking “find childcare” off your to-do list will alleviate a lot of stress.
Get Your Family On A Routine
My first month or two of maternity leave, the little one and I didn’t have much of a routine. Every day was a little different. Some days I’d be bright eyed and bushy tail, making breakfast for the whole family; other days I’d still be sleeping, one boob still exposed from a 3am feeding, when husband left for work. As the cluster feedings faded and the baby continued to grow and develop, we suddenly found ourselves in a natural routine. Our days flowed better, and felt less stress. It became clear that being on a schedule, or at least having some form of controlled chaos, was essential to a happy lifestyle for our family.
Being on a routine schedule, made my transition back to work a little easier on us. Our morning routine included getting ready for the day, enjoying breakfast as a family, and getting out the door on time. A consistent morning routine took the stress and chaos out of mornings, making it a little easier to head off to work for the day. Our evening routine included family dinner and quality time with the baby, among other things. Prioritizing my family in the evenings helped with any lingering working mom guilt.
Make sure to start working in a family routine before you return to work. Having your family on a solid schedule will help with mom’s big transition.
Meet With Your Employer
The last thing you’re thinking about when on maternity leave, is the job you temporarily left behind. After all, you’ve got more important things to focus on. So when the time to return to work starts to draw near, you may start to get a little anxious. It’s a big change, and how you prioritize your job may differ now, post-baby.
It’s not a bad idea to meet with your boss or HR department before returning to work. Find out what exactly the company expects from you once you’ve returned. Will things be just as they were when you left? Will you be working in partnership with whomever filled your shoes while you were on maternity leave? Were there any business or policy changes in your absence?
It’s also important to be clear with your employer about what kind of support you will need from them. Will you need a private, comfortable place to pump? Do you need a more flexible schedule due to your childcare situation? Will you no longer be able to travel for business? Keep the line of communication with your employer so you both know what to expect before day 1 back on the job.
Make Family Time A Priority
Perhaps one of the hardest things about returning to work is going from spending nearly all of your waking moments (and the rare sleeping moments) with your baby, to being without them for 40+ hours a week. When you’re on maternity leave, you just want a break from all of it, even if that break is a quick 10 minute shower. Once you return to work, all the tough stuff disappears from your memory and you miss your kid like crazy. This is called working mom guilt, and it’s complete bullshit.
We should not have to feel guilty about working to provide a better life for our families, but most of us do feel some degree of guilt or sadness. I’ve found the best way to combat working mom guilt is to make the time you spend with your family really count. Close the laptop, put the phone away, turn off the tv, and be present. Play, talk, sing, dance, read a story. Not only is this quality time, but it will help with baby’s developmental skills too. Start good family habits early, like family dinner with no distractions, and establish a bedtime routine that involves the whole family. If I make my time with my family really count, I feel less sad or guilty when I have to be away.
The transition from maternity leave to full time working mom is not easy for most new moms, but with a little bit of planning it will quickly become the routine normal.
What made your transition back to work easier on you and your family? We’d love to hear about it!