To a new mother, leaving the baby behind and going back to work is an enormous challenge. If you don’t prepare yourself practically and psychologically, you may find the whole experience overwhelming, and this could have a negative effect not only on your career but your family life too. Here are 7 practical tips for a successful return to work after maternity leave.
Arrange for your child’s day-care
When you go back to work, your mind will never be at ease if you are not absolutely sure that your baby is in safe hands. You can either get a family member to take care of the baby, hire a nanny, or enroll your baby in a childcare centre. If you are fortunate enough, you may work for a company that has daycare services, or the child’s grandparents may be clamouring to take your bundle of joy off your hands. However, if those two are not an option, you have to vet childcare services near you and determine which childcare centre is the best fit for you and your childs needs. The earlier you can do this the better as some of them can have long waiting lists. You should try to learn everything you can about the childcare facility because you are entrusting the care of your infant to them. Finding a good childcare service you have confidence in will help you to relax and focus more effectively on your work.
Stock up on all the essentials
You need to stock up on all the baby stuff that you will have to take with you to the office. You should buy a reliable breast pump with lots of feeding bottles, lots of nursing pads, and a new handbag that is big enough to accommodate all of these supplies. Balancing the demands of work with that of parenting can be physically quite taxing and even more so if you are nursing aswell, preparing yourself in advance by stocking up on nutritious snacks will make it easier for you to maintain a healthy diet when life gets even busier. Finally, you should get a framed picture of your baby for your desk. It may help to relax you when the pangs of missing your baby kick in.
Discuss terms with your boss
Before officially returning to work, you should have a sit-down with your boss, preferably in an informal setting, and discuss how you will be working together moving forward. You should talk about any changes that may have occurred in your absence, and what your first priorities will be when you come back. Don’t be afraid to ask for a more flexible work schedule. Some bosses may be willing to let you work on a tweaked schedule, as long as you can still fulfill all of your responsibilities. It’s also important for you to understand your rights as a new parent. If you feel as though you are being discriminated against because of your status as a new parent, you should know that there are labour laws that are meant to protect you and its worthwhile understanding what your rights are as an employee returning from parental leave. If you are planning to continue breastfeeding, this is a good time to make sure your workplace has the resources set up for you and if not to have them put in place before your return.
Come up with a breastfeeding strategy
If you are intending to continue breastfeeding, you need to plan how you are going to breastfeed or pump milk at work. In case you are uncertain about the resources provided by your employer to facilitate this, you should talk to your HR manager about it. In Australia, employers are encouraged to provide a private breastfeeding room for new mothers, and a fridge to preserve the milk. Employees should be given time to breastfeed, and they shouldn’t be made to feel uncomfortable about it. While many workplaces in Australia are very accommodating, every workplace differs, and if yours is not already set up with this kind of support they may need some time to get everything in place for you so you can have all the privacy, time and the resources that you will need.
Get new outfits
You want to look professional on your first day back, so you should upgrade your wardrobe to suit your post-pregnancy body. Your body is going to be different after the pregnancy, so your old work outfits may not fit as well. It may take some time for your body to return to where it was before the pregnancy, so you should be patient. Buy outfits that make you look professional and feel comfortable and confident.
Ease back into work
Do not underestimate how difficult it can be to get back to your work routine, especially now that you have new parental responsibilities. If you dive straight into work and leave your baby behind, you may experience a system shock that may affect your work and your mental health. Instead, you should try to ease back in. During the last week of your leave, visit the office a couple of times, and try to work half days. This will help you adjust.
Test your plan
After you have made all your plans, you shouldn’t wait until your day back to find out if those plans are practical. Instead, you should test them. Pick one day towards the end of your leave to run a drill. Wake up at the same time that you would during workdays, go through your morning routine, get your child ready, drive to the childcare centre, then drive to the office. The point of this exercise is to identify any kinks in your plan so that you don’t end up having to deal with unforeseen setbacks when you start work.