I’ve officially been back at work now for 3 weeks after having a glorious nine week maternity leave. Since I’ve made this transition four times now (I wasn’t working hen I had my eldest), I’ve come to realize there are several key components that help make this change easier. They have worked for me, and I’m sharing them in hopes they might help you too!
Ask for help. Do you have a friend or family member that offered to bring you a meal when the baby was born? Or who said, “Let me know if you need anything?” Don’t deny them the opportunity to be Christ to you. Instead, call or text and ask them to bring you a meal or invite them over for some laundry fun that first week you’ll be back at work. Transition is never easy, and you can use the extra support. Truly, people who want to help will help, they just often don’t know what would be the most helpful for YOU. So, instead of smiling and nodding and insisting that your fine, ask them to step up. And DON’T feel guilty about it. You’d happily help them out if the roles were reversed, right? RIGHT.
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Ease into your new routine. This is a new normal, and it’s going to take time to get it right. Be patient with yourself (and your family members) while you figure things out. It can take a month or more to work out logistical kinks and to come to terms with leaving your new tiny human with a caregiver. Carve out a little time for some self-care: a bubble bath, 20 minutes with a new book, or just sit in your car and rock out to some Elton John by yourself. Or to whomever you listen to when you rock out. For me, it’s Sir Elton.
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Prepare, prepare, prepare. I’m not a planner. I’m more of a fly-by-the-seat-of-my-pants kinda girl. That’s IF I remember to wear pants, but I digress. The point is that a little planning can really go a long way to preserving your sanity. For me, this looks like preparing the baby’s bottles the night before (I am breastfeeding and like to send pre-portioned bottles in a cooler), going through the diaper bag to make sure baby has diapers and clothes for the next day, enlisting the girls’ help to make lunches for the next day, ensuring the school-aged kids’ clothes are laid out the night before, etc. I try to think of all the “little” things I run around doing in the mornings, and shift what I can to the night before. Sometimes this can be challenging since usually by the end of the day I’m ready to collapse, but knowing that a few extra steps now versus starting tomorrow off already behind? So worth it.
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Easy breakfasts have been my lifesaver. Breakfast is important, and I’ve been guilty in the past of just skipping it, but especially while I’m nursing I make a concerted effort to eat something. I really love protein-packed breakfasts, which hold me all morning until lunchtime. My favorite thing to do is make these Blueberry Quinoa Breakfast Bars (gluten-free and delish!) or make a big pot of steel cut oats on the weekend and store in the fridge for a quick prep the night before each workday. More on my fave oatmeal combo here.
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Communication with your childcare provider is key. From feeding schedules and preferences, to just a quick rundown of particular challenges Beckett or I might be facing, I spend a quick minute each morning and then again in the afternoon just to touch base with my sitter. If your provider has video monitoring that you can take advantage of, keep the feed up on your computer during the day to watch your little one. If video isn’t possible, find out if it’s ok to text your little one’s caregiver(s) just to check up or to ask for a photo every now and then. I’m sure they will be happy to oblige, and the stream of contact will help ease your transition that much more.
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Though my most recent return to work (at nine weeks postpartum, my longest leave to date!) was much smoother than the first four times, I know what it’s like when maternity leave ends and you are knee deep in hormones. Here in America, the standard amount of time after having a baby to return to work is six weeks. Six weeks is not even close to being long enough to recover from childbirth, in my opinion. Even for relatively uncomplicated births, at the six week mark mom’s hormones are still a mess, the baby is sleeping erratically and thus mom is too, and don’t even get me started on the postpartum brain fog. Throw in some good old fashioned anxiety over being separated from your little one and you’ve got yourself a cocktail for a breakdown. And this is the norm! Still, back to work after six weeks I went each time, needing the money for our family so badly that any longer away from work would’ve spelled eviction. I can’t describe how weary and despondent my heart felt. In those moments, it truly helped lift my spirits a bit to offer up my struggles for my favorite prayer intentions. It’s always comforting to know that suffering doesn’t have to be meaningless – that redemptive suffering ultimately helps not only others, but ourselves. It makes things just a bit easier to deal with.
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Rest. I know that might sound like a joke, but I assure you it’s not. As much as possible, rest. You might not be able to nap or sleep late or even go to bed early, but try and make a concerted effort your first few weeks back to relax at the end of your workday. Keep suppers low-key (crockpot, delivery, or easy casseroles.) Strike any unnecessary commitments from your weeknights and weekends – try to schedule time to rest. It will make all the difference in being able to function like a rational human being. Be sure, too, to drink plenty of water.
What ideas do you have for making the change from home to working? Share them in the comments below for other mommies who can use some advice, then head back to This Ain’t The Lyceum for more Quick Takes!