Returning to work as your heart, mind and body are still adjusting to your new normal can be stressful and overwhelming.
It’s such an exciting, emotional, even intimidating (and sleepless) life change that some would even say it’s harder than becoming a mom in the first place!
If the mantra for raising a child is “It takes a village…” then the mantra for returning to work after maternity leave should be: “You can do this!”
I remember the thoughts running through my mind the night before my first day back (to a completely new company and job no less).
How would I do it all?
Be great at my new job, take care of my new daughter and be a great partner to my husband, all at the same time?
Support from others definitely helps. So does advice, tips and tricks of the trade from other working moms. Again, this goes back to the “You can do this” mantra – because if I can do it, then so can you.
Since sharing is caring, below are some epiphanies I had during the transition after mat leave.
1. If You’re Not a Morning Person, Find a Way to Become One (Or at Least Resemble One)
Let’s face it, going back to work usually means going back to a 9 to 5 job.
Being on maternity leave meant that you set the schedule and if mornings weren’t an active time for you and baby, then weekday mornings could be rough for the first few weeks.
I’m a night owl, so I really had to work on a shutdown routine for myself and do some nighttime prep so that mornings became just about getting ourselves dressed and out the door on time.
2. You Might Actually be Really Excited to Go Back to Work (And That’s Perfectly Okay)
It doesn’t mean you love your baby less than a mother who decides to stay home full-time.
Just because you’re excited at the thought of going to the bathroom solo, or drinking a cup of coffee uninterrupted or even talking to real live adults on a daily basis doesn’t mean you don’t also get excited about being a mom.
Don’t feel bad if you don’t feel bad about dropping your child off at daycare – that feeling won’t last long.
3. The Novelty of Being Around Adults Full-Time Will Wear Off Quickly
Like I said, the lack of guilt during daycare drop off doesn’t last too long and before you know it, you’ll be daydreaming about being back home on maternity leave.
But just remember, neither is as glamorous as you’d like to think. Explosive diapers, sore breasts and days of zombie mode were reasons you were excited to go back to work.
Looming deadlines, piles of endless paper work stress and office politics will be the reasons you fantasize about staying at home with your little one.
4. Eating Healthy is More Important Now Than ever Before
Healthy eating is always something that should be at the top of everyone’s to-do list but as a new mom transitioning back to work, mornings and evenings are now chaotic and you may be tempted to hit the drive-thru.
My aunt introduced the term “fast cooking” to me – pre-cut veggies, frozen veggies, bagged salads, one-dish meals and simple recipes were the saving grace of my nutrition during the first month back to work.
Keeping yourself and your family properly nourished helps with the stress of the transition and fast cooking doesn’t have to mean fast food.
5. Your Career Goals Will Change, In Either Direction
Motherhood does two things to a woman’s career: enhances or redirects.
You may realize that the work you were doing previously wasn’t as purposeful as you once thought it was or you may come back with a more ambitious attitude because having an intentional career is really important now.
I realized that the career I wanted wasn’t just going to land in my lap, I had to make it happen myself. Which leads me to my next discovery…
6. You’ll Feel Guilty About Things You Really Shouldn’t.
Maybe you forgot to bring the stuffy to daycare, or your partner has had to take over the kitchen reigns for a week (or two) and that laundry pile just seems to be getting bigger.
You just don’t feel like you’re on top of it all.
You won’t be, at least not for the first little while. Going back to work after maternity leave is a huge adjustment for everyone involved, so when you feel guilty just remember that one day your baby will be proud of you – studies show that children exposed to maternal employment outside of the home stand to gain real benefits as adults.
7. You Are Your Own Worst Critic
You haven’t lost all the baby weight. You think your clothes are frumpy. You’re not as sharp as you used to be on work assignments.
You feel like you’re not taking care of your partner and child like you should be because you’re focused on getting your stride back at the office. You will inevitably be your own worst critic because for whatever reason, we all seem to think that the transition back to work should be flawless.
But what we all need to realize is that we need to be kind to ourselves and know that good enough is actually more than enough.
Have you had any of these discoveries when you went back to work? What piece of working mom advice did I miss? Please share in the comments below!