Getting ready to go back to work after having a baby? Here are my five best, most helpful, most practical tips on surviving your return to work doing it with joy:
1. Give up on trying to get your kids ready for any big changes.
I planned for months to try to make the transition perfectly smooth, but mostly we were all getting frustrated, so I decided to let it go. I decided that I'd rather have fun with my kids during our last weeks together. The truth is, when they're at daycare they figure out the eating and sleeping part on their own because they don't have another option. Daycare staff are super creative and adaptable and I've seen them do lots of things I'd never even think of trying (I guess that's why they have the letters ECE after their name and I don't!) That being said, having a few daycare play-dates was super helpful so that my kids could get familiar with the people and the room and I knew what it looked like, so could talk about their day in more detail with them. I sent a little photo album of family pictures for them to look at it if they got sad or lonely during the day. Sending them with a lovey and blanket from home helped too. Even though drop-off time broke my heart every single time, at least I knew they were safe and had a few things with them that they loved and that reminded them of home.
2. Design your morning schedule backward.
I started with the time when I needed to be at work and worked my way back to when I needed to wake up based on how long things usually take us to do (and I started practicing it before my first day back so I wouldn't be so rushed and frazzled). Even after all that math, my biggest problem was (and often still is!) getting to bed at a decent time so I can set myself up when the alarm goes off and get everything I need before I rush out the door.
3. Do that nesting thing again.
I cleaned the house, filled the freezer, set up my car, put fun new music on my phone, bought yummy healthy snacks and a few new cute things for my office. I felt like I was nesting again! Physically, I was ready to go back weeks before my return date. Mentally, not so much, but I was able to talk myself through the harder moments. And emotionally, I was a hot mess. I chose to use that as a sign to go slow and be easy and take really good care of myself for last weeks of my maternity leave, since I didn't really know what to expect.
4. Plan ahead and ask for what you need.
I contacted my boss before my return and made arrangements to start on a Wednesday (so I didn't have to worry about pushing through for a full week if I found things too challenging) and to have my first day back as a paperwork day (so I could get myself set up and spend the necessary hours on the phone with the IT help desk getting new passwords and such before I jumped back in fully). I remember being a little embarrassed and a little worried about asking, but I'm so glad I did it. It was good practice for me to start asking for what I need and setting firm boundaries, because things were so very different when I went back after having kids.
My whole perspective was different. I realized my most important job was waiting for me back at home and I needed to make sure I wasn't going to miss out on that.
5. Let yourself feel your feelings.
When I went back to the office, most days I was a little bit sad and a little bit angry. People did and said some really helpful and really hurtful things, but it all got easier... eventually. Well, that's not entirely true...
It gets easier, then harder, then easier again. But each time the good lasted longer and the bad was a little less bad.
There were some really good parts about going back that I never would have been able to anticipate. Like, having a routine again, grown-up conversations, doing the work I enjoy, listening to my own music while commuting, etc. And I let myself feel that too, without any added mummy guilt for being away from my kids.
Christine Marion-Jolicoeur helps moms create a family and life they love. She's a bestselling author, parenting coach and creator of the Joyful Parenting ecourse. Grab your free gifts for moms + updates at ChristineMJ.com/freegift
This article originally appeared on the Joyful Parenting Blog.
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