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The decision to return to work after having a baby can be a difficult one to make. For some, it’s something that has to be done. For other’s, it’s a choice that could be made for any reason (and every reason is a valid one). Regardless, it’s a big transition and you’re going to have to do a few things to help you to prepare for your return.
There are two sides to preparing yourself, the practical side and the emotional side. Depending on when you choose to return, your hormones could still be running rampage which could make returning to work a whole lot more difficult. Even if it’s been some time since you’ve had a baby, stepping away from being with your child all day, every day can really tug at those heartstrings.
I’ve gone through this twice now, the first time with my son was a need to return to work. The second time with my daughter is a choice to return to work. But the one thing that has made the whole transition easier is being prepared.
So here are some ways you can help prepare to return to work after having a baby, and hopefully, they will help you make the return a lot smoother.
1 – Create a Plan
Talk to your husband, talk to your boss, talk to your child care provider (if you’re using one) and make a plan. Having a plan in place is going to ease your mind as everyone will know what to expect and what is expected of them.
First of all, talk to your husband. When are you planning on returning to work? Are you wanting to go back full-time, part-time or casual hours? What would the ideal situation be? Who is going to look after your baby or are you going to work your hours around each other so you can each spend time with the baby?
There are so many factors that go into this decision.
Next talk to your boss. What kind of arrangements do they have in place for women wanting to return to work after having a baby? Do they offer flexible hours? Is there somewhere you can pump and store breastmilk? Be sure to know your rights when returning to work too. Each state and country is different in what is considered a right and some companies will go above and beyond to help you get back to work.
Other people to consider talking to when creating your plan are your family and friends. Will they be able to help with childcare if something comes up and you have to work unexpectedly or if your childcare provider isn’t available?
2 – Pump Extra Milk
More for my own peace of mind than anything, I’ve always ensured I have a large stash of breastmilk stored in my freezer. When I returned to work with my son I noticed a dip in my milk supply – this could have been due to stress or from being away from my baby or simply the change in my schedule, so having that stash made me feel a bit better about not being able to pump quite as much in those first weeks (it returned to normal after that).
I have an amazing pump that I can take with me anywhere and I keep a cooler bag with me at work, just in case I can’t get to the fridge for some reason. I use heavy duty milk storage bags that have two seals, because I am moving the bag around a bit going from home to work to home again and no one likes seeing spilt milk!
Having a few extra bags of milk in the freezer will help keep your mind at ease and allow you to not stress over changes in your supply as you adjust to your new schedule.
3 – Ease Into It
Rather than diving straight into being away from your new little babe for 10 hours a day, ease into it by taking some time for a few hours here and there before you return to work. This can help iron out any issues that arise, without you being stuck at work when they occur.
Most workplaces will allow some degree of flexibility if you take the time to sit and devise a plan with them. There are so many more options now for flexible working environments than in the years before and coming to your employer with ideas, rather than just saying ‘what can you do for me?’ will give you a much better standing in the discussion.
Ideas such as splitting your time between working in the office and working remote, returning for shorter shifts to start and gradually building up, or job sharing with another person can all be ways you can ease your transition back into work.
4 – Get Support
While you are absolutely amazing, you don’t have to do this all on your own. For a long time I felt like in order for me to be a ‘successful mother’ I had to be able to run the household, work my job and still find time to spend with my baby and my family. Because that’s what I thought all the other mothers were doing.
But it doesn’t have to be like that.
Do you have friends and family that can help you out in any way? Perhaps your parents could watch your baby one day a week, or do the grocery shopping for you, or cook a few meals for you to freeze?
You could also hire out some household tasks by getting a cleaner in to help out, or even simply ordering your groceries online and have them delivered can save so much stress and time.
Returning to work after having a baby requires a new style of organisation in your day, it’s up to you to find out what fits for you and what support you can use. It’s not a bad thing to ask for help.
5 – Let Go Of Any Guilt
Oh, so much guilt! I remember my first day back at work after having my son, I felt sick in my stomach all day from the tremendous guilt. He was fine, I wasn’t. I felt like I had failed him by going back to work. But the reality was, I was failing him by not going back because I needed that time for me to feel like myself again, and in doing so I was able to be a better mum for him.
When you return to work, during those first few weeks and months you’re really in the thick of it. You’re adjusting to a new schedule so things don’t always go to plan, you feel like you’re being pulled in so many different directions and you just haven’t found your groove yet. This is when you’re the most vulnerable and when the guilt really creeps in.
I’ve come to realise guilt is something that is just going to be part of my life from now on. But instead of letting it consume me, I acknowledge it and let it go.
I still feel guilty sometimes when I walk out my door to go to work, but now I take a moment to focus on what it is that is making me feel guilty. Is it because I’m going to work after getting cranky at my son and now I feel like a bad mum, or because I’m leaving and the house is a mess, or because my daughter is learning new things and I feel like I’m going to miss them?
Instead of letting the guilt consume me, I focus on the real issue and spend a minute or two working through that. It could be that yes, I was cranky at my son before I left for work, but he had been running around screaming and I’m not going to let him get away with behaviours like that just because I’m going to work. And that’s what makes me a good mum. I still kissed him and told him I loved him before I left and by the time I get home, he won’t even remember it happened.
Learning how to deal with, work through and let go of any guilt you have will be something that takes time and practice, but you don’t have to feel guilty about going back to work.
Returning to work after having a baby can be tough and stressful, but it doesn’t have to be a bad thing like we are made to feel it should be. Your reason for returning to work is yours, stand by your decision, use these tips to prepare for your transition back to work and hopefully you’ll be rocking your new routine in no time!