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Going Back to Work After Maternity Leave: Tips for Balancing Baby and Work

I’ll never forget my first day back at work after my maternity leave ended. I closed the door and began to cry as I thought of leaving my baby, the most treasured entity in the world, with my new nanny whom I had only known a few weeks.

Would my new son be ok? Would the nanny love him and treat him as well as I would? Would I survive being away from him for hours at a time? Would he remember me when I returned? All legitimate feelings for a new postpartum mom. Needless to say, we all survived but it was probably one of the hardest days of my life, and this was before cell phones and nanny cams became the norm for constantly checking in on your baby’s life.

One of the best tips I got was to return to work on a Wednesday so we were already over the hump of the week when that first day ended. Getting through three days before the weekend of being a full-time mom again was a lot more bearable than tackling a five-day work week the first time back.

Another great suggestion was to leave my son with the nanny for longer and longer periods of time every day for the weeks leading up to the real thing, as a practice run for us both. It was an effort to get him used to the arrangement, but I think it was just as much a trial for me. And each day got easier than the last for us all. This may be harder to arrange with a day-care center, but see if they’ll help you work something out.

Here are some other great tips to help you transition to your new role as working mom:

  • Instead of constantly checking your Facebook feed or the nanny’s GPS on her phone, schedule certain times of the day to check in. This way you can make sure all your Facetime chats aren’t with a sleeping baby. Some day-care centers have a feed for you to check as well, but remember, you do have to do some work.
  • At lunch time, enjoy some well-deserved me-time by meeting friends for lunch, window shopping, reading or doing other things that you probably won’t have much time for with a new baby. Consider it necessary and rejuvenating.
  • Make Sundays relaxing instead of a day of busyness before the week begins again. Plan a quiet family dinner and make time to chat with your partner to plan out the week ahead. Write any notes to the nanny or daycare about teething issues or mom’s travel schedule so they’ll be aware of any changes in baby. Pack the diaper bag and your own work tote so you’re all set to hit the ground running and won’t forget anything Monday morning.
  • Be sure to spend quality, technology-free time with your baby on the weekends. Even an infant will appreciate those moments when you give him or her your full, undivided attention with no beeps, rings or screens.
  • As they get older make occasional days to do nothing, and allow the family to stay snuggled in bed with a pile of books and lots of giggles instead of going to yet another birthday party.
  • When you cook, always make extra and freeze it in individual containers so it’s ready to defrost, heat and serve on nights when you’re too busy to make something healthy and delicious from scratch. 

The bottom line to handling parenting and work is organization and time management. Of course life will throw curve balls – lots of them. But if you’re prepared for the daily stuff you’ll stay ahead of the game most of the time. Try to forgo guilt. It doesn’t help anyone.

Acknowledge that you won’t always be the perfect parent or the perfect employee. You’ll have days when you’ll go to work with a trail of pea puree on your blouse or two different shoes.  But you get to take a shower, put on real clothes and talk to adults all day, and then you get to go home and see your baby every night. That makes it all worth it. Plus, you'll be a better multitasker than ever…because you HAVE TO BE!

Good luck and enjoy the ride.

Image : Getty

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