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The Ups and Downs of Going Back to Work

By Jeana Lee Tahnk

Time is a funny thing. Sometimes it ticks by so slowly and other times it seems to be on fast forward. That's how my maternity leave was: The first month was somewhat of a blur. I was in a sleep-deprived, post-birth haze, getting to know our baby and adjusting to life as a family of five.

As the weeks elapsed, thoughts about returning to work naturally started to creep back. I was really enjoying my maternity leave and being at home with the baby, but at the same time I was thinking how the transition would be when I went back to work.

I'm very lucky to work in an incredibly supportive and family-friendly company where I was able to re-engage part-time. And that helped tremendously in easing me back into a work schedule and transitioning the baby to her new caregiver. I understand that's not an option everyone has, but if you can go back to work on a part-time basis, it can make the transition a lot easier.

If you are going back to work, your wardrobe is something else to consider. My office dress code is business-casual, but finding clothes in my closet that fit my post-birth body was a challenge. I was trying to get back to my pre-baby body, but expecting that to happen in three months was not realistic, especially the third time around. So for a while, my work wardrobe consisted of a few outfits that I rotated. Thank goodness for black slacks!

When I returned to work, I also was still nursing. Let's just say that my pump and I became close companions. My office offers a dedicated room for moms, so I could pump in private without the worry of someone accidentally coming in. The logistics of bringing the pump every day, figuring out when to pump to keep up your milk supply and storing the bottles in the fridge are things you'll figure out as you get used to your schedule. It may seem daunting at first, but soon it becomes routine.

While all these things get figured out soon enough, what takes longer is getting used to being away from your baby. It is an emotional process and one you can never really plan. When I went back to work after my first child, I couldn't sleep for the two weeks prior to his first day of daycare and was a nervous wreck. By the third child, it was easier. Of course, the emotion was still there, but I had gone through the process twice before.

Be kind to yourself during this time and do whatever it takes to make the transition easier. Whether it's calling the caregiver to check in every hour or talking to friends who have gone through the same thing, you need to do what it takes to make sure everyone's needs - including your own - are met.

If you're confident in your caregiver and enjoy working, eventually you'll fall into a routine and find a balance. It's a journey to get there, but if you love your job, it's a journey worth taking.

Read More by Jeana Lee Tahnk

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