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October 25, 2019
For the next month, we’ll be focused on helping new moms who are headed back to the office make a smooth transition that leaves them feeling grounded and calm instead of harried and unsettled. This week, we’ll talk about the emotional transition that comes with this big step and how to deal with all the changes you’re bound to face.
Having a baby is a major life event for every new mom. If you’re feeling super nervous (or even just having mixed feelings) about maternity leave ending, you are not alone. When you spend all day in
I didn’t cry at all the day I went back to work after I had my first baby. I thought I would. I was fully prepared to sit under my desk with a box of tissues for the first few hours back in the office but the feeling I had that first day was not one of sadness, it was one of pure relief. Though my colicky baby had turned a corner and I was finally getting more sleep, it was still hard to be at home. Being at home meant dirty
When I re-entered the workplace, I found I was, in some ways, back to me. I could eat lunch with both hands. I had adult conversations all day. I peed without holding another human being in my arms (come on, we’ve all been there). Then, I went back home at the end of the day to the child who I loved the most, more than anything else in the whole world. It was, by all measures in my book, totally ideal. If that’s you, too, you’re in good company.
If that’s not you—if you return to work and are a heavy mix of tears and regret—take heart. You’re also in good company. My return-to-work depression days hit after I had my second daughter and realized my last maternity leave with my last baby ever had come to an end. Her infancy was gentler and I had a better support system during my maternity leave experience with her. If this is you, please believe me: it does get better. Remember, on the day you leave your son or daughter in the arms of someone else for the workplace: you are NOT abandoning your baby, you and your baby will be okay. Most importantly, you can never be replaced. You will always be mom.
Whatever your return to work mindset, consider these ways to make the transition easier:
Parents ask me often about what type of setting is best for children—
You don’t want them to try too hard to focus on a set “curriculum” for your children. Instead, you want them to provide opportunities for exposure to lots of books, music, one-on-one communication, and exploration. This could be in the care of a child care center, an in-home child care setting, a nanny, a nanny share, a friend, or a relative.
My top picks are nannies, family members, and in-home
Like all great things in life that are in limited supply, the best child care settings and nannies tend to book up quickly. It’s never to early to start researching your local options and even reaching out to potential providers. You can find more information about finding an amazing nanny here.
Strongly consider requesting an ease-in schedule as you start working again. Working several hours at a time or even half days can make the childcare transition go more smoothly and can help you get over the stark contrast between staying home in baby land versus spending time at the office.
If you don’t work independently, stay in touch with your manager throughout your maternity leave so you can have conversations as it gets closer. Think about what would work best for you and ask for it. You’ll never get what you don’t ask for and the worst your employee can say is no. Consider asking for a reduced schedule for the first month back (easing up to full time, for example by working a few days per week at first) or, at minimum, start on a Thursday so the first week is short. Several top tech companies actually structure the first month back as two days, three days, four days, and then finally a full week back automatically. If your employer accommodates telecommuting options or other alternative ways to clock hours for a few weeks, consider giving yourself and your postpartum state some grace by taking advantage of that flexibility.
If possible, go back at 80 percent time for the first month or two. If you have Paid Time Off (PTO) saved up, schedule a day or two off in the first month just to have a time on the calendar to catch up. If you don’t have PTO to use for the ease-in schedule, you could also ask to use some of your leave time intermittently to create an ease-in plan.
As a pediatrician, I’m a huge proponent of breastfeeding but I also know breastfeeding doesn’t always work out or isn’t always feasible. A woman’s decision or ability to breastfeed does not define her as a mom. There are about a billion other things that matter more and we do a disservice to mothers when we place unnecessary pressure, guilt, or shame on them about this one component of a baby’s early life.
For those who are breastfeeding at home during maternity leave, the transition to pumping can be daunting. Here are my best tips for making it successful:
Know Your Rights
It wasn’t that long ago that women had virtually no breastfeeding rights in the workplace and, believe me, I’ve heard some horror stories about women cramped into tiny bathrooms while pumping even recently. The law, though, is on our side when it comes to pumping and work. Lactating employees are required by federal law to have a private place to express milk throughout the day.[ The law states the amount of time should be “reasonable.” Every lactating mom is different but, remember, you’ll want to factor in enough time during each session to set up your pumping gear, pump, and then clean everything back up again.
Learn to Pump on The Go
I’ve pumped just about everywhere you can imagine: in the bathroom stall at a Giant’s game, at my desk, in the car…everywherebecause, when I first started breastfeeding, I decided that I would not be deterred by technical difficulties or by a lack of convenience. I wanted to be able to pump on trips, at the airport, at hotels and I did. There are a lot of things I look back on in my first year of parenting that I could have done differently or wished I’d known more about but, this? This one I knocked out of the
Maximize Your Pumping Efforts When You’re In The Office
If you’re going to spend hours of your life over the next year with two suction cups attached to your breasts, you might as well make those hours as effective as humanly possible. Next week, we’ll dive into what you need to know to get the most (literally) out of your efforts.
Experienced mamas know taking care of yourself matters just as much as taking care of your little one. That means concentrating on sleep for you and your baby, focusing on your emotional health and wellness, and moving your body. It also means taking it easy when you’re just getting going with this new home-work balancing act. It can be tempting to over plan your weekends when you head back to the office because you miss your family time (or your alone time) so much. For your sanity, though, think about doing the opposite for the first few months. Don’t pack your first few weekends full of outings and activities. Instead plan to nap and adjust to a new level of complication and fatigue (which gets better, by the way).
The night before you go back to work for the first time, get organized. Make bottles for daycare, make your lunch, lay your clothes out—whatever you need to make the morning as smooth as possible. If you don’t quite fit into all your old work clothes yet, try a clothing rental company to tide you over while you’re still in a transitional body. These things take time, my friend. Dedicate a little time that evening to reviewing your week with your partner and thinking about any special logistics you have to manage. Being a working parent is 150% about logistics, so the more you have those worked out from the get-go, the more you can concentrate on your emotional transition to this next stage of life.
Returning to the workplace brings up so many emotions and complicated decisions but you can make the transition easier with an intentional plan that sets you and your baby up calm and contentment. Remember, above all, our kids do not need us to be in their presence all day and all night. When they see their moms thriving and content in our own lives, when we can offer them the best parts of ourselves when we’re with them because we’ve already filled our own deepest needs—either professionally or personally—they thrive as well.
Grab the book! Out March 17, 2020.
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