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BY Nicole Gulotta for Motherly

8 Tips for a Peaceful Return to Work After Maternity Leave

Woman with baby

Photo credit: Motherly

TAGS: Maternity leave, Career advice, Career change, Pumping

The night before returning to work after maternity leave, I did what many new mothers do:

I cried.

Then I cried again the next morning as my husband pushed the stroller out the front door to drop our son off at daycare. An hour later, only slightly more composed, I walked into my office building with a large pumping bag slung over my shoulder.

Although my desk looked the same as the day I left it months earlier, so much had changed since then. I was returning to an old position with a new body, new outlook, and a new routine that revolved around feeding my son in three-hour intervals.

The previous four months had already been marked by a series of transitions like healing from birth, learning to breastfeed, and accomplishing daily tasks with one hand while holding a baby in my arm.

Returning to work was simply another transition to navigate, signifying the end of the fourth trimester and the beginning of a new routine for the entire family.

Although I’d known the moment was coming for months, it didn’t make the process easier emotionally. The first week was a predictable mix of tears, frustration, and sadness while I eased back into projects, developed a new pumping schedule, and missed my son wholeheartedly while trying to stay focused during meetings. But I planned ahead, and was committed to incorporating self-care practices into my day.

If you’re on the brink of your own return to work, make an effort to address both your external environment and internal spirit, and you’ll discover myriad ways to encourage a more peaceful transition.

1. Refresh your desk.

You sit here for long stretches of time, so make your desk inviting. A soft lamp can temper overhead fluorescent lighting, potted succulents provide a bit of beauty, and a framed photo of your baby will help the space feel cozy.

2. Utilize aromatherapy.

Soothing aromatherapy scents like jasmine, lavender, and vanilla encourage peace and relaxation, even during a busy workday. Add a few drops to your hand, rub your palms together, and take a few deep breaths anytime you need a quiet moment.

3. Eat healthy snacks.

Hunger pains can be stronger when you’re nursing, so keep yourself well-fed at the office. Bring healthy snacks like yogurt and hummus to keep in the refrigerator, and dried nuts and fruit for your desk drawer.

4. Recharge while you pump.

Pumping in an office is never ideal, but a fresh mindset can make the experience something you look forward to. Bring your laptop to catch up on personal email, read a magazine, or even spend time looking at photos or videos of your baby.

5. Stretch each time you visit the bathroom.

Don’t bring your yoga mat into the ladies room, but do go into the handicap stall and take a gentle twist, reach your arms over your head, or hang forward like a rag doll to stretch your neck. It will give tired shoulder muscles a break.

6. Spend quality time with colleagues.

Going to coffee or lunch with some of your close colleagues is an easy way to reconnect after a long absence and embrace your social side. Scheduling a few outings in advance also breaks up the workday and gives you something positive to anticipate on your calendar.

7. Feel good in your clothes.

It’s time to leave your maternity sweats at home. Treat yourself to a few new pieces that will make you feel excited to get dressed in the morning. The confidence boost will go a long way to enhance your day!

8. Be kind to yourself.

Be gentle with yourself as you return to the rhythms of your former life. Utilize grocery delivery services to keep after-work errands to a minimum, or speak with your boss about easing back in with smaller assignments. Always remember that you’re doing the best you can for yourself, your baby, and your workplace, and by keeping your mental health a priority, you’ll be better equipped to maneuver the inevitable challenges that may arise over the next few months. 

This piece was written by Nicole Gulotta, a writer for Motherly. Her original article on Mother.ly can be found here.

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Related Community Discussions

  • I recently got engaged, will be married October 2017. My fiance and I want to start a family right away. My job does not have paid maternity leave. Would it be premature for me to advocate for paid leave? My initial thought process was to figure this out as soon as possible. Maybe I should start looking for another job; researching other companies I noticed that most (all the one's that I saw) require employees to have been employed for a year before being offered paid maternity leave.

    If I could have my way I would stay where I am at and get paid leave.

    I have a positive relationship with my boss and can talk about this with him, however; he isn't the one who ultimately makes this decision, corporate does.

  • My company recently put in a nursing room/mother's room but it was designed in a way that the majority of the room is fogged glass - except one strip that runs right at sitting level that was left as transparent glass. I don't think it was done intentionally (men designed the room) but I now have to put up sheets of paper to cover the transparent strip of glass. Any idea on how to address this with my (all male) management team?

  • I am currently 36 weeks pregnant and gearing up to go on maternity leave at the end of the month. I recently came across a new job oppurnity that would be better for my family. I'm at the finishing stages of interviewing with this new company and I am worried that I will find out I got the job while on maternity leave. My question is, what happens to my maternity benefits and how do I go about leaving my current job without issue?

  • I am currently 36 weeks pregnant and gearing up to go on maternity leave at the end of the month. I recently came across a new job oppurnity that would be better for my family. I'm at the finishing stages of interviewing with this new company and I am worried that I will find out I got the job while on maternity leave. My question is, what happens to my maternity benefits and how do I go about leaving my current job without issue?

  • I am trying to change career paths. I was laid off in Nov. 2016. I spoke with a master resume writer yesterday who recommended an entirely new resume, LinkedIn overhaul, valuation letter and summary/biography all for close to $3000. I also received a call for an interview for a part-time job, $10/hour, no benefits. Needless to say I burst into tears by the end of the day.

    I had high hope when I obtained my law degree (especially after working full-time & attending night classes). I've tried contacting the law school and my undergrad career centers but have received only nominal assistance. They both wished me luck, gave me login's to their job portals and had nothing more to suggest.

    Someone mentioned networking & I agree that is an option but here in Michigan is comes with a fee to attend events, seminars or join associations. I understand we are all trying to make money but I graduated from law school during the recession and have 6 figures in student loans. I also am running out of unemployment.

    The master resume writer explained only 15% of people get hired from online applications. Is that true? If so then why are we even bothering with an online system at all? She suggested I find the hiring manager & connect with that person. The hiring manager is sometimes 2 people deep in the company so how do I find the person who told HR that they need a person for X job?

    I've reached out to people on LinkedIn and have not gotten much response or advice. Are there any mentors or HR people that can suggest anything that is free? My mom thinks I should go back to school but with a BA and JD that I am still paying for adding to the debt with no promises that another degree will land me a job doesn't seem wise.

    I am frustrated, disheartened and angry that the process of finding a job has become so convoluted but understand why it has. I've read so many articles on LinkedIn that they conflict with one another...you need a cover letter, no you need a pain letter, don't bother you don't need these because HR won't read it. Your resume needs skills, don't list your skills, list dates, don't list dates, take off references. Which article do I believe? Adding insult to injury the unemployment agency here requires your resume to be uploaded to the talent network. Do you know what companies contacted me expressing interest in my skill-set? Tru-Green lawn care as a fertilizer sprayer and a local manufacture as a line-worker. Is that all I am capable of and are they even reading my resume?

    If there is anyone out there who can help please respond and as 1 talk-show host says everyday at the end of her show remember to "be king to one another".

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8 Tips for a Peaceful Return to Work After Maternity Leave

8 Tips for a Peaceful Return to Work After Maternity Leave

The night before returning to work after maternity leave , I did what many new mothers do: I cried. Then I cried again the next morning as my husba...

The night before returning to work after maternity leave, I did what many new mothers do:

I cried.

Then I cried again the next morning as my husband pushed the stroller out the front door to drop our son off at daycare. An hour later, only slightly more composed, I walked into my office building with a large pumping bag slung over my shoulder.

Although my desk looked the same as the day I left it months earlier, so much had changed since then. I was returning to an old position with a new body, new outlook, and a new routine that revolved around feeding my son in three-hour intervals.

The previous four months had already been marked by a series of transitions like healing from birth, learning to breastfeed, and accomplishing daily tasks with one hand while holding a baby in my arm.

Returning to work was simply another transition to navigate, signifying the end of the fourth trimester and the beginning of a new routine for the entire family.

Although I’d known the moment was coming for months, it didn’t make the process easier emotionally. The first week was a predictable mix of tears, frustration, and sadness while I eased back into projects, developed a new pumping schedule, and missed my son wholeheartedly while trying to stay focused during meetings. But I planned ahead, and was committed to incorporating self-care practices into my day.

If you’re on the brink of your own return to work, make an effort to address both your external environment and internal spirit, and you’ll discover myriad ways to encourage a more peaceful transition.

1. Refresh your desk.

You sit here for long stretches of time, so make your desk inviting. A soft lamp can temper overhead fluorescent lighting, potted succulents provide a bit of beauty, and a framed photo of your baby will help the space feel cozy.

2. Utilize aromatherapy.

Soothing aromatherapy scents like jasmine, lavender, and vanilla encourage peace and relaxation, even during a busy workday. Add a few drops to your hand, rub your palms together, and take a few deep breaths anytime you need a quiet moment.

3. Eat healthy snacks.

Hunger pains can be stronger when you’re nursing, so keep yourself well-fed at the office. Bring healthy snacks like yogurt and hummus to keep in the refrigerator, and dried nuts and fruit for your desk drawer.

4. Recharge while you pump.

Pumping in an office is never ideal, but a fresh mindset can make the experience something you look forward to. Bring your laptop to catch up on personal email, read a magazine, or even spend time looking at photos or videos of your baby.

5. Stretch each time you visit the bathroom.

Don’t bring your yoga mat into the ladies room, but do go into the handicap stall and take a gentle twist, reach your arms over your head, or hang forward like a rag doll to stretch your neck. It will give tired shoulder muscles a break.

6. Spend quality time with colleagues.

Going to coffee or lunch with some of your close colleagues is an easy way to reconnect after a long absence and embrace your social side. Scheduling a few outings in advance also breaks up the workday and gives you something positive to anticipate on your calendar.

7. Feel good in your clothes.

It’s time to leave your maternity sweats at home. Treat yourself to a few new pieces that will make you feel excited to get dressed in the morning. The confidence boost will go a long way to enhance your day!

8. Be kind to yourself.

Be gentle with yourself as you return to the rhythms of your former life. Utilize grocery delivery services to keep after-work errands to a minimum, or speak with your boss about easing back in with smaller assignments. Always remember that you’re doing the best you can for yourself, your baby, and your workplace, and by keeping your mental health a priority, you’ll be better equipped to maneuver the inevitable challenges that may arise over the next few months. 

This piece was written by Nicole Gulotta, a writer for Motherly. Her original article on Mother.ly can be found here.

Fairygodboss

Fairygodboss is committed to improving the workplace and lives of women. 
Join us by reviewing your employer!

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