Jacqueline Hernandez Lewis
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On your first day back to work following maternity leave, you will likely feel a slew of emotions. If you’re like me, you might cry multiple times before leaving for work and even during your commute. But don’t worry — it gets better, I promise. In the meantime, for the smoothest transition possible, follow these 10 steps on your first day (and the days after):

1. Breathe.

Breathe and count your blessings. You have a beautiful new baby and you still have a job to return to. Being employed makes you fortunate, and now you're an employed mother. How exciting is that? Not everyone can say the same. As of March 2017, 7.2 million people were unemployed in the United States.

2. Keep everything in perspective.

You’re not a bad mom for working. Remember why and for whom you are working. Though, like me, you might have had a stay-at-home-mom yourself, many moms work. In fact, most moms with kids under the age of 18 do. Additionally, being a working mom can actually have some economic, educational and social benefits for your child(ren). 

3. Let yourself be sad.

Take a bathroom break to cry if you have to — or cry at your desk, even. You’re a human being with emotions, and you’ll have just had to leave your baby in the full-time care of someone else. Know that it’s okay to not feel totally okay about this, especially in the beginning. But also know that it will hopefully grow more routine, if not easier, with time. Try not to wallow in the sadness. 

4. Speak to someone who can relate.

It can be your own mom, mother-in-law, a friend or another family member. They’ve been there and gotten through the first day back themselves. Having support from loved ones is important and can help tremendously.

5. Give yourself grace.

It will probably take some time to settle back into your role at work. That’s normal after months away from your job. Once you’re back into your groove, you might even be a better employee than you were prior to leave. Also, chances are your co-workers are happy you’ve returned — and a part of you likely is, too. 

6. Bring photos of your baby with you.

Place the photos on your desk and/or around your office. Maybe you also have a special memento you can carry around with you, like a photo keychain. These things will serve as nice reminders of who you’re doing this for.

7. Indulge in something you like.

Maybe it’s a Starbucks coffee or a chocolate bar. Let yourself have it. It’s probably going to be an emotionally draining day, and you deserve to treat yourself. 

8. Be present.

Be present with your child when you are present, and try to be as present as possible when you’re physically not. Enjoy your time together. Stay off your laptop and cell phone as much as possible when you get home. Video chat during lunchtime when you’re at work. You and your baby will still be seeing each other throughout the day, just through a screen sometimes.

9. Focus.

Focus on the moments you will have, not the moments you will miss. You’ll still make wonderful memories together, and your child is not going to forget you. They will still love you and be excited when you walk in the door every day, and they’ll still want and need their mom. After all, even though you are away during the days, you’ll be in their heart all the time.

10. Remember that no one can take your place.

No one will take your place. You are still, and will always be, Mom. You are great. You are loved. You will get through the day.

For more tips on getting the most out of your maternity leave and readjusting to working life as a new mom, check out Fairygodboss’ Pregnancy Week-By-Week guide! You can also check out our maternity leave checklist for more help.

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Jackie is the owner of her blog Moments of Musing, where she writes about her life as a wife, mom, and more living in New York City. She works with survivors of intimate partner violence.