Congratulations! You have brought life into the world. Now your world is turned topsy turvy as a tiny tot dictates it. Whether you are having your first baby or your fifth, maintaining balance when you go back to work after maternity leave will help you be a sane and productive mama. Balance is not elusive nor is it put on pause when you have a plus one in the family. Balance just looks different than it did before. Here are 5 tips plus a bonus for all the working new mamas out there.
Talk to your employer before you give birth, once or twice during your leave, and when you come back. Depending on how much maternity leave you take, things change in a 6-12 week time frame. When you come back, if you are breastfeeding, let them know you will be pumping during the day. If you don't have an enclosed private office, where will you pump? Do they expect you to take on your full workload on day one or will you be easing back into it? What changed while you were gone (i.e. did your work location change? are there any new employees?) Discussing these and any other expectations and environmental changes beforehand will help prepare you for your first day back.
Ask if you can gradually come back into the office by staggering your return time. Start coming back 2 days a week for 2 weeks working the rest of the time from home. Then 3 days a week for 3 weeks. Then 4 days a week for 4 weeks. This will allow you and your baby time to get acclimated to a new routine as you get back into the office work groove. Then ask if you can work from home every Friday. Other asks, can you work 4 - 10 hour days or 4 - 9 hour days and a 1/2 day on Friday? The point of the ask is to be with your newborn more while still being present at work. If you don’t ask, the answer is always “no.”
Even if you have a daycare you love, you also need to have a list of babysitters and helping hands. If your baby catches a cold, you can't take the baby to daycare. Finding and keeping a list of at least 3 trustworthy family, friends, or neighbors will bring peace when the unexpected happens at an unexpected time. Can you recruit some family or friends to help out with the baby or make meals? When you return to work, you will be tired, your sleep still interrupted, and your house will not be as tidy as you'd like. Some days will be zombie days because of the baby’s sleepless night and you still have to go to work and be coherent without looking like a zombie You will need to recruit some kind hearts with helping hands to bring you a meal, or do some laundry, or watch the baby so you and your partner can go out. Many hands will make lighter work for mama.
Have an honest dialogue with yourself about what you want as a new mama who has a job. Will you be seeking a promotion any time soon? Are you wanting to spend the first year just enamored with your bundle of joy so you are taking on fewer assignments or a different role at work? Are you wanting to prove you can have it all by being an employee of the month and the best mom ever? Don't set the bar too high or too low, that will bring burnout or bum out. When you know what you want (and what is best for your family) you can tailor your ambitions accordingly.
For sanity's sake, get you and your baby on a routine. Keep a chart. Do an internet search for "newborn chart for feeding, nursing, changing" and you will find a plethora of options to suit your liking. A chart will help keep you on track, help those helping you, and help you remember what happened when. The days are long, but the years are short. You're exhausted from all the work a baby brings plus the dynamics of what goes on at work. It’s like having two full-time jobs. A mostly kept routine will alleviate some of the stress.
Remember to take lots of pictures. These are precious paparazzi moments. Put your favorite picture on your desk. Look at it when you are tired and be revived. Look at it when work gets stressful and smile. Look at it and remember you birthed a miracle and be in awe.
Maintaining balance isn’t about pretending you have it all together and that you can do everything. That idea is called entertainment and unrealistic expectations. With proper planning, your world will be more marvelous with your plus-one than it ever was before.
This article reflects the views of the author and not necessarily those of Fairygodboss.
Karen Hartner is an author, leader, public speaker, teacher, and legal professional. As a Sr. Contract Administrator for Robert Half Legal, Karen evaluates and executes contract risk management and negotiations for corporations. She is known as a velvet brick for her firm yet friendly approach to negotiations.
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