It’s been a few months since I went back to work after mat leave (I was home for 9 months) and about a month since Shawn went back after his portion of parental leave (he was home for 3 months) and let’s just say this transition has been another MAJOR adjustment in our lives (more so for us than for Mia of course). Nine months is a long time y’all. I grew attached to my girl, but I also felt like I had finally gotten it mostly all together and was in such a good groove of balancing alllll the things at home. We had such a great routine going and I *highly* considered staying home full-time (not because it was easy mind you, but because I actually felt like I could be good at it and work on my small biz full-time). But I ended up choosing to go back to work and while I was super worried about the transition, it actually went pretty smoothly for us. The last few weeks on the other hand have been a bit more challenging with having BOTH parents at work and trying to manage caring for a toddler + home chores while having one spouse doing shift work. FUN TIMES! We have, however, found a few strategies that have worked really well for us during both sets of transitions back to work, so in today’s post I’m sharing 5 tips for a smooth transition back to work after maternity leave.
Plan for a transition period BEFORE you go back to work.
I know what you’re thinking – how the heck are we supposed to transition *before* I go back to work?! But here’s the thing, you totally can. This is more so for your sweet little babe than for you. Whether your child will be going off to daycare or staying with a family member or babysitter, start introducing it gradually while you are still at home and can provide any guidance or comfort that’s needed. Remember, over the past however many months, you have been the primary person in your child’s life which means you both share a deep connection. Losing you cold turkey will be HARD on your baby’s emotions, so having some time to transition beforehand can help make it so much easier. Start by leaving them alone with the new babysitter for an hour at a time (but be easily available in case they’re having a hard time adjusting) and work your way up to a full day or half day depending on what your work schedule will look like. You may feel like you’re not ready to let go of your baby just yet, but you will be so thankful you made time for this! Plus, you can use your time alone for some much-deserved self-care.
Keep a consistent routine for baby.
This is another big one that I absolutely swear by. Your baby will 1000% notice your absence while you are at work, but if you arrange for them to still follow their exact same routine each day it makes the transition SO MUCH easier because it gives them a sense of comfort and familiarity. Make sure that whoever is taking care of your baby while you are at work is fully aware of what your child’s daily routine looks like (meals, nap times, etc). Make a daily schedule, print it out, and hand it directly to them so you are all on the same page. Many of the daycares that I’ve talked to are also very accommodating of home routines, especially for toddlers, since they know how much this can affect a child.
Prep everything the night before.
Once you go back to work and are faced with having to juggle the work-home balance, life will get hectic and the absolute LAST thing that you’ll want to do each night once the kiddos are asleep is to do even *more* work. But hear me out, if you spend an extra 15-20 minutes prepping everything for baby + you for the next day (think diaper bags, bottles, lunches, etc), you will be so unbelievably thankful for how smoothly your morning goes. Hectic mornings are no fun for anyone and often results in someone missing a bus or train and something getting left behind or forgotten, so trust me when I say that prepping the night before is definitely the way to go.
Take advantage of work-from-home days.
Let’s be real honest for a second – the impact of the COVID pandemic this year has been absolutely insane and frustrating to say the least, but one of the *happier* side effects has been the fact that businesses don’t want their employees in the building unless you actually HAVE TO be there. This means that thousands of workers are getting to work from home at least a few days a week. Mommas, take ADVANTAGE of this! Depending on how heavy your work-from-home load is, you may still choose to have your child go to daycare or to a babysitter which is totally fine, but the added time freedom that comes with working from home means you get to spend more time with your little one at the end of the day which is always a bonus.
Ask for help when you need it.
Those first few weeks after going back to work are HARD! Notice I didn’t say “it can be hard” or “it’s sometimes hard” – it’s *always* hard, no matter how much you prep ahead of time. Here’s the thing, emotionally and physically you can prep and make things a lot easier for baby and you, but there is a mental exhaustion that comes with trying to figure out your new routine and work-life balance. This tip is a crucial one and has honestly saved my sanity more times than I can count. Ask for help when you need it. While I totally agree that mamas are truly the real superheroes, we all have a limit of how much we can do and give of ourselves to others before we explode. When you are nearing that line, take a step back and get a little extra help so that you can also take care of YOURSELF while taking care of your sweet family. This may look different to us all – maybe you just need a night off and send the kids to grandma and grandpas or maybe you’re drowning in house work and need to hire a cleaning lady to help out every other week. Y’all, there is absolutely no shame in asking for an extra hand when you need it. Happy mama = happy kiddos.
We have used all of these tips throughout both mine and Shawn’s transitions back to work after our respective portions of maternity/parental leaves and I completely swear by them! They have helped make the transitions so much smoother for both us and Mia and we’ve never had any major issues with her being out of sorts throughout those periods. I will say that despite her being completely comfortable and at ease with whoever is taking care of her, we did notice a slight shift in her mood in those first few days when we went back to work (a little more quiet and wanting to cuddle all the time) but that’s why it is SO SO important to be fully present with your kiddos when you are at home.
For all the mommas (and dadas) going back to work after being on leave with your sweet babies, I know it will be extremely hard to not be at their side all day, but just remember – YOU GOT THIS! Transitions can be hard, but I truly hope that these tips make the transition back to work seamless and a whole lot easier for the whole family.