Returning to Work After Maternity Leave :: A Survival Guide

It’s been a sweet summer over in Facebookland with all the new babies that have been showing up in my news feed on a regular basis. Almost weekly this summer, it seemed that someone I knew was announcing the birth of their new baby! And now that summer is over, many of these friends with new babies will be returning to work. The status updates are all the same, “Enjoying the last few days with my sweet baby before Mama has to go back to work.” There is a sense of panic that the first several days back at work (the first day especially) will be just too much for their mama hearts. And in a way, they are right.

maternity leaveIt is so difficult to go back to work and leave your baby in the care of someone else. I also am returning to work next week after taking a rather long maternity leave for my second baby. Because this is the second time that I have done this, there are some things that I learned the first time are “must haves” in terms of surviving those first few days (and weeks) back at work. 

A sense of peace about who is caring for your baby

I could end this post right here because this really is the most important thing on the list. Whether your new baby is going to be cared for by grandparents, friends, an in-home sitter, or a daycare, you need to feel a sense of peace about who is watching your baby every day. Every caregiver that has watched my daughter has sent me pictures throughout the day letting me know she’s okay. These little reassurances certainly added to my sense of peace. 

A support system

Dropping off your babies with someone else to go back to work is hard. It doesn’t matter how much you love your job or how much fulfillment you find in it. You still will be leaving your baby in someone else’s hands. I had friends I could text at lunch if I was having a hard time, but more importantly, I had a few good work friends that were there with me to offer a smile and a listening ear. A strong support system is essential to surviving that first week back.

Pictures of your baby framed on your desk

I know, who prints pictures anymore? But hear me out. When you miss your baby, you can look over and see a picture of that cherubic face looking back at you for an instant pick me up. (And, if you are breastfeeding, can also give you a letdown!) For me, seeing Lillian’s picture was also a reminder to myself that I want to show my daughter that women can be successful and take pride in a career. Besides that, you know people are going to be stopping in to say “Welcome back!” Give the people what they want. They want to see cute pictures of your baby. 

A plentiful workload

This shouldn’t be a problem for most of us. Even if someone else has been filling in for you, the first day back, you can expect to be busy. This is actually a really good thing because the busier you are, the less time you will have to freak out. Staying busy also means you aren’t watching the clock wishing away every long agonizing minute, but instead, your day will go much faster.

Waterproof Mascara. And Kleenex. 

For those moments when you just can’t hold the tears back anymore. They will come even though you are doing your best to hold them back. So it’s best to be prepared.

Chocolate

I kept a stash in my desk that was usually a follow-up to the moments when I needed a Kleenex. Bonus points if your support system is there offering chocolate. I personally believe there is very little in the world that can’t be fixed with quality chocolate!

know going back to work can seem difficult (and I know that there were days when the baby just cried and cried, and you couldn’t wait to go back – that’s okay too!). The truth is, many mamas have been exactly in your shoes. It didn’t seem believable to me when people told me that it would get easier, but they were right. It does get easier and easier, and it makes those cuddles you get at night so much sweeter. I know it’s rough, but it’ll get better. Good luck, Mamas! You’ve got this!

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