The day I started my maternity leave was the day I started dreading going back to work. I took a week off before my daughter was born so I could focus on bed rest and keeping my blood pressure down. I felt like that was a total waste...one less week I got with my precious little one before I had to go back to work. I've never had 12 weeks go so fast in my life!
I'm not going to lie, it was tough...REALLY tough to go back. I had so many mixed emotions as my start date got closer and closer. On one hand I wanted to spend all my time with my daughter but on the other hand I was happy to have some adult time. It is totally normal to feel everything from guilt about leaving baby to pure happiness to get out of the house!
I had a lot of help and advice about going back to work from friends and relatives. This helped me deal with all these emotions and I am happy to share these tips with you:
- Don't deny the fact that you are going back to work. So many women just push that thought WAY back in their minds when their leave starts. That is the worst thing you can do...you need to prepare yourself for going back. Your maternity leave will be over in a flash and the last thing you want is all the guilt creeping up at the last minute.
- Surround yourself with supportive people. I remember someone telling me I was crazy for going back to work and that I should stay home with my daughter...I wanted to punch them. I didn't have the choice to not work at the time, but even if I did so what? Make sure your friends and family support you in going back, and if they don't...then you have my permission to not talk to them for a VERY long time.
- Find a daycare/sitter that you are comfortable with and do a few test runs before you go back to work. Plan on practicing your morning routine and taking baby to daycare in the morning a few times before you go back. It will help you know how much earlier you'll have to get up (yuck) and make dropping baby off the day you go back a little less traumatic.
- If you can, make your first couple of days back to work are half days. This was huge for me. It allowed me to get used to dropping baby off in the morning, but still having some afternoon time to snuggle. Plus, it helped me ease back into my job...it takes time to figure out your work/life balance after baby!
- Practice pumping and feeding baby a bottle several weeks before going back. I was a master pumper when I went back to work so this was never an issue with me...but I do know Mom's that hadn't even tried to pump until they went back to work and then realized that baby HATED the bottle. Getting your nursed baby used to bottle feeding takes time, and it will only make going back to work worse if you haven't mastered it!
- Be prepared to cry. Every single Mother that you work with will understand so seek one out the second you get to work. I promise you'll get a few hugs and "welcome backs", along with the "let me know if you need to talk" chats.
- Get over the guilt. This was the toughest part for me...I felt so bad for leaving baby and doing something other than taking care of her. It helped me to realize that I was not the only Mother in the world that had to work for a living. More importantly, by going back to work I WAS taking care of her. I was making sure we had the funds to give her everything she needed.
Now that I am a stay-at-home Mom, I appreciate every single minute I worked. I stop myself every time I get frustrated with the "terrible 2's" or not being able to get anything done because my daughter needs something. I have to realize that if I was working, I would have to pack all these chores, all this cuddle and play time...everything into my evenings and weekends. I am EQUALLY thankful every day for the opportunity to both work and stay home.
So for those of you on maternity and going back to work: good luck, you can do it...and I PROMISE it gets easier!