The first day back to work after maternity leave can bring about a roller coaster of emotions – from exhilarating to daunting.
On one hand, you are excited to be reunited with your colleagues, but you may also feel anxious about how you will manage juggling work and your new role as a parent.
Believe me, we understand all the feels. Here at The Moms At Odds we’ve had experience with returning to work 2(!!) weeks after the birth of a baby. We’ve also felt what it’s like to not be ready after 12 weeks and desperately search for a way to get more time.
Whatever situation you’re in, here are 10 tips to help make the transition back to work on your first day back to work after maternity leave as smooth as possible!
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In This Guide:
Is It Hard to Go Back to Work After Maternity Leave?
All parents experience the process of going back to work in their own way.
For some, going back to work is liberating. They can’t wait to have a few hours of uninterrupted time to focus on their career and catch up with their coworkers. While it might feel like an adjustment, it’s not an emotionally difficult one.
For other parents, the thought of leaving their baby is daunting and they feel an immense amount of guilt. It can feel like an extremely difficult time of transition.
And then there are those who feel a bit of both – maybe a combination of feeling excited to return to their job but also feel anxious about how they will manage.
Even for those who don’t struggle emotionally about returning to work, it can still be logistically hard. Making sure that you and baby get out the door and where you need to be, on time and with everything you each need for the day can be challenging at least until you adjust and get a good routine down.
How Do I Prepare for Return to Work From Maternity Leave?
The first day back at work after maternity leave can feel daunting. You may be feeling a bit of both – excited to return to your job, but also anxious about how you will manage. Here are some tips on how to deal with your first day back:
1 | Plan for Childcare
This is probably the most important thing you can do to prepare for your first day back at work.
If you are using a babysitter or nanny, introduce them to your child ahead of time so they can get comfortable with one another.
If you are using a daycare center, visit it several times before your first day back so both you and your child will feel comfortable.
Inquire what items will need to be prepared prior to your first day. For example, nannies may require breast milk to be thawed and portioned in bottles. Daycare centers will have a list of items that will need to be labeled and brought on the first day.
2 | Load Up the Pantry, Freezer, and Fridge
Stock up on food and drinks prior to your first day back to work after maternity leave so that you don’t have to worry about grocery shopping or cooking while you’re busy settling back into your routine.
Prepare easy-to-grab snacks and meals that can be reheated quickly. This will come in handy on days when you’re running late or just don’t have the energy to cook a big meal.
You can also take advantage of quick and easy meal delivery services like Blue Apron, Hello Fresh, or Plated.
3 | Treat Yourself
Celebrate your first day back to work after maternity leave with some indulgence and self care!
Pat yourself on the back for all that you’ve accomplished as a parent at this point. You’ve turned your life upside down for this little one – staying up at all hours during the night to feed, snuggle, and care for your baby. It’s time to treat yourself.
Stop by Starbucks for your favorite drink, buy yourself a new necklace to wear on your first day back, or schedule a manicure.
You deserve it! Get yourself in the mindset to start the day off right.
4 | Be Honest
Don’t feel forced to tell your coworkers you’re fine if you’re not feeling great.
It’s okay to admit that you’re feeling a little anxious or stressed about returning to work.
Your coworkers will understand and may be able to offer some helpful advice based on their own experiences.
Also, it’s important to be honest with yourself. Don’t try to act like you haven’t been away on leave – your colleagues will know better! If you need a refresher on what’s been going on, just ask.
5 | Do a Practice Run
If you’re commuting to work, do a practice run a few days before your first day back.
Try out waking up with your alarm, taking a shower, putting on makeup, packing your bag, grabbing breakfast, etc. – all while simultaneously getting baby prepped and ready for the day. Then, hop in the car and drive to the daycare and the office (yes, really).
This will help you gauge how long it will take to get to and from work with traffic, drop-off, and pick-up.
It will also give you a chance to see if there are any changes that need to be made prior to your first day back to work after maternity leave.
6 | Prep The Night Before
Before having a baby you probably were perfectly capable of getting yourself out the door in the morning just fine. Make your first work morning with your baby as easy on yourself as possible as you navigate a new routine by prepping as much as possible the night before.
Set out your clothes and baby’s, pack any bags, and just make sure everything you need is clean and ready to go.
For instance, does your baby need to bring spare clothing, diapers, wipes? Pack it and place it in front of the door.
Are you planning to pump? Make sure your pump and all supplies are in the bag. If you need to remember something like ice packs or bottles that can’t sit out, put a sticky note on the door to remind yourself.
Leave as little as possible for the morning and make it hard to forget anything you need.
7 | Add A Few Extra Minutes
You will get your new morning routine down eventually, but at least for the first day, set yourself up for success by making sure you have enough time for the unexpected.
Babies can be unpredictable. They spit up on you right after you get dressed. They have diaper blowouts as you walk out the door.
However long you think you’ll need to get ready, add a buffer of at least 15 – 20 minutes.
This gives you some wiggle room in case anything doesn’t go as planned. I hate waking up any earlier than necessary as much as the next person, but you’ll be glad to have the extra time if you need it and if you don’t you have a couple extra minutes of snuggles before you leave. And you’ll alleviate the pressure of rushing or running late on your first day back.
8 | Start Mid Week
If you’re heading back to the office full time, jumping into 5 full days can seem super overwhelming. Some parents might have the flexibility to start back to work with half days or part time, but not all jobs allow this.
However, you can often start back in the middle or even the end of the week. This allows you to ease in a bit with only 2 or 3 days to start out.
9| Easy Dinner
Your first day might be really hard so anything you can do to make even just a little bit easier is great. Just like your morning routine changes, many parents find that evening routines also require adjustments when returning to work.
A long work day, child care pickup, and commute, could mean you have to compress your previous dinner and bedtime schedules. Make the first evening as simple as possible so you have extra time to snuggle and reconnect with your baby after a day away.
Plan for something super easy for day 1. A prepped meal, leftovers, or even take out can be easy options so you have a few spare minutes.
10| Be Prepared For Feelings
Whether you are looking forward to returning to work with excitement or dread, there’s bound to be some emotions. Going back to work is a big transition which can be challenging and cause a roller coaster of feelings.
So whether you’re anxious or eager, enthusiastic or intimidated, something in between or something else completely, it’s OK to feel however you feel.
Also recognise that your feelings may change as you start working and begin to adjust. You may find you feel differently than you expected. You may be excited to return and become overwhelmed and stressed by the overflowing inbox on your desk, or perhaps you expect to be sad, but actually enjoy your day. Accept that this can be an emotional time, be kind to yourself.
Don’t judge your emotions and ditch the guilt.
We hope these tips will help you feel more prepared for your first day back to work after maternity leave. Remember, it’s okay to not be perfect and to ask for help when you need it. You’ve got this!
If you have any other tips or advice for parents on their first day back to work after maternity leave, please share them in the comments below!