When I hit the end of my maternity leave, I was ready to get back to work. I missed the feeling of crossing things off my to-list, interacting with my coworkers and feeling the sense of pride that only my career gives me. I was ready, and I’m not ashamed to admit I did not feel guilty at daycare drop off that morning. In my mind, I knew that my son’s teachers were qualified, and I knew I was only a call away.
Then, reality set in, and I spent my first few weeks back in the workforce navigating feelings of unease and insecurity. I felt like a completely different person and my life had totally changed — but everything at work seemed exactly as I had left it. Once I accepted this fact, I could use this to my advantage and since then I have become an even better version of myself.
Here are eight ways to help a friend who’s just returned to work from maternity leave:
Send her an encouraging text
The first day back to work comes with a variety of different emotions. There’s no right way to feel when returning to work, and it’s your job to reassure her. Your friend may be nervous, excited, anxious, worried, sad, or all of the above. As her friend, your job is to remind her that she’s got this. On her first day back to the office, shoot her a text to remind her of this.
Treat her to lunch
If your friend is also your coworker, treat her to lunch and let her talk it all out. Allowing her to have a sounding board in the office may be just the thing she needs to make it through the day. She’s likely internalizing all the worries that go through her mind all day, and providing her with an outlet is key.
Take something off of her plate
Returning to the workforce after several weeks or months in a newborn bubble is overwhelming. In any given day, she’s navigating getting herself out the door, packing bottles and changes of clothes for her babe, trying to remember to feed herself breakfast, and finally sipping on a hot cup of coffee at her desk only to be interrupted with dozens of emails. And that’s just the morning! Help her celebrate making it through the day by taking care of dinner by either dropping it off or gifting her a gift certificate to her favorite local takeout place. It will give her the final push to make it through until bedtime!
Give her something to look forward to
When you’re dropping off dinner, schedule a time a few weeks out to catch up. It will give her something for her to look forward to and help her daily grind seem a little less tedious. As a mom, a no-judgment vent session with a good friend can work wonders for her stress levels and be one of the best gifts you can give her! Set up a coffee date, a wine night out, or even hit up your favorite workout class together. A little break is something you can both enjoy together.
Send a quick hint, hint to their significant other
It is easy to get wrapped up in the logistics of going back to work that you forget all the emotions that come with it. As a mom who’s been there, it’s tough to go from being with your baby all the time to spending your days apart. Sometimes a small act of recognition, like a bouquet of Trader Joe’s flowers or a card, make all the difference. Send a quick reminder to your friend’s significant other and your friend will never know, but she sure will appreciate the gesture.
Amp up her work environment
Treat your friend to a few new items to jazz up her work environment. Think a cute notebook, framed photo, or water bottle that will remind her to take care of herself. Even something simple like a package of post-it notes to use for all of the to-dos she’ll need to juggle as a working mom.
Help her plan a date night
The logistics of two working parents can make you feel like you are two ships passing in the night. Now that your friend has returned to work, she’s faced with the challenge of finding a balance in her life again. It can be a lot on a marriage, and it’s easy for months to go by without a date night. Offer to babysit and allow your friend a date night out with her partner. A quick dinner out can be so refreshing– especially with how fast the days will fly now that she’s back to work!
Cut her some slack
Let’s face it, having a baby changed your friend’s life forever and your friendship has likely changed. Your friendship has weathered storms before, so be patient and remember not to take this season of life personally. She’ll come up for air eventually and you’ll be there to hear all about how things are going. And, your friendship will be better for it!