Returning to work after having a baby is truly all the feels. All of them.
On the one hand, you might be wondering if you’re doing the right thing. You feel guilty about leaving your new human, stressed about scheduling details, and heartbroken about missing little moments.
On the other hand, you might be really excited to connect with coworkers and get back into the swing of things. You’re looking forward to the satisfaction of using your skills and crossing things off your to-do list. Not to mention, enjoying your coffee uninterrupted.
Whatever you’re feeling, here are a few pro tips to help the transition.
1. Ease into it
If you can, take the first week to ease back into things. Start on a Wednesday or Thursday so you only have a few days to get through before the weekend, or if you can, work from home the first half of the week.
Aside from emotions, logistics are a big part of the transition. If you can space them out over the course of several days, the details of how exactly to do everything will be less daunting.
2. Do a trial run
Practice some or all of your morning routine ahead of time. Not only will it take pressure off the big start day, but it will also give you a chance to tweak your game plan accordingly.
Wake up early. Get dressed. Get babe ready. Pack your lunch. Make coffee. Pump if you’re planning to do that before work. Maybe even practice your commute. Getting a good idea of how long everything takes in actual time will let you get a better sense of what sort of timeline you should plan for.
Trial-run daycare. This gives you freedom to break down after drop-off without having to head to the office all puffy-eyed. (Not that the real drop-off won’t be hard, but this way you’ll get a feel for both the process and your reaction.) Drop off a week’s worth of diapers and milk while you’re there — it’s one less thing to remember later. Try to make it a full day and go get yourself a well-deserved mani-pedi.
3. Take time for you and your wardrobe
Goodbye, yoga pants. Hello, power suit — or a great pair of jeans.
A few weeks before returning to work, take some time to pull together a few killer outfits you feel really, really good in. Postpartum bodies take time to get to know (and get used to, quite honestly) and there’s nothing more frustrating than trying to fit the new you into your old clothes.
Think of this as an opportunity to build that capsule wardrobe you’ve been thinking about – just a few smart pieces can make a whole new working-mom you. A couple of musts: high-waisted jeans (like these), flowy tops that are relatively pumping friendly, a few fresh basics, and blazers for polish.
Right before returning to work is also a great time to hit the spa and get a facial, a massage, a haircut, or whatever makes you feel good.
I guarantee you’ll walk a little taller.
4. Rethink your evening routine
The key to a smooth morning is a smart schedule the night before.
Do as much as you can in the evening – like showering, prepping lunches, and packing your bags and baby’s bags. Don’t forget your laptop, bus pass, work badge, breast pump, and keys.
Then, do your future self a favor and make a checklist so that each night you can repeat it, without having to waste precious mental energy trying to remember all those schlepables and to-dos. Mental energy is hard to come by in those postpartum days, so think of this as a way to automate those tasks with using up brain space.
5. Keep your expectations low and tissues on hand
The first day, just focus on showing up.
Have a mini reunion with all of your co-workers, re-adjust your desk chair, type a few things. That’s it.
Then, give yourself a pat on the back and pair it with a glass of wine. You did it, mama.
6. Focus on the good stuff
Try to remember all the things you love about your job that you wouldn’t have otherwise. These things can be big and small: career opportunities, a chance to do something you’re good at and love, coworkers and adult conversations, new ideas, podcasts on your commute, basking in the bustle of downtown.
Every season of life has its challenges — there will never be a season when it’s all perfect. This, too, is a season, and choosing to focus on the good will help you be more mindful of the present moment.
And lastly (but maybe most importantly), when you do step foot in the office…
7. Welcome to the club
Becoming a working mom is like getting instant access to an underground, super supportive club of amazing women who’ve done what you’re about to do, and they GET IT. They know what it’s like to transition back to work, to drop your kid off at daycare, to stay at home with a sick kid, to somehow figure out dinner, and to still be a rock star at work.
And they know what it’s like to feel guilty and heartbroken and anxious and frustrated and excited about all of it. These moms have felt the feels too, and they’re here for you. They will give you honest, unfiltered mom advice and a shoulder to cry on.
So, find them early and lean on them often — and remember you’re one of those amazing moms now too.
What was the best advice you ever received about returning to work after having a baby?