I remember crying in my car for a couple of weeks after dropping my 3-year-old daughter off at my sister’s home, returning to the workforce 15 years later. With approximately 75 million women in the U.S work force today, returning to work after having kids is part of motherhood for many of us, but not always easy, especially those first few days back. So, for the moms who are quickly approaching the end of their 10-12 week maternity leave, here’s some collective wisdom from other working moms who have gone before you:
Meal plan ahead of time – it’s a game-changer! Three words: Grocery Shop Online. Prep for the morning the night before. Each Saturday, plan dinners for Saturday through Thursday (Friday can be take-out night) and grocery shop for these meals. Then you’re not scrambling every night about what to make.
(Pro tip: Pick out all of your clothes and baby clothes for the week ahead of time.)
Ask your spouse for help. Being a working mom can be a breeding ground for bitterness toward your husband if you feel like he’s not helping you do all the things. Make a plan to share the load at the onset and check in with each other frequently so you don’t get months down the road and your anger is out of control.
(Pro tip: Get each other involved; one cooks dinner while the other plays with the kids.)
Prep for the morning before you go to bed. Pack the diaper bag, pick out your work clothes, pack your lunch and breast pump (if this applies), preset the coffee maker. It makes getting out the door so much easier and enjoyable.
Create a schedule and stick to it as best you can. Grocery shop on Saturdays, clean the house on Sundays, laundry on Wednesday nights and Saturday mornings. And schedule in some “me” time!
Hire a cleaning person or service if you can afford it. It will be one of the greatest decisions you’ve ever made. TRUST US!
Block off time for pumping if you’re breastfeeding. Seriously, mark it on your calendar for work and home. Build a milk supply early as back up. Keep some frozen milk. Things change unexpectedly, going back to work can cause a drop in milk production.
Allow other people to care for and love your baby. It’s good for you and your baby.
Spend quality bonding time with baby (skin to skin) when you get home to encourage and maintain milk production.
Test run drop off for daycare so you’ll know how much time you need to get both you and baby ready. Do a real run-through of packing your bag and driving to daycare. Give the daycare a blanket you’ve slept with so your scent is on it; this helps baby nap.
Check-in with your sitter as much as you need to. This is your baby and your sitter should be sensitive to you needing to know how she’s doing and what she’s doing while you’re away, especially for the first few weeks (at least).
Talk about and acknowledge your feelings about being back at work and missing your baby. Keeping your emotions bottled up causes stress and we all know stress effects milk production.
Give yourself grace and a break. Girl, you can’t do it all and you don’t want to be a stressed-out, crazy person who is trying to do it all. Decide what is a priority for you and your family (not what your neighbor thinks you should be doing) and schedule time for that. Let the rest fall to the side.
Four years later, my daughter still recalls great times she spent with her aunt and all the fun games they played, movies they watched and “field trips” they went on. She has nothing but good memories of the time spent with her aunt while “mommy was at work.” There’s no denying that the first few days may be hard as you return to work, but remember you’re not the first mom to do this. You’re in good company, so look for the other moms in your office, we understand if you need a hug or a distraction to get you through. But no worries, your little one will be just fine and you’ll be OK, too!
Jinny Jordan is the Editorial Manager at MOPS International. She’s juggling life as a single mom with three kids in three different schools, and a clever dog who schools them all. She is continually reminded that she needs Jesus every single moment and eternally grateful for caffeine.