For many working moms, returning to work after maternity leave can bring up feelings of anxiety, stress, worry, and concerns about what to expect from their new life as a working mom. Going back to work after baby can also be an exciting time to return to a feeling and experience of who you once were before you had a baby, and to adjust to your new normal as a working momma. Here’s what to expect from going back to work after baby.
Some of the links below contain affiliate linking, which means that at no extra cost to you, I may earn a commission if you click through and make a purchase. You can read my full disclosure policy here.
Maternity leave, if you’re lucky to have it for long at all, can be an incredible time to bond with your new baby, adjust to motherhood, recover from labor and delivery and get to be a mom without having to have any other real responsibilities (Work-responsibilities, that is, because let’s face it, you will always have so many responsibilities once you become a mom.)
Whether you have six weeks, six months, or six years, returning to work can be both exciting and nerve-racking and filled with quite a bit of, “what abouts” that may plague you as you sift through your plan to return to the working world.
Here’s a little run down of what you may expect when it's time to make that transition:
Make A Plan for Child Care
This may seem insanely obvious but you wouldn’t believe the amount of mom friends I have who tell me they’re about to go back to work in a week or so and have yet to hire a nanny, tour a day care, or talk to family about watching baby.
In Home Child Care Options (aka Hiring a Nanny)
If you’re looking for child care within your home, I find it’s best to rely on recommendations and referrals especially if this is your first time. Utilize the Facebook mommy group, or any new mom friend’s you’ve made along the way to help you in your search. If you’re still struggling using a service like Urban Sitter can produce results.
Urban Sitter conducts extensive background checks as well as connects to Facebook so if you do have friends who have used the service before (or even people within your neighborhood) it shows you a little clue to that as in “10 families in Santa Clarita have used this sitter.” It’s an awesome service to check out.
They charge a monthly fee but you can manage payment through the site which makes it super convenient to pay your nanny or babysitter.
Even if you’re not looking for a nanny though, Urban Sitter is a great program to sign up with for back up sitters for those days that baby is sent home sick (and more on that in a bit).
You’ll want to start touring day cares as soon as possible to get a feel for the different teaching styles and quirky “rules.” Unfortunately, because the U.S. is lacking in any sort of substantial funding to subsidize daycares or regulate the hiring practices, who ends up being at your school can honestly be a mixed bag. (I wish that daycares would be free and pay their teachers well like many other rich countries but that’s for another blog).
In our community we have dozens of “school” daycares and dozens more “in-home” day care centers. It’s worth checking out a variety of options to see which model best suits your parenting style and your budget as well as the hours they are open to accommodate your work schedule.
Call the schools on your list and make an appointment. You may be surprised by what you learn.
For example, there’s a very popular school near us that has a “no sugar” policy for the entire school, and that includes birthday treats. (If you’ve been reading my blog you’ll know I have THOUGHTS about sugar and food in general so this wasn’t gonna fly in our world).
Also be sure to check with the state regarding any infractions that the daycare may have against them. One in home day care we toured disclosed to us on our tour that they had an infraction against them and the details of it which we verified. I was glad they told us what happened, but I wasn’t loving the set up and it helped us rule that school out during our initial touring process.
Make a Plan for Everything Else
Every time I’m about to return to work after baby I hear the line from a movie I can’t remember that goes something like, “Get your House in Order.” (And if you know what movie this is from PLEASE help me out and comment below because I’ve Googled to no success).
Anyway the point is, get your shit together momma. Whatever that means to you. It could mean investing in an Instant Pot or a service like Blue Apron so that you can figure out how to make dinner on the quick.
It could mean having a plan for bath and bedtime that your husband navigates until you get home (If you work later than him).
It could mean carving out a laundry hour on Friday nights so you can get a jump on the weekend loads.
Whatever it is, get it together now. Because once you get into that rhythm of wake up/get ready/get them ready/commute/work/commute/return home you won’t have much mental space to figure out the details. At least at first. After the initial adjustment period wears off you’ll find more space and time to sort shit out again.
If you’re looking for an easy way to figure out what’s for dinner, be sure to check out this blog on my Meal Planner Template that will revolutionize the way you plan, shop, and think about what you’re going to make for a week of meals for you and your family.
Invest In the Breast Feeding Gear/Formula Extras
If you’re breast feeding, it’s time to make sure you’ve got all your pumps, bottles, and gear ready to go. Because of the Affordable Care Act, you can get a free pump through your insurance, so if you haven’t taken advantage of this yet, do it now.
If you’re formula feeding (or doing a combo of both) make sure you’ve got a supply of formula ready to go.
Most child care centers require you to label bottles with what kind of milk your baby drinks, their name, and the date.
These labels are awesome for labeling the bottle once. These labels are great for the daily markings of the date and type of milk. I also love this bottle carrier to transport things back and forth from childcare.
Also be sure to stock up on your favorite bottles because, momma, you and your partner are going to be doing ALL THE dishes. Depending on when you go back to work you could have a baby who gets up to six bottles a day, and doing that washing is going to be the last thing you’ll want to think about after a long day at work.
Learn How to Meal Prep Like a Boss
For your lunches, for your child’s food, for your family for the week. Invest some time on the weekend to prepping some favorite snacks and things that don’t spoil quickly. You can also prep some freezer friendly casseroles or meals that you can pop into the slow cooker before work.
Practice a Test Run of Your Work Schedule
I don’t need alarms anymore because I have two human ones who wake me up every morning between 6 - 6:30 Am but if you’re lucky to have a late sleeper or if you’d like to have some morning time to yourself, set an alarm for when you need to wake up.
It sounds silly but practice taking a shower, and juggling what to do with baby. This is especially tricky if your partner leaves for work earlier than you do.
When I worked in TV, my hours were 10 AM to 7 PM and my commute was a solid 45 minutes one way, which meant my hubby was the one who would need to do bath and bedtime with a baby and a toddler every week night.
For a few weeks leading up to my return for work, he rehearsed what that would look like so he could be ready for it when the time came.
Carve Out You Time
Personally, I love being a working mom. The silence in my car as I drop off my kids Monday morning is a thing of beauty. And sometimes I drive in that silence just to feel human again and reset my soul.
But as a working mom I need to carve out some serious self care to make my life sustainable. For me this means meditating on my lunch break, or even taking a car nap for those days after a really rough night sleep.
A big bonus to being a working mom is shopping and running errands WITHOUT YOUR KIDS which can be it’s own version of self-care. I love wandering through the aisles of Target and there’s real joy in that.
Take advantage of that lunch break or coffee run and grab another pack of diapers or formula too! Or not. You do you, boo.
Set the Tone Day One Back at Work
When you’re back at work, schedule a meeting with your boss, or sit down with your team to discuss any changes in policy, customers, or protocol that may have occurred while you were on maternity leave.
Tackle some of the most pressing projects quickly and efficiently.
It’s also a good idea to set expectations with your boss and your team about what may happen should you need to stay home with a sick baby. For my family, if we couldn’t find a back up sitter, what that meant is I would stay home later, and my hubby would leave work early. Then we’d switch.
If you’re up for it, you can also fake it to you make it in a way. I love to channel my inner Christina Applegate from the movie “Don’t Tell Mom The Babysitter’s Dead” when she famously tells her boss “I’m right on top of that, Rose!” even when she has no idea what she’s talking about.
If you feel comfortable discussing any work from home options, as some companies do have a flexible schedule and encourage this kind of arrangement, take a moment to run it by your boss to see what the options are. It’s good to have this in your back pocket should you need to stay home for a day or two with a sick kid.
Ps. You will have to stay home with a sick kid when you return to work. And more than you’d likely want to. You’re child is going to be building up those super beneficial immunities by getting every single germ going around. And studies show that your child will get it now or later, and personally I’d prefer it earlier when there is no actual “learning” occurring rather than later when they start kindergarten.
Maintain Your Professionalism
Yes, it’s amazing that you created another human. And yes, you get to share pictures and tell all the stories but try to keep it professional. And I hate that I have to say this because I wish we lived in a country that rewarded new moms with all the accolades and praise that they deserve and showered them with presents and money confetti on the first day back at work, but sadly that’s not the case.
Some of your childless colleagues will not understand what you’ve been doing all day for the past several weeks/months.
On the other hand, many of your colleagues will come to you wanting to hear all the stories and it’s best to allow them to do this rather than the other way around.
You’ll also find yourself aligning with some of the other parents in the office. I found myself gravitating to the new moms on my team, and wanting to talk to them about parent stuff when I could.
It was a nice release of the pressure and a weirdly fun way to bond with my team.
Be Patient With Yourself
This is a massive adjustment. And it will take time for you to get used to your new normal both at work and at home. You won’t nail it the first few weeks, and your boss and your baby will likely both be patient with you.
Be kind to yourself and know that it will all get better.
Practice Saying No
Your life is not holy your own anymore, and with that means it’s going to be a lot harder to pop out for drinks after work with a client, or to take on a project that will tie you to the office for several weekends in a row. Learn how to navigate the office politics in a way that you can say no, but also still maintain your professionalism. This can be so hard, but it’s so necessary.
Leaving Your Babies After Maternity Leave is Gonna Suck
Real talk time, momma: Whether you have one or ten, the first time you go back to work after having babies may feel different than any other time you’ve gone back to work, started a new job, or returned from a vacation.
You will now have a part of your heart that you are willingly choosing to leave in the care of someone else. (Be it family, friends, a nanny, or daycare.) If you have young children, it will be tough to do this.
But it does get better as the days go by. And it does get easier to leave them.
While I wish I could have had more time at home with my second (he started daycare at three months old), the transition was relatively easy for both of us. He knew very little else and was still at a great age to welcome new people to comfort and love him.
However, not every baby is the same, and not every family handles this transition in the same way.
Just remember your little love bug has been with you the entire time they’ve been alive. It’s somewhat unreasonable to expect them to plop into a new situation and take to it like a fish to water. Yes, some unicorn babies or children may be born to go to daycare, but that’s the exception generally, not the rule. I regularly see newbies in both my kid's classes and one thing they share in common is about a week - 10 days of crying at drop off. Then they're good and pretty much adjusted.
Be patient, be calm, and trust that you’ve chosen right in your childcare and leave them with the confidence that they will be loved and cared for just as you have done up until this point.
Leaving Your Babies After Maternity Leave is Also Gonna be Awesome
The first time you drive away from your babies may suck, but by the third or fourth time, it’s going to feel pretty great. At least, that was my experience. Shortly after returning to work, I began to look forward to my commute as the special quiet time that I get to have all to myself.
If it had been a particularly tricky morning getting out of the house, sometimes I would drive most of my 45 min - 60 minutes to work in complete silence, decompressing from all-the-fucking-noise.
If you miss reading for fun, or just like listening to something other than music, Audible and Podcasts can be fantastic ways to catch up on the latest bestseller or topical popular podcasts.
Re-entering Adult Life After Maternity Leave is Strange and Beautiful
I love working; I love being a working mom.
I don’t do maternity leave well, generally speaking. I get stir crazy, hopped up on hormones, and a lack of sleep, and I feel like I need to be productive beyond keeping a small immobile human alive.
I crave a routine and newborns are notorious for saying “nope” to even the best-laid plans.
Sure I had my husband, and mom friends to keep me company and feeling slightly less insane, but I still craved that need to be productive and to have real tangible things to do.
Returning to an office full of adult conversation has always been like a jolt of fresh air. OH YES! HUMAN’S SPEAK TO ONE ANOTHER! They make jokes! They banter!
Learning How To Balance Everything
The challenge of splitting your time between your children and your passion can feel two parts wretched, and one part like you’re living your best boss mom dreams.
It is an incredible balancing act to juggle the role of motherhood and that of a professional, and there’s something about being a mom, I believe, that makes you faster, less inclined for bullshit, and more productive. You’ve got kids that are waiting so that spreadsheet is going to get done, and it’s going to get done right meow.
On the flip side, you’re also more present with your kids in some ways because you’ve been gone from a majority of the day with them. I would soak up every single word out of my boy's mouths the second I came home even if it was the tantruming kind of nonsensical words.
Just Keep Swimming, Momma
After I had Sam, my heart had become split in two, as had my attention, and my patience, and my responsibilities, and everything else. But mostly I was resentful that I was spending just two or three hours every morning with my babies: feeding them, getting them ready for work, feeding myself, and getting myself ready for work.
It was organized chaos at best.
And nearly every time I dropped them off I would sit in my quiet car for a moment thinking to myself, did I do enough? Was I a good enough mom this morning? Because I knew that I wouldn't see them again until the next morning. My hubby would pick them up after he got off work, feed them dinner, and put them to bed long before I would get home from work.
Now that I had two my energy, my heart was split in two as well. Because having a toddler requires so much energy, patience, and attention, I often found myself pulled away from his baby brother. And I actually began to look forward to the middle of the night wake ups, when I could spend one on one time with my snuggling little baby, almost as if he was my only one.
And he could get all of me, without the stress of fighting for my attention.
My balance was shaken by these moments and I would question all of my life decisions and career choices. Forget meeting anyone for anything on the weekend, because that becomes sacred time.
If you wanna hang? My children better be asleep or invited.
This is ultimately what led to me looking for a career option that allowed me to work from home and have more flexibility.
Working Moms, Look Out for Each Other
I was lucky that when I returned to work, in both cases, my immediate supervisors were also moms. They knew all too well the stress, both emotional and physical, that raising a tiny human can cause, and also how it could impact my work performance.
Know this. As a supermom, sometimes you won’t be able to do it all.
Also, it’s Murphy's law that my child would always get sick when I was on deadline, when I had a critical meeting, or when there is seemingly no way to be in two places at once.
Which is why we must look out for each other as working-mom sisters.
I’ve had mom friends pick up my kid who had a 103-degree fever, give him Tylenol, and take care of him while I frantically tried to reach my husband who had been in a meeting to go get him and bring him to the pediatrician.
I’ve had mom friends bring me food while I’ve been in the ER overnight with a very sick baby.
I’ve had family and friends swing by to give me a break for an hour or so when I'm home with a sick kiddo, so I could answer emails or write notes for a project.
Hillary Clinton was indeed right that it does take a village to raise your child and to do it in a way that also gives you the freedom to follow your career dreams.
In the meantime stock up on every medicine that you can think of because inevitably you will have an ill child in the middle of the night when NOTHING is open.
Good luck, and handle your biz, boss lady.
If you liked then can you put a Pin on it? Share with other mommas who may be about to re-enter that work force. Thanks so much!