Returning to Work After Maternity Leave? 7 Steps to Ease the Transition

Whether you are returning to work by choice or by obligation, mixing motherhood and career will surely bring its share of challenges, sacrifices, and adjustments. But as long as you do your best, set realistic expectations, and keep the “mother’s guilt” at bay, you will make it work.

Here are 7 steps to ensure a smooth and successful transition when returning to work:

1. Make a plan

There are many important things to think about and consider before going back to work, for example:
- Finding suitable childcare for your baby.
- Making sure you have the flexibility with your work schedule, your partner, or your baby’s daycare to cover for unforeseen events (sick baby, delayed commute, extended work hours, etc.).
- Coordinating work and daycare schedules.
- If nursing, you will need a breast-pump. You can freeze milk in advance, but unless you plan to discontinue breastfeeding, you will need to pump at work. Things to consider: Will you have access to a private room when you need to pump milk? Will there be a refrigerator at work to store your milk until you leave for home at the end of the work day?

2. Prepare Meals

Both work and baby will demand your undivided attention and energy. Ease-up the transition by preparing and freezing as many meals ahead of time as possible. It will be a lifesaver, especially for the first few days.

3. Practice

In order to minimize stress and anxiety, start practicing your new lifestyle and schedule:
- Start spending time away from your baby to reduce separation anxiety, allowing for a gradual adjustment.
- If using childcare, have your baby attend a few days ahead of time for him or her to get accustomed, and to iron-out the details.
- Try out your new work schedule; get ready early in the morning, head out the door, and come back a little later. See how it feels and how it impacts the baby’s routine then adjust as needed.
- Have someone else bottle-feed your baby before resuming work.

4. Work Schedule Options

Discuss with your employer the possibility of a gradual return to work. For example, you could work half days for a couple of weeks, or only a few days a week at first. This could help everyone ease into the change.

5. Look Professional

Prepare your office wardrobe in advance. Make sure the clothes feel great and look good on you. If you are not completely back to your pre-baby figure, shop for clothes that make you feel your best at this time. This doesn’t need to be an expensive shopping outing. Check out resale shops, store and online sales, or even borrow some items from a friend or relative until you are back into your pre-baby clothing.  Feeling and looking professional will boost your self-confidence during the transition from home to work.

6. Pre-Visit

If possible, plan an office visit before your scheduled return; get project updates, meeting summaries, latest changes in resources and procedures — anything to help you get back into the game with a sharp mind.

7. Delegate

Being a working mother will test your delegation and organizational skills. Be realistic before you say "yes" to requests at home or at work and learn to say "no" when possible. Get creative, offer other solutions and, most importantly, become a master at delegating!

Thankfully, more and more employers are becoming advocates of healthy work-life balance options for their employees. But whether or not your company offers you that flexibility and understanding, as a successful working mother you will learn to readjust priorities and expectations and find even better, more efficient ways to get things done.

The most important thing, during all of these changes, is to not lose track of yourself and what’s truly important in your life. Make time for yourself, spend quality time with your spouse and your baby, minimize unnecessary distractions, and make the best of every moment.