With all the planning you’re doing to get ready for baby, sometimes planning your own work-baby balance gets pushed to the back-burner. The last thing you want to do is think about leaving your new bundle of joy before they are even born. Unfortunately, if you are a working mom, you will need to plan for returning to work post-baby.
Before we begin the checklist, one thing needs to be clear regarding going back to work: Don’t feel guilty. Many moms near the end of their maternity leave find the hardest part is their guilt for leaving their child. Never feel guilty about providing for your family or for making your career just as much as a priority as you make your loved ones. With that said, let’s get started with the going to work after baby checklist.
Before Baby Comes:
1. Speak with Your Boss
Around 12 weeks or so, speak with your boss about the details of your maternity leave. As you near the end of your pregnancy, also talk to your HR department or supervisor about your plan for returning. A few things you should have on your list during the discussion: how you will enter back into working (will it be a few days a week to start or will you come back full force?), the change in your schedule to account for daycare pick-ups and drop-offs, pumping if you are breastfeeding, and how you will handle a sick child. You should also discuss how you will transition back into your role.
2. Make a Plan
Once you talk to your boss, supervisor, or HR department, take the plan into your own hands. Spend a day creating a document outlining all of your responsibilities on a daily and weekly basis. Delegate who in the office will be taking over these tasks and how they will transition back to you once you return. If you plan to breastfeed, schedule time to pump–about 30 minutes a day– in your shared office calendar now. You may end up not needing it, but you’ll be happy you scheduled it ahead of time if you do.
3. Figure out Childcare
Whether you are putting your child into daycare, hiring a nanny, or leaving your baby with relatives while you are at work, you need to have a plan in place pretty early on. In many cities, getting into a good daycare means being put on a waitlist for months to hear whether you got in. Because of this, many daycares recommend moms apply to their program as soon as she finds out she is pregnant. It may seem a bit ridiculous, but it could mean a lot less stress as week 38 rolls around.
When hiring a nanny or going the family route, childcare decisions can wait until the end of the second trimester. If you are hiring a nanny, try to interview a few in person a few months before you are due. If relatives watch the baby, discuss a detailed plan with them about pick-up and drop-offs, nap times, and how many days and hours they can handle. You never know when baby may surprise you and come early, and you don’t want to be scrambling to make these plans with a newborn in your hands.
4. Create Self-Care Techniques
Once baby comes, any semblance of alone time will be thrown out the window. When you head back to work, it gets even harder. Are you used to coming home after a hard day of work, kicking your shoes off, and slouching on the couch until bedtime? No longer! The workday never really ends for a working mom, so before baby is born, try to find ways to relax in quick bursts. This could mean doing a nightly 20-minute stretch, going to get your nails done once a week on your lunch break, or practicing mindfulness before bed or while you shower. Whatever you do, find something that will keep you from getting too stressed out during this very stressful time of life.
After Baby Comes:
1. Help Baby Get Used to the Bottle
You may be breastfeeding while on maternity leave, but as soon as your time to go back to work comes, your baby will need to learn how to use and love the bottle. Start to wean them off the breast long before your maternity leave ends so you can get through any difficulty they may have with the change before you head back to work. If you continue to use breast milk, figure out the best time to pump and make bottles ahead of time. Consider pumping extra milk (if possible) and freezing it, so you always have some on hand. If you are formula feeding, make sure to stock up on extra formula and bottles—you don’t want to be stuck washing bottles at 7 am while trying to get ready for work.
2. Make Life as Easy as Possible
Buy a slow cooker, freeze meals, have your groceries delivered—whatever it takes to cut down on some of your errands and chores. After a long day at work and a sleepless night with your baby, the last thing you’ll want to do on Saturday morning is head to the grocery store (unless that’s something that relaxes you!). Take help when offered and say yes when your mother-in-law offers to watch the baby for a few hours so you can sleep, clean the house or just have some “you” time. Don’t feel bad about letting your husband cook dinner for the second week in a row—if it keeps you sane, it’s worth it!
3. Don’t Forget About You
In the hustle of returning to work and caring for this new miracle in your life, it’s easy to forget about yourself. Remember those self-care techniques you learned while you were pregnant? Use them! You may not have as much time to yourself as you thought to yourself. Anytime you do have, even if that just means time in the shower, you should make the most of it. Create happy playlists for your ride to work, practice mindfulness on your way home, and remind yourself that you are an amazing, strong woman and an even better mother to your new baby.