Work-Life Balance

6 tips for a successful return to work after maternity leave

Written by Amanda Nunez

In the months after giving birth or adopting, you’ll want to expend all of your energy on caring for your little one. However, you’ll eventually need to make the transition from staying at home to working. This can be overwhelming as you learn to juggle motherhood and your career. During this time, you may also experience separation anxiety or feelings of guilt. However, you shouldn’t feel bad about wanting to provide for your family and return to work.

Navigating your first few weeks back after family leave doesn’t have to be a daunting experience. Here are six simple ways working moms can ease back into their daily routine:

1. Manage your workload

Allow yourself time to adjust to your new schedule, and avoid taking on major projects as you ease back into work. If there’s a project you have to take on, try to find other projects you can offload to colleagues to help lighten your load. Be sure to be transparent with your colleagues regarding your hours and work capacity.

If you don’t feel you have the energy to work a full week, consider asking your boss about a flexible work arrangement. If possible, work half-days for the first week so you can adjust to your new routine and being apart from your baby. Then, gradually increase the number of hours you’re in-office until you’re back to full-time. Managing your workload will help ensure you don’t overextend yourself, so you’ll have plenty of time and energy to dedicate to your child.

2. Start back mid-week

The first few days back in the office might be exhausting. If possible, plan your return for the middle of the week. That way, you’ll have comfort in knowing the weekend is right around the corner should you feel too tired or overwhelmed on the job.

Give yourself a pat on the back when you reach the weekend, and use the time to relax and reflect on what worked well versus what may need adjusting during your first few days back. If you feel too worn out after the abbreviated week, see if you can extend your leave by using any extra vacation, sick, or personal time.

3. Break up your workday

Returning to your work routine can feel overwhelming, especially after spending months at home preparing for and caring for your baby. With emotions running high, you’ll want to reserve some time to take care of yourself throughout the day. Remember there are physical and mental advantages to taking breaks at work, such as improving your work performance and boosting energy.

Be sure to utilize your full lunch hour, and take advantage of any opportunity that you have to walk a lap around the office or to meditate. You can also use break time to build a support system at work by connecting with colleagues who are also parents to chat about your experiences. Taking mental breaks can help you stay focused, relaxed, and motivated throughout the day.

4. Prioritize your health

As you juggle your baby’s checkup and adjusting to your new work schedule, it’s also important to focus on your own health so you can perform at your best. This may require you to schedule your appointments in advance to ensure you are keeping up with your needs. Consider making all of your appointments for the year at once, and mark them in your work calendar, so you won’t have to think twice about where you need to be and when.

While you should always visit your primary care physician, appointments can be a hassle and are not always necessary. Fortunately, new working moms can ease some of the chaos by utilizing telemedicine services for minor health care needs. For example, you can leverage these services to get prescriptions for non-emergency medical conditions like allergies or to order your birth control online, making it easier for you to prioritize your health on your own time.

5. Plan out time to pump

If you need to pump at work, be sure to reach out to your employer to discuss where and when you’ll be able to pump. From there, you can establish a pumping schedule that works for you. Block off time on your calendar with buffer periods before and after to ensure this time isn’t taken by someone else.

Most employers offer a lactation room that serves as a private, clean, and safe space for new mothers to pump breast milk. If your office doesn’t offer a nursing room, talk to your employer about setting up a space to support breastfeeding at work. All you need is a secluded area, such as an empty conference room or office, with a comfortable chair, an electrical outlet, and a door that locks.

6. Ease separation anxiety

While you may be excited to return to work, you may feel guilty or worried about leaving your baby’s side. These conflicting emotions are completely normal, but they can also affect your ability to focus at work.

Whether you hire a nanny or choose a safe daycare center, be sure to start your baby in childcare at least one week prior to returning to work, and take time to get to know the individuals who will be taking care of your child. This will help both you and your baby adjust to your new schedules and give you peace of mind knowing they’re in good hands.

Transitioning back to work after maternity leave will take some getting used to, but with these tips, you’ll be ready to take on motherhood and your career!

About the author

Amanda Nunez