There’s no way around it, going back to work after maternity leave is really hard. I’ve done it three times, and each has been a really different experience: I had no real leave with my first, 6 weeks with my second, and 16 weeks with my third. Even though going back to work is always going to be tough emotionally and logistically, over the years I’ve found a few things to make it a little easier. As you adjust to your new life of parenting and working, you can play around and see what works best for you, but here are a few tips to get you started:
- Come up with a daily routine or schedule, and try not to deviate much from it. Plan out your route and times for school/daycare drop off, set a time for dinner each night, decide when you’ll go to the gym, whatever. I know it sounds pretty rigid, but having structure and knowing what to expect (generally speaking of course) can go a long way in easing the constant headache that is being a working mom. Bonus: kids thrive on structure and stability, so they will benefit from a daily routine as much as you will!
- Prep EVERYTHING the night before, no matter how tired you are!!! I’m talking breakfast for the next day, your outfit, your baby’s outfit, your lunch, lunches for your other kids if you have them, baby’s bottles, everything! This might be the most valuable piece of advice on here because even if you don’t start work until 10 a.m., if you don’t have everything ready to go for the next day, shit will get messy and you’ll end up late. Yes, I know that you are exhausted at the end of the day and just want to feed the kids and fall asleep, but take just a few extra minutes and get everything ready for tomorrow. You’ll be so glad you did.
- The slow cooker is your friend. Toss in a couple frozen chicken breasts, a jar of salsa, and turn it on right before you leave for work. Voila! Throw those bad boys in a tortilla with some cheese and veggies and you have tacos/burritos/quesadillas for dinner with basically zero work.
- If you are breastfeeding, make sure you have a good electric double breast pump. I tried with my first to use a little hand-held pump….not a good choice. Who knows how long this will still be a thing, but as of right now most health insurance companies will cover the cost of a pump, so take advantage.
- Try to view your pumping time as a mini getaway. Bring in a drink, browse a magazine or book, and try to focus on nothing except relaxing for 15 minutes. I re-watched all of The Office while pumping for my second kid, and am now going through Stranger Things.
- Set aside a bit of time at the end of the day to just be with your kids. Don’t feel like you need to provide Perfect Pinterest Mom Activities, just play a hand of Uno with your older kids and snuggle with your little ones. Obviously if the other parent is around they can join in too, and extra points if you guys add in some cookies. These little fun sessions aren’t only good for your mental health, they are great for your kids as well.
- Finally, cut yourself some slack. Being a parent who works outside of the home is tough, and you are allowed to have a messy house and eat spaghetti three nights in a row. Remember that you are doing the best that you can, you love your kids, and being at work is the best thing for your family right now (whether that be because of finances or whatever).
One final note: I’ve found that getting lots of updates and pictures of how my kids are doing while I’m at work actually isn’t helpful for me because it reminds me how cute they are and then I just want to be with them and then I hate work and my motivation goes out the window. But that’s just me! I know plenty of moms who are really comforted by getting updates about the kids, so maybe try it out and see what works better for you!
Good luck, and hang in there!!