What to Know About Going Back to Work After Maternity Leave
New moms often have mixed feelings about returning to work after maternity leave. They may be afraid of walking into the office after having had weeks or months off, and almost certainly have anxiety about leaving their little ones with strangers, no matter how carefully vetted. There also might be some excitement about re-entering the world of routine adult interaction – but that might lead some to feel guilty for having positive feelings even tangentially related to leaving baby behind for the day.
Moms should not only acknowledge and accept this swirl of competing feelings as normal, but they can also take steps to cope with negative thoughts and embrace what is about to become the new normal.
Coping With Negative Feelings
A new mom has been through the emotional wringer; pregnancy, delivery and caring for a newborn can be overwhelming for first-time and experienced moms alike. Being aware of the normalcy of these feelings can help take the edge off. Moms who are feeling anxious, fearful, worried or sad can try the following tips for returning to work after maternity leave:
- Keep a journal. Just the act of writing down feelings can make them seem less overwhelming.
- Talk to others. A spouse, parenting partner, support group or a few good friends can assure her that it will get better.
- Consult with a doctor. If anxiety or depression seems to be taking hold, it's important for a new mom to see her healthcare provider for assessment and treatment.
Getting Back Into the Groove
Taking care of baby during maternity leave is hard enough; juggling those efforts with renewed responsibilities at work can be exhausting, and it takes some getting used to. It's vital that mothers in this situation give themselves plenty of time and latitude for figuring out logistics and settling into a new groove.
- Moms shouldn’t hesitate to meet with their boss, supervisor or HR department to discuss how their schedules might need to change. Moms who are breastfeeding, for example, will need access to a clean, private place to pump milk. If the baby's daycare center opens at 8 a.m., she might not be able to arrive to work until 8:30 a.m. – that can be late, in some offices.
- Equally important is getting back into the social scene at work. If the other employees are in a different phase of life, they might or might not be understanding of the issues that new moms face. With any luck, there will be at least one or two seasoned mothers in the group who do understand and can give some pointers for fitting back in.
The most important thing for new moms to keep in mind is that, like all transitions, this one is temporary – and will get easier. Before too long, being a working mom will become second nature.