Returning to Work After Parental Leave? Here’s Your Game Plan
Heading back to work after maternity leave can feel like a monumental shift after spending a few months home with Baby. After all, you've just had a child, and you're still learning the ropes of how to tend to this uniquely perfect little person. It’s natural to be nervous about your first day back even if you’re in your total dream job—but a little planning can go a long way to ensure a smooth re-entry. Here's a solid plan for re-entering the workforce after maternity leave.
One Month Before Returning to Work After Maternity Leave:
With a month left to go in your maternity leave, you might not want to dwell on it coming to an end. But by starting your return-to-work prep now, you save yourself the stress of trying to cram important tasks into the last days you’ll want to cherish with your lovebug.
Update your post-maternity-leave wardrobe.
You likely won't fit into your maternity clothes anymore, but you might also not fit into your pre-pregnancy clothes either. Ugh, we know. On the bright side, you’ve got a pretty darn good excuse to go shopping. Pick out a few essential pieces to help you get through the first weeks back to work. If you plan to pump breastmilk at work, look for tops and dresses that are easy to pull down or open. Also, consider getting a bra fitted for a breast pump to help make pumping go more smoothly.
Order and practice using a portable breast pump.
If you are pumping, look for a portable pump that’s comfortable and efficient. Practice pumping with your new tops and dresses on to get a feel for timing. While you’re at it, order a spare set of parts that you can keep at work (this will save you the headache of getting all the way to work…only to realize your flanges or tubes are at home).
Contact your employer.
If you haven't touched base with your employer since you left for leave, drop them an email and let them know your planned date of return. This is a good time to ask about pumping accommodations if you’ll need them. And though you don’t need to dive into the nitty-gritty of work right now, you may want to find out if you’ve missed anything substantial, like personnel changes.
Do a childcare test run.
Check in with your childcare provider to make sure everyone’s on the same page about the start date, and finalize any outstanding paperwork (if you’re using a daycare, this could mean enrollment forms or a deposit; if you’re using a nanny, be sure to get tax and payment information settled).
It will help both you and Baby to schedule at least one test-run before the big day. You'll have the advantage of working out a new routine of drop off and pick up (or in the case of a nanny, the times of their arrival), which will help dictate when you leave the house in the morning. A practice round will also help your little one adjust to their new caregiver and surroundings.
One Week Before Returning to Work After Maternity Leave:
The week before returning to work will fly by fast as you begin to gear up for your new routine. Take this last week to finish planning and tackle last-minute tasks that need to get done.
Schedule personal appointments.
To avoid feeling stressed by personal appointments after you’re back in the swing of work, try to schedule them for before you return, such as:
- Self-care appointments (think: a haircut, manicure, or stress-relieving massage)
- Vet visits for your furry friends
- Wellness check-ups for yourself or your family
- Errands that you don't want to eat up your time once you're back at work (it’ll be easier to squeeze in a Target run now than on your commute home)
Come up with a general meal plan.
Meals are about to look a little different. You might be pumping as you eat lunch, chowing down breakfast while you pack your kiddo’s diaper bag, or fix dinner while juggling an evening feeding. It’s a good idea to think about what you’ll eat now, so that you’re not scrambling later. If you know that you won't be home in time to prepare dinner, consider some meals that you can prep ahead of time and freeze.
Write your caregiver instructions.
Whether you’re using daycare, a nanny, or a family member, you’ll want to write out instructions for your caregiver that include your baby’s schedule and all of your emergency contact information.
Check in…with yourself.
You'll no doubt be incredibly busy in the days leading up to your first day back at work. Make sure to take some time for yourself and check-in with how you're feeling.
One Day Before Returning to Work After Maternity Leave:
The big day is almost here!
Prepare your family.
Remind everyone what to expect the following day, especially if you have older kids who may feel ambivalent about you heading back to work.
Meal prep…for you and your baby.
For you: Pack your pumping equipment (if you’re planning to pump) and a healthy lunch and snacks so you can keep your energy up. For Baby: Thaw milk or mix formula and pack bottles.
Pack your diaper bag, pumping bag, and work bag.
Get your baby's diaper bag together the night before so that you won't forget important items like spare bodysuits or your little one’s favorite lovey. Load up your own bag, too, making sure that in addition to anything you need for work you have everything you need for pumping.
Do a transportation check.
It’s been a minute since you’ve commuted! Do a quick check to make sure your transportation plans are set. Does your car have gas? Is your bus or train pass loaded?
The Day You Return to Work After Maternity Leave:
That first day back might feel a little hectic…that’s to be expected! You probably won’t be able to get to everything right away, and that’s okay. Instead, prioritize your most important tasks.
- Block off time on your calendar to go through emails that need immediate attention.
- Connect with your boss and team to find out your top priorities.
- Put pumping breaks on your calendar (if you need them) so colleagues don’t schedule meetings at the same time.
- Remember to take a deep breath! It doesn't have to be a perfect return.
Take a moment to decompress…you did it!
Returning to work after parental leave is a big deal no matter how well you’ve prepared. Take some time in the evening to relax and talk about you feel with your family. If you find that something isn't working, you can always make changes. And don’t worry…soon, this strange new routine will feel, well, more routine. You’ve got this!
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Disclaimer: The information on our site is NOT medical advice for any specific person or condition. It is only meant as general information. If you have any medical questions and concerns about your child or yourself, please contact your health provider.