I’m two weeks away from returning to work, and I am already starting to get anxious about how I’ll juggle day care drop-off, my responsibilities at the office, pumping and actually spending quality time with my baby. How can I set myself up for success?
A: Congratulations on your new arrival! Having done the return-to-work thing twice in the recent past, I can absolutely relate to all of your concerns. Don’t forget to breathe in and savor this time you have with your baby, even as you prepare to head back to the office. Then, to increase your chances of a successful return, follow these four recommendations:
Figure out one tiny way you can take care of yourself on a daily basis, commit to it and turn it into a ritual.
Whether it’s setting an intention for your day when you shower each morning, writing down three things you are grateful for before you go to bed each night or taking a moment to breathe deeply as you change from your work shoes to your commuting shoes, micro-self-care is a working mama necessity. It’s true you won’t have much free time over the next few months, but starting habits now that center you and let you take a breath on a regular basis will help keep you from losing your mind as you return.
Do as much advance planning as you can.
Block your calendar now to hold pumping times. Reach out to each of your key stakeholders at work (direct reports, supervisors, team members), and ask to schedule a 30- to 60-minute meeting for when you get back, so they can fill you in on what you missed and help you figure out the best action steps moving forward. And come up with lots of plan B’s. My husband and I have a weekly meeting every Saturday night during which we do a bunch of things, including figuring out who is on-point each day of the week should one of our kiddos get sick or the unexpected happen.
Think about ways you can use your maternity leave and return as a leadership opportunity.
Take credit at review time for the hard work you did to make sure the transition and hand-off went smoothly. Strategize about what you can delegate at work and at home. Find ways to help lift up other working parents in your office.
Remember to lean on your community.
It’s easy to feel isolated as an incredibly busy, new working mom who isn’t sleeping. Going it alone, though, isn’t healthy or helpful. Schedule lunch with a colleague, who’s also a mom, on your first day back. Plug into working parent communities at your office. Text your friends. Join online communities like Mindful Return that will lift you up and hug you when you fall.
You can do this, mama. Transitions are hard, but you will figure out a rhythm that works for you and your family.
—Lori Mihalich-Levin, JD, founder of Mindful Return, creator of the Mindful Return E-Course and author of Back To Work After Baby: How to Plan and Navigate a Mindful Return from Maternity Leave