Research suggests that resuming work after maternity leave brings along mixed feelings for most women. Whatever be the reason for you to decide to get back to full-time work - whether it is to get away from the boredom of changing diapers, or for a more challenging personal growth, or for economic reasons, leaving behind your little one does tug your heart! To make matters worse, these emotional struggles are often heightened by the hormonal changes after delivery.
In order to make this a little easier, we have tried to put together a list of things to do to make the transition back to work as smooth as possible.
This is of utmost importance not only for your peace of mind, but also for the wellbeing of your child. Identify reliable childcare before-hand and if possible start a few days before you resume work. This will help your child get accustomed as well as help you feel comfortable leaving your child with the caregiver who could be a parent or in-law, relatives, a nanny or even a crèche [For more information read the article "Choosing a Crèche".]
Even if you are more of a spontaneous and impulsive person, a little planning will go a long way in helping you take control of the multiple demands you will be juggling once you resume work. Simple steps would be to decide the clothes you will wear the next morning, pack yours and your baby's bag if you will be dropping him or her at day-care, make a list of things to do... this not only eases the pressure on you to remember everything, but it will also help you schedule and make optimum use to time. Other areas that call for planning could be transport to and from your workplace so that you spend as little time on the commute, planning the household chores, the morning schedule etc.
Mark off important meetings, presentations and any other work commitments on the same calendar where you can mark off important childcare and family demands, such as vaccination dates, days when the nanny is on leave or the crèche is closed, days when you have to collect the form for your child's preschool admission etc. This way you can plan for backup at work beforehand and even if an emergency does arise, you would know which meetings need to be rescheduled.
Whether or not getting back to work is something you are looking forward to, it is likely that the first few weeks will be demanding. Once you get back home, you may want to spend all your time with your little one, but do put aside sufficient time for rest and sleep. Remember, there is a reason why the safety instructions on every flight include asking everyone to secure their own oxygen masks before assisting others - if you are not rested you will not be able to do your best as a mother or an employee. So get to bed early and ask your husband or family members to take care of the baby through the night. Wear earplugs if you need to, but try and get adequate rest.
Divide the work tasks into Urgent & Important, Urgent but not Important, Important but not Urgent and neither Important nor Urgent. Obviously start with the Urgent as well as Important tasks and try and get as many of them done early on in the morning as possible. This way even if you need to leave early due to some unforeseen reason, you would have taken care of the most critical tasks.
Identify and connect with supportive friends, family, neighbors as well as co-workers. You never know when something might come up - if you have a flat-tire and cannot make it to the crèche by closing time, or if the baby is unwell and need a colleague to fill-in at work. Identify possible worst-case scenarios and also who you could call for help. Remember that you also need to earn the support, so be nice to those around, without expecting everyone to bend over backwards just because you have a little baby!
Situation permitting, it would also be a great idea to get additional help in the form of domestic helpers, cooks etc., as it will ease the burden on you and you can make optimum use of your time.
Keep it together at the Office
The first few weeks (or even months) back at the job are going to have its share of rough days, but instead of deciding to give it up, hang in there, at least for a while. Although you may feel like a wreck juggling childcare, household chores and daunting work load, avoid venting and losing your grip at the office. Keep your worries to yourself and don't give the impression that you have lost the edge. Once you are used to the new routine, things will get easier and you can also decide whether or not you want to make any changes to your work schedule such as part-time or work-from-home (if available).
Juggling childcare and work is like having two full-time jobs and you deserve to be rewarded for even trying to balance it all, so on your day off reward yourself with something coveted whether it is a massage, or some alone time with your child, or even watching your favorite TV show! This will not only make you feel better after the struggles of the week, but also re-energize you for the coming week.
Of course the above steps do not guarantee that the transition from being a new, stay-at-home mom back to work will be easy. But it does ensure that little creases are ironed out.