Just as there’s no manual for being a new mom, we don’t have one for when maternity leave comes to an end. Luckily, there are tons of worthwhile hacks that can ease your return to work and help you feel more confident when the time comes.
The Big Return
Now that the day has arrived, you probably look like a tangled ball of emotions. You feel excited to get back into business but your heart aches just at the thought of leaving your baby for more than a minute. There’s a constant tug-of-war between conflicting priorities and expectations. As you strive to find the right balance in this new chapter of life, juggling private and professional responsibilities can feel confusing and overwhelming.
Imen Znaien, R&D Director at The Kraft Heinz Company and newly-mom, reflects on her personal experience: “On one hand, I am excited to get back to “normal” life, having “adult” conversations, socialising again, and getting things done on my own that go beyond changing diapers, feeding and housekeeping. On the other hand, leaving the little one is hard. It is the first real separation, and I feel guilty about letting her ‘alone’.”
If you see yourself in these lines, let us tell you a not-so-secret secret: it is all completely normal. D-day can often bring with it, among others, a bag of guilt and anxiety. In the same way as any other emotion, these too need to be acknowledged without judgment and then let go.
Reshape your mindset
As a new mom – and then once again as a working mom – your priorities will shift and your mindset will change. With your brain and body going through fundamental changes, it can feel challenging to go back to your routine as it was before.
Luckily, a little organization goes a long way. Planning out your mornings and evenings as well as keeping a list of the week’s to-dos can be very helpful. The same goes for establishing clear boundaries between work and home demands.
“Balancing my personal and professional life is my biggest fear right now”, says Imen. “Being here and there and nowhere at the same time. This was my weakness already before pregnancy and I think I would benefit from some coaching to find the proper balance.”
💡 Also interesting: Being a first-time dad and working life: how to keep the balance
It can also be beneficial to think about what matters most to you, both personally and professionally. For example, staying active within the work environment and connecting with your colleagues can be very rewarding. At the same time, don’t be afraid to say no if you feel you’re taking on too much too soon. At home, make sure you communicate your needs and wishes to the people close to you so that they can provide help and support.
At the end of the day, being a working mom requires some adjustment. You may feel more tired, vulnerable or irascible, but it is very important to stay self-compassionate and set some realistic expectations for yourself.
Below we report four practical tips that Imen shared with us that can help fresh moms transition back to work as smoothly and stress-free as possible:
1. All a matter of time
Re-settling does not happen overnight. Therefore, give yourself time and space to define when is your best moment to get back to work. Don’t rush in choosing a daycare, test babysitters and make sure to feel comfortable enough to start again. We are all different. If your job allows it, do not decide before the delivery. It is a process and you can assess it along the journey.
2. Feel your feels
Let your emotions flow and, most importantly, talk about them. It is healthy to put into words the way you feel and gain a new perspective. Feelings don’t magically disappear just because we ignore them, so make it part of your well-being to validate them.
3. Value your allies
You are not alone, and you shouldn’t have to do this all by yourself! Don’t be afraid to ask for some extra help from your partner, friends and family, especially during your first few weeks back at work.
“The partner is playing a critical role in this journey”, points out Imen. “Being listened to, reassured and supported helped me a lot. If I had to give one piece of advice in a nutshell, it would be to find yourself a partner in crime that resonates with your feelings and that will help you navigate through your new life. Even just being aware of this can remind me how lucky I am.”
You’ve got this!
We’re not here to tell you about a magic formula to face this stage of life, because no such thing exists. However, we can assure you that it does get easier with time.
That’s right: you won’t always be surviving on little-to-no-sleep or dealing with milk stains on a great part of your wardrobe or rehearsing a presentation while changing a diaper. However, if things still feel really overwhelming after some time, consider talking to someone, whether a psychologist or a coach, to help you find a better balance.
Motherhood with all its facets will easily get within the top three biggest changes of your life – so be proud of where you’re at. Acknowledge your progress at every stage and celebrate your wins. You’re doing great.