Going back to work after my maternity leave was a godsend for me. I was so looking forward to the structure of a workday and getting back into a familiar routine. I don’t remember very much from my first day back—partly because I was sleep deprived, but mostly because I had tried my best to be as prepared as possible. I had heard loads of advice from fellow working moms, and I came away with these three things that I thought would make my transition easier:
1. FIND THE BEST POSSIBLE CHILD CARE I COULD AFFORD
One of my favorite working mama friends told me that it’s important to find child care that you don’t think about during the day. That advice seemed a little off before I had my son, but what I realized after my son was born is that what my friend meant was that she didn't worry about her baby while she was at work—because she knew her bub was being well cared for. Ditto for me. I didn't worry about my son because I didn't have to. I knew that people I trusted were thinking about him, and caring for him, while I was at the office. (Full disclosure: I also called his day-care teachers four times a day for the first month to “check in” so that helped, too!
2. MAKE WORK A PRIORITY AT WORK
Before I had a baby I would often come in early and stay late at the office. I would also often chat at length with a co-worker about that week’s episode of Mad Men. After my maternity leave, I made a commitment to pack up at 5 p.m. so I could pick up my son and spend some much needed mommy-and-me time with him at home. Of course, I OK’d my end time with my boss, but I also structured my day—and cut out (most of) the mindless chit chat—so I could get my work done by the time I wanted to leave. The same went for the weekends: Pre-baby I may have planned to get something done on Saturday afternoon. Post-baby, I wanted to spend my time at home with my family, so I got better at being disciplined from 9-to-5.
3. MASTER THE ART OF PUMPING
I was determined to breastfeed my son for as long as I could, so I started banking milk about a month before I went back to work. Not only did this help me build a supply of extra milk for my son, but it made me an absolute pro at pumping. I could have set up and strapped on my pump in my sleep by the time I was back in the office, so it seemed (almost) normal to express milk at my desk three times a day.
Related: How to pump at work.
All in all, the best possible primer for going back to work was becoming a parent. I soon learned that I couldn't do everything that needed to be done and care for a baby at the same time. So I got used to clean laundry sitting in the hallway for a few days before it was folded or watching the mail pile up for a week. At work, I made sure the absolutes got done on time, but I tried not to sweat it when it took me an extra day to return an email.
Three years in, I’m still not letting the small stuff get the best of me—and I’m out the door at 5 p.m. to make the most of bedtime with my son.