It’s been a year since I went on maternity leave for the second time. Coming back from leave is never easy, but preparing yourself in advance of what to expect can help. And after re-entering the workforce two times now, I’ve learned what NOT to do.
Here’s what NOT to do when returning from maternity leave:
Try to fit into your old work clothes
Unless you are one of those people who somehow fit miraculously into all your pre-pregnancy clothes within just a few weeks, you may need to go shopping for a few essentials. Even if you are back at your pre-baby weight, your body may look different. A stellar new “first day of work” outfit can make all the difference as you re-join office life.
Expect things to be the same
You just had a baby. You were home for (if you’re lucky) several weeks. When you come back, cut yourself some slack — it will take some time to get back into the swing of things. But things may not be the same. For example, you may no longer be able to stay at the office late whenever you want; you may need to leave right on time to make sure you don’t arrive at daycare pickup one minute past 6 p.m. You may no longer be able to be in all-day (or even 3-hour) meetings — no, you may need to find time to pump. Things won’t be the same, but as long as you realize this in advance, it can help you prepare.
Expect things to be different
At the same time, things won’t be much different. Your coworkers/clients will still expect you to be at the top of your game, to make those meetings and to keep your usual hours. You may need to set some boundaries as you figure out your new schedule.
The fact that I was going back to work made me feel guilty. Then, when I couldn’t stay late or go to as many work happy hours I felt guilty. At night, if I was doing work after the kids went to bed, I felt guilty that I wasn’t spending time with my husband. Mom guilt comes in a variety of forms, but it doesn’t make any situation better. Again, cut yourself some slack — you’re doing the best you can.
Go at it alone
Being a working parent isn’t easy. And it’s even harder without someone to confide in about the everyday dilemmas (being 15 minutes late due to a potty training accident as you were leaving the house), hardships (having to take off unexpectedly due to your kid’s stomach flu), and milestones (preschool graduation). If you have other working parents in your office, grab coffee with them. Talk to friends outside of work. We’re all in this together and it’s better to have a support group.
What about you? Are you a parent who has come back from parental leave? What would you add?