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As I write this, I’m sitting in the bathroom with my toddler who is currently being potty trained while my 5-month-old baby (who is being sleep trained) is screaming in the middle of his nap.
Meanwhile, I’m exhausted after my day (or early morning) at work and wondering if I’ll be able to get in a yoga class. Oh, and the dogs are barking too. Good times over here. This is officially life after maternity leave: exhausting, fulfilling, and raw.
After returning from a four-month maternity leave, work has been incredibly busy. There are days I see my kids for an hour after running home in the middle of the day for a nap and a kiss, only to turn around and run back for an evening show.
While other days I feel guilty and miss them quite frankly, and rush home right after my morning show to get quality time. I’m consistently balancing being a mom, colleague and partner. At times, it’s exhausting whether it’s your first kid or third.
But I’ve learned there are ways to ease back into life after maternity leave to make reality a bit smoother. No matter what it’s going to be messy and you need to constantly remind yourself it’s all good. Most people in your position feel exactly the same way.
When you come back to work after maternity leave, remember:
1. You got this.
You are raising a human life. That’s the hard part. Work and everything after that is easy compared to that first month.
2. Don’t worry so much about losing the weight.
It took nine months to put on and will take that (and then some) to take it off. What’s more important is that you are confident in who you are.
3. Buy some new stuff.
Sometimes, a few new outfits or a new haircut can go a long way in boosting your confidence.
4. Set up meetings with key colleagues and bosses.
This will help you get a lay of the land, set up your goals, learn what you’ve missed and get back in the groove of work life.
5. Get a second set of pump parts to leave at work.
If you’re pumping, it helps to keep a spare set of parts at work in case you forget one at home (hello, mom brain). And, if you need to pump, have no shame about it. Pumping can make you feel connected to the baby, even when you’re away from home.
6. It’s OK to be excited to get back to work.
Yes, you may also be mourning the time that’s now over with your child, but it’s OK to be thrilled to get part of your normal life back. It can be confusing having both of these emotions, but it’s also totally natural.
7. You have the capacity to do your job as well, if not better, than before.
While maternity leave is not a “break,” it is a break from work. The time away from the office can help revive your love for your work. We all need to miss it sometimes to make us appreciate it even more.
8. Don’t neglect yourself.
Remember to stay hydrated – drink water. Eat good food and try to exercise. If you take care of yourself, it’s easier to tackle everything else.
9. When you are at home, be at home. When you are at work be at work.
But if you need a little FaceTime in those first few months to get through the day, that’s OK too.
10. Go easy on yourself.
The baby will be fine. You’ve hopefully found someone who will help take care of your little one. Your child will not forget about you. Trust me, you are and will always be No. 1.
I’ll finish with this – know your rights. If you work for a company with 15 or more employees, here are the basics: You cannot be fired, miss out on promotions or raises and in some cases workers are guaranteed 12 weeks of unpaid maternity leave with job security if your company meets certain criteria. Go here to read through the Family Medical Leave Act. Also, check out this article that lays out all of your rights.