I had no idea how I would feel after maternity leave. Though I loved bonding with my baby, there was a nagging feeling that as the weeks passed I was ready to get back to work. Was I excited? Sort-of. Was I dreading it? Also sort-of. Would I cry? Definitely.
Thinking about the big day was stressful. The logistics, the packing list, the emotions…it was a lot. But I survived it and you will too! Though by no means comprehensive, here are a few tips I wish I’d known before my first morning back at work:
1. Don’t forget to set your alarm!
Chances are the baby will still wake up at 4 am and then the alarm will scare both of you when it goes off at 6 am but…just in case. It’s a legend in my family that the first time I slept through the night was the night before my mom went back to work. And even though you haven’t had to worry about alarms since the baby got back up to their birth weight, the time has come to wake up to something other than a baby crying.
2. Try on your first day outfit ahead of time.
Your pre-pregnancy pants probably don’t fit yet and it’s better to be emotionally prepared. You also probably haven’t worn real pants in twelve weeks so it’s good to also be emotionally prepared for that. Here are some ideas on clothes that work if you are pumping: Six Wardrobe Staples to Keep Your Clothes on While Pumping
3. If you’re pumping, quadruple check that you’ve packed all of your pump parts.
Have your husband check. Heck, maybe even invite over a neighbor to take a look. You DO NOT want to drive off without a crucial little duckbill. I am not exaggerating here when I say it could cause you to explode (or burn a half-day of PTO because you’re so uncomfortable.) Here’s a helpful post- Survival Guide: Pumping at Work
4. If you’re going the daycare route, practice getting out of the house on your own ahead of time.
The combination of the coffee cup/car seat/pump bag/diaper bag/purse/laptop bag may cause you to rethink your gameplay. No judgment if that means you ditch the coffee cup for a post-drop off Starbucks splurge. (Here’s another helpful post: How to Find a Daycare Routine During a Pandemic.)
5. Keep your mascara in your pocket.
You’re probably going to cry and you probably can’t guess when it will happen.
6. Decide if you want to dedicate your first day back to emails or to catching up with people.
Depending on how you’re feeling, you may benefit from burying yourself behind a screen or from interacting with your team. Trying to jump back into meetings may be too much to juggle on day one. Do what feels natural and know most people are understanding about slowly and strategically transitioning back into work mode.
7. Another tip for pumping mothers – be kind to yourself.
It takes up a LOT of time during the day and so you won’t be able to get as much done at work as you did pre-baby. That’s okay! Pumping doesn’t last forever. It’s just a moment in time.
8. Bring a change of clothes to keep at your desk.
You may leak, you may accidentally show up with baby food all down your back…you just never know.
9. Get something special for lunch and savor getting to eat it with two hands!
There are few universal bright spots about going back to work – eating like an adult is one of them.
10. Snuggle your baby unapologetically all evening.
Soak it all up and savor how precious your time with your baby is now. Don’t worry about the dishes or prepping a big dinner or laying out clothes for the next day. You did a big, hard, scary thing today – be proud of both you and baby for making it through!