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Nothing seems to get done at the beginning of your maternity leave, and sometimes it is not really clear if things are getting harder or easier.
You’re tired, emotionally overwhelmed, physically drained, and you still have not figured out your growing baby’s schedule – you are probably wondering when maternity leave will start to feel less like work.
Then, just when the baby’s gas gets better, a breastfeeding routine is established, and your body begins healing itself from the intense experiences of pregnancy and delivery, you are faced with a new challenge as the date you are expected to return to work fast approaches. You are overwhelmed with pamphlets about daycares and nannies, you need to make sure your temporary replacement at work hasn’t completely replaced you, and you need to stock up on breastmilk and teach your little one to take a bottle.
If you are one of those mothers who has been home for so long you have forgotten where you keep clothes other than sweatpants, don’t remember how to speak to grownups, and your fingers always smell like nappy cream, the transition back to work can be a little daunting.
Disclaimer: While this article addresses you as a mum, it could be that you had an active partner during the first few months – and that’s great! Please share these tips with him (some were even recommended by fathers).
A Holiday from Maternity Leave
You have probably already set up childcare, either with a nanny, daycare center, or family members. You should start the new arrangement a few days before you go back to work to give you and your baby time to adjust to the new schedule. Get a haircut, take some time to pamper yourself, and go shopping. New clothes that suit your body will raise your spirits and give you a confidence boost. You should also make sure your caregiver has the proper equipment to care for your child.
Be Prepared, Make Lists
If you did not usually make lists before you were pregnant, it is safe to say you are now a master list-maker. Your mornings are about to become very intense as you need to get both yourself and your baby ready (and your other children, if relevant). Here’s a common scene: you and your baby are dressed and ready to go, you have 2 or 3 bags and jackets to take, perhaps your phone rings and you begin talking with work and suddenly you are halfway out the door and you have forgotten baby’s favourite dummy or teddy bear that he cannot sleep without. To avoid this scenario, make a list, put it prominently on the refrigerator, and pause for 30 seconds before you leave the house to make sure you have everything with you.
Be One Step Ahead
There comes a time each night where you suddenly realize that all is quiet: everyone is asleep, you finished sterilizing all of baby’s bottles, the laundry has been folded and put away. You completed everything you needed to and are just desperate to crawl into bed or plop down in front of the telly. But there is one last task you must do: choose your outfit and pack your bag for the next day. Recommended items include: your breast pump, an empty bottle, your wallet, cash, nursing pads (sitting in a meeting with your boss while wearing a wet shirt is not fun), deodorant (very handy during this hormonal time), and a makeup bag to refresh yourself.
Schedule Time to Save Time
Prepare clear schedules for your morning rush. A set routine will help you remember things in the future, and also teach your baby “how things are” so he can anticipate and participate as well. Create the schedule with your partner, and try to realistically estimate how long it will take you all to get ready in the morning – to shower, dress, put on makeup, etc. Perhaps you will decide to wake up before your baby so you can get ready in peace. During the first few weeks, prepare a precise list of tasks and divide them between you and your partner: who will feed, dress, and entertain the baby while the other partner gets organized. Rotate the tasks occasionally so you can determine who is better and more efficient at each. Keep track of how long each task takes and be sure to stick to this time frame so you are not late to work. The best way to figure this out is to work backwards: start with the time you need to be at work, estimate transportation time including traffic, determine how much time you need to say bye-bye to baby in the morning, when you have to leave your home, and how long each task on your list takes. All this will help you decide what time you need to wake up each morning. Set your alarm clock and get up as soon as it goes off.
A stress-free start leads to a much better day for you at work and your baby in daycare.
On Getting Back to Work and Pumping – how do you do it? Click Here
For Part B of the Survival Guide – Click Here