Leaving your new baby is never easy. I just went through it and it is so true what they say about it feeling like you've left a piece of your heart behind. I was lucky enough to have enough sick, vacation and personal time saved up to take almost 14 weeks but I know many woman are not as lucky and go back to work much sooner.
I thought I would compile a list of tips that have made it slightly easier for me to get out of the house each day since being back to work. Let's get started!
1. Know your daycare plan well in advance so you have time to be comfortable with it.
Every night I prepare all the bottles Ellie could possibly drink the next day. I have them lined up in the fridge so all I have to do in the morning is move the bottles to the cooler and add an ice pack. It saves me time from putting bottles together in the morning and we all know that time is precious in the morning!
4. Prep Your Diaper Bag on Sunday
Not everything can be prepared on Sunday but you can make sure there are multiple spare outfits, diapers, and wipes in your bag as well as anything else your baby needs. Each night I double check her bag to make sure there are still plenty of diapers, wipes, burp cloths, etc but since I did my main restock on Sunday night there is no emergency to refill it.
5. Treat Yourself.
In the words of Donna and Tom, Treat Yourself! Before heading back to work I purchased a few new pairs of pants for work and a few tops. I also picked up a new lunch bag for myself and a new cooler for Ellie's bottles. Although all these items were necessary items for me, it felt like a treat because I hadn't bought any of these items in quite some time. You may need new clothes because your old work clothes don't fit you yet but the maternity clothes don't seem quite right either. Go ahead and treat yourself to a few new items so you feel better about returning to work. If you need any item to make your transition easier, purchase it. If you think some new jewelry would help, go ahead and buy it. Whatever makes you feel better about your re-entry to work is worth it.
6. Print Photos and Frame Them for Your Desk.
I bought a set of frames on Amazon and printed a bunch of pictures through Shutterfly. Having pictures of Ellie on my desk and bookcase at work is wonderful. Although I'd rather be with her in person, having pictures of her is a great way to see her little face throughout the day and also a great way to show her off to my co-workers. I also printed pictures of the dogs so they wouldn't feel left out. Don't worry, there is also a picture or two of Tim in my office so he doesn't feel left out either. If you are short on desk space you can always use Shutterfly to make a personalized mouse pad. You can also pin up pictures on a pinboard instead of framing them. Make your work space work for you and even setting the background of your computer with pictures of your little one is better than not having any pictures!
7. Don't Be Afraid To Ask For Help!
I am lucky to have a supportive husband who will do anything I ask him to do. However...sometimes I feel like I'm nagging him. "Babe can you take out the trash?" "Tim can you empty the dishwasher?" "Can you take out the dogs?" "Have you emptied her diaper genie recently?" Nag, nag, nag is all I heard.
The day before I went back to work I sat down and wrote out everything that needs to be done each day and each week. We talked it over and split up the jobs. Now I know that Tim is responsible for cooking dinner and I am responsible for all clean up. We tag team the dishwasher and diaper genie but he is responsible for taking out all trash and recycling while I am responsible for all laundry. I truly like to clean and am very particular so while everything isn't completely even, I know I have help. Don't keep score of who is doing more work, just each do your jobs and tag team anything that you need to. If both partners are willing to help it makes it much easier for you to get back to work and not feel like you are still doing all the house work too.
In the morning we have a routine that is working out really well and since we both know our roles and what needs to be done we are able to get out of the house on time (most days) and with everything we need for the day (again, most days!).
If you are parenting solo, don't be afraid to ask for help in other ways. Asking a family member or friend to help out is 100% okay. If you need to order a meal service (we love Hello Fresh!) or hire someone to come in and clean your house, do it! Also, keep in mind that this is a tough season you are in. Having a small baby is difficult enough but going back to work and also being expected to maintain your home and keep up with daily tasks is a huge thing. Don't hesitate to ask for help.
8. Talk To Someone.
As I said above, this is a hard time. If you need to talk to someone, reach out. I feel most comfortable talking to family and friends, especially those who have gone through this before. You may feel most comfortable reaching out to a therapist that you can work through everything with. Postpartum anxiety and depression are a very real and scary thing. They are very stigmatized and it's unfair for moms to feel like they are failing because they have it. I know my anxiety levels are very high to begin with and went through the roof as soon as I had Ellie. It's okay to get help to manage these things. Do what is best for you and your baby!
9. Future Plans
Now you don't need to go crazy planning the rest of your life but I have found it help to think things out. If our daycare provider was sick we know my mom could jump in and take Ellie if needed most days. If my mom was sick there is room at daycare for her on those days. If Ellie was sick Tim and I luckily both have jobs where taking a sick day wouldn't penalize us or force us to lose income.
I know if Tim wasn't able to pick Ellie up from daycare I could alert my boss I had to leave early to get her and just go. If I needed to go to work early Tim could be late to work to drop her off. Since we know we have that bit of flexibility, it makes me feel more prepared.
I have gone as far to know that Ellie will probably do preschool on days when my mom watches her so she can pick her up from preschool and watch her in the afternoons. I know that when she goes to school full time she will probably get on and off the bus at daycare so we don't have to worry about leaving work early to meet her bus at home.
I know it sounds insane to think that far ahead, but it calms me to know there is a plan in place. Tim always tells me I worry about the most ridiculous things that aren't even an issue, but in my head it makes me feel better to know what is happening. However, if planning that far ahead stresses you out don't even worry about it at this point!
10. Have Enough To Get You Through The Week
I am useless on weekdays now. In the morning I race around to get my lunch made, bags packed, double check everything, get ready while Tim gets ready and then gets Ellie dressed and starts feeding her. When he has to leave for work I finish feeding Ellie, burp her and then she's in the car seat and we are out the door! At night Tim makes dinner while I get all the bottles washed and ready for the next day, I check all her bags and unpack milk and whatever else needs to be done. Not to mention pumping and eating dinner, showering, etc.. I have no time to do a full load of laundry. I'm lucky if laundry gets done on the weekend. This leads me to my point. Have enough to get you through the week. Have enough pairs of work appropriate pants and tops to get you through the week without doing laundry. Have enough pairs of underwear and nursing bras to get you through the week without doing laundry.
We generally run our dishwasher every night but if you need to make sure you have multiple travel coffee mugs so you don't have to wash yours every day, do it! If you need more bottles, buy them. Make sure you have enough burp cloths clean to make it through the week without doing a load of laundry. Make sure you have enough diapers and wipes so you don't need to run out to the store.
Have enough on hand for lunches for the week so you aren't struggling to figure out what to take for lunch each day. Have all your meals planned out for the week so you know you have the ingredients necessary and don't need to make an emergency run to the grocery store on a week night.
Have enough toilet paper, paper towels, ziplock bags, etc... for the same reason!
This is why I suggest having a home stockpile so when you run out of something you can replenish from your stockpile as needed. Couponing has gone mostly digital as this point and is easy even for the laziest of couponers, help yourself out and get started! It will save you time and money.
I hope these tips were helpful! Please let me know if you have any other tips for returning to work after maternity leave. It is a terribly difficult time but there are certainly a few things that can make it a little easier!