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How to Manage My Time After Maternity Leave Is Over

Lots of moms have mixed feelings about returning to the workplace. Some can't wait to get back into the swing of things, while others fantasize about giving up their paychecks and staying home forever. Regardless of where you fall in the spectrum, a set schedule and a stable support system help you handle whatever comes your way.

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Back to Work

Look for ways to ease back into work to keep from feeling overwhelmed. Take advantage of any flex-time or little-known benefits offered to new moms through your job. Options might include telecommuting, working longer hours per day in exchange for fewer days per week or starting your shift later than normal. It's important that you give yourself the time and wiggle room necessary to gain your balance between work and motherhood.

Schedule and Routine

Create a routine that you and your baby can depend on to minimize the jolt of going back to work. Notre Chatman, former television producer and member of the faculty at Chicago State University in metropolitan Chicago, went back to working full time once her maternity leave was over. She advises keeping your work schedule consistent to give your days a reliable pattern. "Babies need a regular schedule," she says. "Even if I wasn't able to be home, I made sure my caretakers followed the schedule I created. Kids need consistency to feel safe and protected." To help maintain a daily routine, coordinate your calendar with your spouse, baby sitter, and any family and friends who will be helping out. This also applies to moms with the flexibility to work from home -- coordinate your working hours with your baby's schedule so your days are manageable and compartmentalized.

Preparing for the Day

Spend a portion of each evening preparing for the coming day to keep your schedule on track. A few minutes of preparation protect you from moments of frustration. Choose yours and the baby's clothes, pack her diaper bag if she's leaving the house for day care and prepare any meals you're taking on the road. Also charge your cellphone and put your keys, purse and other essential items in a consistent, visible location so you don't have to waste time searching for them. "It was always important for me to lay everything out the night before so I wouldn't forget anything," adds Chatman.

Quality Time

Don't feel guilty about ignoring housework as you navigate returning to work after having a baby. When you arrive home, your priorities should be spending quality time with your little one and relaxing your own body and mind. The chores can wait until you are rested and refreshed; otherwise, you run the risk of burning yourself out trying to do too much. If your spouse can't take over meal planning, order in or make stews or casseroles during the weekend that can be reheated in portions during the week.

Breastfeeding

Breastfeeding your baby after returning to work requires some additional time management. Before your maternity leave ends, try to pump at least a two-week supply of milk, so you aren't stressed trying to meet your baby's daily demands. Have a candid conversation with your boss about what you'll need -- scheduled break times to pump, a clean, private place where you can pump undisturbed, and a freezer for storage.

Manage Your Community

After your maternity leave, some of your time management skills should be used to manage others. Regardless of your capability and independence, let your loved ones help you. Use your community. Get comfortable saying what you need, whether it's asking your hubby to make dinner, your sister to take the laundry out of the dryer or your mother in-law to wash the dishes. Your most important job is maintaining your strength and sanity to nurture your new baby. "At first I was too proud to ask for help," Chatman says. "But after a couple of months, I realized I needed as much help as anyone wanted to give me."

RELATED: Working and Breastfeeding

Personal Time

Self-care must be a priority. Each day, try to sneak in a treat for yourself as a reward for being a loving mommy. Whether it's a long hot bath, changing your nail color, meditating or binge watching your favorite show while the baby naps on your chest, do something just for you.

Photo via Comstock Images/Stockbyte/Getty Images

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