Motherhood is a season of tremendous joy, regardless of whether it's your first baby or the latest addition. But returning to your old work routine after your maternity leave might feel overwhelming and guilt-inducing. Stepping back into your job requires planning and organization to keep you from feeling frazzled and fatigued.
Establish your new morning routine at least one week before you're scheduled to return to work. This means setting your alarm and waking up early so you can see how much time you need to feed and dress your baby, along with packing diapers, formula and other supplies and driving to the child care provider. With a solid week of using your new schedule, you should feel less stressed and more confident when it's time to go back to the office. "You need to realize you're not just getting yourself organized. You're getting another person organized," says Erin Morton, human resources manager for 3M in Cleveland. Morton also is mom to three children, who are 9 and 6 years old, and 20 months. She also suggested using the week before your return from leave to get in the habit of packing lunches and planning dinners the night before.
Enlist your family's support, especially your spouse or partner. Morton manages her youngest child by feeding and dressing him every morning while her husband, Brian, oversees the older children's schedules. If you're a single mother, ask relatives or friends to help you. They may be available to drive your baby to child care or pick him up in the afternoons or on days when you might need to work late. At the same time, set realistic goals as a working mom and accept that even the most disciplined woman is sometimes going to forget something or run late. "You can't do it all," says Morton.
New moms often feel their energy levels slump by mid-morning or afternoon, especially if they're accustomed to sipping coffee or soda before their pregnancies but avoid any caffeine while pregnant and breastfeeding. Anticipate these crashes in your metabolism by carrying healthy foods that'll fortify you at work. "Nuts are fantastic," says Morton, who recommends keeping almonds, cashews or walnuts at your fingertips for quick bursts of vigor. "You want snacks that give you a boost." She also suggests consuming protein shakes and raw vegetables while you're at work. Eat something wholesome every few hours. "Otherwise, you'll feel like a zombie," Morton warns.
Breastfeeding is a significant source of stress when a new mom goes back to work. Factor your nursing schedule into your office calendar so you can comfortably use a breast pump according to your own personal comfort. New moms often assume they can quickly pump in between meetings or other routine tasks. Instead, they end up sacrificing their personal needs when they don't get to pump because they get sidetracked with their job demands. Morton recommends marking specific blocks of time in your busy calendar when you'll be committed to using your pump. "If you need to pump every three hours, leave time open to accommodate that," she says.