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"The first couple of weeks back to work after having a baby are always the worst," says Marcia Heitz, a licensed clinical social worker and therapist in Canton, Illinois. Your routine is out of whack, you're worried about your baby, and you feel misplaced. Finding your feet again can be tough, but not impossible. "Just remember, millions of working mothers have been through the same thing and made it," she says. You can, too.
Find Quality Child Care
Put time and thought into getting good child care for your baby, advises Heitz. Knowing your baby is safe and well cared for goes a long way toward reducing the stress you feel at work. Leave your baby with a trusted family member or friend if you can. If a day care center is a more realistic option for you, interview several before making a choice. Ask about the caregiver-to-child ratio and the caregivers' qualifications. Seek recommendations from other mothers in your circle.
Once you've secured a provider you trust, feel free to call in once or twice to check on your baby. Just don't call more than that; your boss won't like it and the caregiver might be annoyed.
Take One Step at a Time
It's easy to get overwhelmed when you think about everything you need to accomplish in a day, especially as a new mother with greater responsibilities. "Thinking of the work day in little snippets rather than a whole chunk can be helpful, as it allows women to focus on the task on hand," says Jenny Shully, a licensed clinical social worker at The Haven Group in Chicago. Take the day literally an hour at a time: Focus on the upcoming meeting, get that report finished, enjoy your lunch break. Within a few weeks, you'll have established a new routine and should feel more comfortable at work.
Round Up a Support System
It's important to have people in your life who understand the unique pressures that come with being a new mother in the workplace. "Being able to text a friend and say, "I'm struggling," or letting her partner know she needs some help can truly be a lifeline for a working mom," says Shully.
Surround yourself with those who are sympathetic and supportive. Don't be afraid to temporarily distance yourself from those who bring negativity to the table, says Lisa Orbe-Austin, a psychologist at Dynamic Transitions Psychological Counseling in New York. People who aren't supportive of you for whatever reason -- they don't think you should be working, they don't like your job -- are only going to slow down your adjustment.
Assess the Situation
If a month or more has passed and work isn't getting any easier, it may be time to reassess your situation. There's no one-size-fits-all answer. Shully has counseled new mothers who work 50 hours a week and love it and those who left work to stay at home and love it. What's right depends on what makes you and your immediate family happy.
"A pitfall to avoid, though, is making a rash decision based on emotion," cautions Heitz. Identify what the issue is. Are you too tired? Is work taking up too much time? Do you need flexibility? Perhaps you can work out a new arrangement with your boss, like part-time work or a flex schedule. Quit only if you're sure you can afford to do so.