Having a baby can turn your world upside down, and going back to work after having a baby can be an equally challenging endeavor. Not only will you have to keep up with your job-related responsibilities, but your child-related ones, as well. If your maternity leave is coming to an end, here are a few things you can do to make your transition back to work as easy on yourself as possible.
1. Line up child care well in advance
If you've been given a generous maternity leave (say, three to six months or longer), you might think you can wait until it's winding down to figure out your child care situation. Not so fast. Because there are strict laws about provider-to-infant ratios at registered day care centers, you may come to find that all of your local facilities have a waiting list. And if you don't get on it as early as possible, you may run out of options as your return date looms. Similarly, if you're planning to get a nanny, you'll need time to interview prospective candidates. Though the last thing you probably want to do during your first two weeks of leave is spend time calling child care providers, know that the earlier you start, the less stress you'll encounter down the line.
2. Do a trial run of your morning routine before you actually need to go back
You might think that showering, getting dressed, getting your baby fed and dressed, and dropping him off at day care is something you can easily accomplish in 60 minutes or less. But you'd be surprised at how much longer your morning routine is apt to take when you're throwing an infant into the mix. Before your first day back at work, do a trial run or two to get a sense of how long it'll really take you to get out the door. Once you nail down that time frame, add 10 minutes on the tail end -- because you never know when a last-minute diaper disaster might derail your otherwise best-laid plans.
3. Stock up on food, clothing, and essentials -- for yourself and baby
Those first few weeks back on the job are bound to be hectic ones. Between adjusting to your work life again and coming home to a needy child, you'll probably find yourself with a limited amount of free time, at least initially. That's why it's helpful to load up on everything you need for those first few weeks before you go back to work and your schedule gets far less flexible. This could mean buying some extra clothing basics in case you don't have time to hit the dry cleaners regularly or bulk-ordering diapers to prevent emergency runs to the store at 10 p.m.
Furthermore, since you'll need to keep yourself well-nourished to maintain a reasonable energy level, cook some meals in advance and freeze them so that once you get home from a long day away, dinner becomes a no-brainer. Do the same if your infant is at the point where he's eating solid food -- because after a long, trying day at the office, you don't want to stand there blending up vegetables while your hungry child screams in the background.
4. Get up to speed on major projects
If you've been out of the office for a number of months, there's a chance a lot went on during your absence. Before you go back to work, reach out to your manager or colleagues and ask for an overview of what's been happening since you last put in a full day of work. Find out what new assignments you'll be responsible for, and get upcoming meetings onto your calendar to better map out your schedule. The fewer surprises you come back to, the easier things will be.
5. Consider a part-time arrangement at first
Going from being home full-time with a baby to working eight-hour days or longer can be an unwelcome jolt. To ease the transition, consider asking your employer for the option to go back on a part-time basis initially, and eventually work your way back up to your previous schedule. Or, come back full-time, but ask to telecommute a few days a week to make your new schedule more manageable. These days, a growing number of employers are offering flexible work arrangements, and if you have a good reputation at your company, you might get some much-needed leeway.
Going back to work after having a baby is no doubt an adjustment. The more you prepare for it, the less anxious you'll be when your maternity leave comes to an end.