Adjusting to life after having a baby is not easy. On top of learning how to take care of this tiny human, you also have to learn to juggle the numerous responsibilities you had before becoming a mother for the first, second or third time.
Some employers offer family or maternity leave for their colleagues who recently had children. The standard time off for a new mother is typically 6 weeks. During this time, the new working mom is allowed to spend this allotted break to bond with her new family, make arrangements for childcare, and (most importantly) rest.
Many of my friends are just now becoming mothers, and it appears we all “decided” to hop on this bandwagon at the same time in our late 30s. But while they come from different walks of life, one thing I recognized about all of my girlfriends who returned to work after having a baby is just how difficult it really is.The main source of unease was not having to go back to work per se, but having to leave their new little one with a nanny, family member or in day care.
You don’t need to tell me that having a baby is both joyous and stressful. And the stress of preferring to be at home with your child, instead of at work, can bring even the strongest woman to tears.
But, what happens when you are not only dealing with the guilt, sadness, and anxiety of having to leave your baby, but also with changed perceptions of your effectiveness on your team at work?
Here are four tips to help smooth the transition.
1. Plan Ahead
One of the first things you should do when you’re planning your leave is to schedule a meeting with your supervisor to determine who will be handling your workload while you are away. Discuss the company’s goals and plans within the next couple of months to ensure you can do all you can prior to your maternity leave. Be certain to get a clear and concise understanding, preferably in writing, of exactly how you will transition back.
2. Check In
This is subjective to your work culture. One of my girlfriends was lucky enough to have coworkers who simply would not entertain her when she checked in while she was on maternity leave. They would say to her, “Oh My Gosh, get off this phone and enjoy your time off.” HOWEVER, if you know you are not that lucky and you want to remain two steps ahead of any shady peers or supervisors looking to deem you a slacker, be certain to check in on your clients, team members, and superiors to ensure that your return strategy is still in place, and the company direction has not changed. Even if it’s all in your head, it will give you some peace of mind, which as a new mom, I know you need!
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3. Thank Your Colleagues
Not all co-workers and supervisors are happy about women who are out on maternity leave. Some of them may feel like they are stuck doing your job while you are perceived to be chilling and laying in bed all day. Yes, this perception is most times derived from men and also others who have no children (they gon’ learn one day), but whoever this nutcase is that thinks maternity leave is an extended stay at a 5-star resort in Tahiti, be sure to show your appreciation to them by giving them a card or gift. This can be some homemade cookies from you or a family member, an offer to go out for after work cocktails, or even a simple acknowledgement in front of your other co-workers and supervisors, thanking them for their assistance while you were out on leave.
4. Stand Your Ground:
I have a friend who returned to work after 5 months of maternity leave. She is a VP in the financial industry, and she knows how to use being nice to her advantage. (She is also Jamaican, so she can curse you and smile at the same time, and you don’t even realize you have been “cut” until 20 minutes later). But, after her return from maternity leave, she told me that some of her male peers were hitting her with snide comments regarding her workload. They would insinuate to her that since they have managed to do their jobs and her job for the past 5 months, they were wondering (out loud at that) if the company even needed her anymore. Totally appalled by what she was telling me, I asked her how did she handle it. She simply stated that she would politely insert herself where she felt she was needed. She slowly took back her projects, but she did it with a smile.
For those working moms out there, what was your recipe for success upon your return? Share it with us in the comments below.