Returning from maternity leave can be challenging for any mother, but it can be especially difficult for first-time mothers, many of whom spend the vast majority of their maternity leaves with newborn babies in hand. While the challenge of returning from maternity leave can be considerable, working mothers can take steps to ensure the transition goes as smoothly as possible.
• Find trustworthy child care. Mothers' biggest concerns when returning from maternity leave tend to center around child care. It can be quite a nerve-wracking leap to leave a young child in someone else's care for the first time, but working parents must find someone to care for their children while they are at work. Start looking as soon as possible, asking physicians, family members, friends, and neighbors for recommendations. Insist on references from any potential caregivers, and don't hesitate to find a new care provider if your initial choice does not pan out.
• Adjust your breastfeeding schedule. As the end of maternity leave nears, mothers can adjust their breastfeeding schedules so babies grow accustomed to nursing during hours when their mothers will be home and not at the office. Some companies have on-site child care, and mothers who can take advantage of such programs should establish an on-site breastfeeding schedule and let their bosses know at which points during the day they will be visiting the on-site child care facility to breastfeed.
• Inquire about telecommuting. The idea of telecommuting might have been a topic better broached before you went on maternity leave, but it's never too late to inquire. Some companies embrace telecommuting while others are more hesitant to allow employees to work from home. Find out which category your company falls into, or if bosses are willing to meet you in the middle ground and enable you to work from home one or two days per week. Telecommuting can make the transition back to work a little easier, and it can save you substantial amounts of money on child care as well.
• Address any uncomfortable feelings. Returning from maternity leave often stirs feelings of guilt or sadness. If you develop such feelings, speak openly about them with your significant other and/or speak to fellow working mothers who can often offer support and share their own stories about returning from maternity leave.
• Cut back on your commitments. Before you became a mother, you might have been the type of employee who was never afraid to take on a new project no matter how much was already on your plate. Now you may have to make adjustments. Avoid taking on any additional work as you get used to being a working mother. Once you grow accustomed to your new schedule and being both a professional and a mother, then you can start taking on additional commitments if you feel you can swing it.
Returning from maternity leave is a challenge working mothers must face. But those who start to think about their transitions back to the office sooner rather than later will be better prepared to handle such a unique experience.