Returning to work as a mother
From pumping in the office to finding the right childcare — advice for working moms.
Mom, consultant and career coach Mary Beth Ferrante shares her tips for new moms planning their return to work.
It’s no secret that returning to work after the birth of your child can be overwhelming. Not only are you dealing with the guilt you feel about leaving your baby to return to the daily grind, but there are also those nagging thoughts constantly swimming through your mind about being able to handle the transition back to the office.
Will I remember how to do my job?
Have they found someone who can do it better in my absence?
How will I be a good mom and a good employee?
Take it from a mom who has been there: It’s going to be okay. Sure, it takes time to get back into the groove, but adjusting to your new work life with your new mom responsibilities can be done. Here are a few ways to make returning to work after having a new baby a little easier.
Communicate with your boss before you return
Before you went on parental leave you probably gave a rough estimate of when you would return. As that date approaches, reach out to your boss to ensure he or she is ready. Make sure you’re both on the same page when it comes to your return date, so that you can both complete whatever tasks are needed in order to make your first day back as smooth as possible.
Make your new needs known
A new baby comes with new needs for your work schedule. In the past, you may have been the employee who could be depended on to stay late or turn in a weekend assignment, so it’s important to establish new boundaries upon your return.
Ask yourself: What’s changing for you? Do you now have to be out of the office at a certain time in order to pick up your child? Do you want to set aside a part of the evening where you won’t be available so you can spend it with your baby? Do you need more notice in order to attend after work events or travel? The more open and direct you are about what’s changing, the more people will respect your boundaries.
Find childcare you trust
When it comes to finding someone to care for your child while you’re at work, it’s crucial that you feel good about the decision. If you’re worried about your child’s wellbeing, there’s no way you’re going to be able to focus at work.
Find childcare that makes you feel confident that your child is safe, loved and taken care of. Take some time to do your research, tour facilities, interview nannies and talk to other parents.
If possible, take a week to slowly transition (helpful for both you and baby!) before going back to work full-time and start the transition while you’re still on maternity leave. Drop your child off for a half-day at grandma’s, go with them to daycare for a day or so, or have your nanny start working a week or two before you go back to work. Feeling more prepared will make the transition easier!
It’s important to be kind to yourself, and know that you’re doing what you can with what you have at the moment you’re in.
If you plan to continue breastfeeding, create a pumping strategy
Ask any working mom and they will likely tell you that pumping at work is another job. It’s one more thing that you need to prep for and manage throughout your workday. Before you head back to work, make sure that you’ve familiarized yourself with your pump and feel comfortable using it. Keep a checklist of everything you need to pump at work in your pump bag and consider purchasing a second set of pump parts. If you have a second set, it’ll be easier to pack your pump bag the night before, without always having to wait to clean your only set.
Does your employer provide a lactation room? If so, meet with your HR representative or manager on your return to understand the logistics of using the room. Do you need a key? Will you be sharing the room with other new moms? Do you book times? If there is not a lactation room, let HR and your manager know what accommodations you’ll need, ideally about a month before you return to work.
Make sure to block your work calendar for the times when you need to pump. If you are exclusively breastfeeding, you’ll need to pump at least as often as baby eats while you’re away! However, it is ok if you need to pump a little early or a little late due to issues at work. Get back on a schedule that mirrors the baby’s schedule as soon as possible and avoid skipping a pumping session regularly.
Many moms experience a dip in their milk production when they go back to work, so if it happens to you, start by making sure you are drinking enough water! When you are focused on work, it is important to make sure you are still drinking enough water and eating enough to keep your milk supply up! If you are still struggling, consider meeting with a lactation consultant. Wearing pump friendly clothing is ideal and will make each session a bit smoother and quicker!
And remember: this time in your life is only temporary! Pumping at work can feel very overwhelming and frustrating, especially if it causes you to miss out on important things at work. Take it one day at a time.
Be patient with yourself
They call it a “transition” for a reason: It takes time to adjust! Yes, you know how to do your job and now you may even feel that you’ve mastered parenting, but you have never done them both at the same time! You might completely lose it during your first day back at work, or even six months in.
It’s important to be kind to yourself, and know that you’re doing what you can with what you have at the moment you’re in. It’s okay to enjoy your commute to work, since now it’s the only peaceful moment you have, or to rush home immediately after a meeting to snuggle your baby. It might not be exactly how you envisioned it, but you’re going to make it work – all in good time.
When I first returned to work after having a baby, I remember an older colleague telling me that it does get easier. To be honest, I thought she was completely insane! But it turns out that she was right. It does get easier – you can be a good mom and a good employee. You’ll be able to get back into the swing of things – with a little patience and preparation.
Mary Beth Ferrante is a mom, consultant, career coach and speaker fiercely advocating for millennial working parents. As founder of Live.Work.Lead., she partners with organizations to retain top female talent by transforming workplace cultures to better support working parents through coaching and training. She also contributes to Forbes Women.