Five Things To Do For An Organized Return To Work From Maternity Leave
The transition to and from maternity leave can be pretty tough. Whether you’re taking a full 12 (or even 18) months, or you’ve decided to cut it short, there’s a lot to consider when you’re away from the office for an extended period of time. From the logistics of managing childcare to feelings of Mom guilt, returning to work from maternity leave can be a pretty tough transition.
Working in Human Resources for nearly 15 years, I’ve seen what works pretty well and what doesn’t. Here are a few tips to make your return to work a little easier.
1. While You’re On Leave - Stay Connected
A lot can happen during the course of your maternity leave. While you’re home feeding a baby, changing diapers and basically repopulating the country, the world at the office just keeps on spinning. Hard to believe, I know. A year of office gossip and organizational changes just can’t be caught up on. Face it; if you don’t stay connected, you are going to miss stuff. My suggestion – stay in touch with someone you have a solid relationship with to keep in the loop. Do your best to meet up for coffee every other month, or so. Added bonus if this person is a baby lover. They can snuggle the baby while they catch you up on the dirt. Also, they’ll probably buy your coffee. You’re on maternity leave, after all.
2. Six Months Before You Return to Work – Figure Out Childcare
Plan for childcare well in advance to avoid stress. I suggest that you start investigating your childcare options when your baby is about five months old, if you’re taking a full year. If you’re taking a shorter leave, start looking while you’re pregnant. Seriously. Depending on the area you live in, daycares may have waitlists and age restrictions. Some daycares don’t take children under the age of two. Wouldn’t you rather be looking too early than too late?
Our daycare had a two-week transition period. This allowed me to hang around and get a feel for the place. After the two-week transition, I was totally comfortable with the daycare so I wasn’t stressed about leaving my little guy when I went to work. Please note, during this two-week transition, I got to leave my kid at daycare and then go home alone - SCORE!
3. Two Months Before You Return to Work - Get in Touch with Your Manager
Before your scheduled return date, get in touch with your employer to review the details related to your return. Some employers may not have great processes for managing your return to work, so you might as well take control of the situation. A couple of months before your scheduled return date call or email your Manager or Human Resources contact to schedule a meeting time. The purpose of this meeting will be to discuss your next assignment, your work location, your work hours, etc. Having this information will likely alleviate the stress of the unknown. Remember, even though you’re on maternity leave you are still responsible to manage your career.
4. A Week Before You Return to Work - Treat Yo’ Self
Suppose by some miracle that all your pre-baby wear still fits beautifully (no judgment if it doesn’t!), it is out of style. Do not argue. Go get some clothes that are in style. You grew a human and kept it alive for a year. You deserve new pants. With Lycra.
Pick out a great outfit for your first day back. It’s such a wonderful feeling - wearing something you look and feel good in. And it’s so simple to do. Make time for yourself. The transition back can be rough. You might as well control what you can and feel good in your own skin.
Consider getting your hair and nails done too!
Because I’m crazy organized, I’d also suggest picking out your work wear and your child’s daycare wear for the entire week on Sunday nights. Get everything ready in advance to eliminate some stress in the mornings.
5. The Day Before You Return to Work – Brace Yourself
The days and night before you return to leave can be a rollercoaster of emotions. You might feel sad, worries and/or excitement. Whatever you feel – it’s okay! The day before your return to work, spend a little extra time with that babe of yours. Be reminded that this is a transition. In a few months time it will all feel normal(ish) again – I promise.