Going back to work after maternity leave is hard, but it’s also sanity-restoring, in its own way.
I know some people take maternity leave and subsequently wish they never had to come back to work again.
I can now say this with confidence: I’m not one of those people.
Yes, yes, it was wonderful/blissful, etc., to spend so much time getting to know the tiny human I made. And yes, it wasn’t easy to leave her, especially that first day.
But here’s the thing: I really like checking things off of my to-do list.
Sense of accomplishment FTW!
However (this will come as no surprise to most of you), when you have a baby, checking things off your to-do list is not easy.
Unless your to-do list has “feed baby” and “change diaper” listed over and over and over (and over) again.
And, because if there’s anything parenting inspires, it’s unsolicited advice, I have a few tips for anyone else out there getting ready to go back to work after maternity leave.
Start Preparing for Farther in Advance than You Think You Need to
Don’t do what I did: The Mr. and I took a three-day trip halfway across the country with a 10-week old—involving five different airplanes—just days before I was set to return to work.
There was a reason for the trip (more on that later!), but holy schmoly, did it throw a wrench in my return.
I was a little more sleep deprived than even my new normal, and I didn’t have as much time as I wanted to do very basic things to prepare myself and the baby for the first day.
Things such as cleaning bottles and prepping a healthy dinner for the evening after your first day back at work—because you will be exhausted.
Also: If going back to work after maternity leave for you involves actually walking into an office, which means you can’t just wear spit-up-stained yoga pants, double the amount of prep time.
Don’t Expect to Keep Up on Work Stuff While You’re Out
I honestly thought I would be able to keep up with at least reading and occasionally commenting on Spin Sucks posts while I was out.
If you’re on maternity leave (or some kind of health-related leave), be realistic.
You will really be unavailable.
Maybe you can have it all (or maybe you can’t. I don’t know your life!), but you probably cannot do it all.
Or I couldn’t, anyway.
Don’t Go Crazy with the Sharing of the Baby Photos
Even if your boss is a baby-whisperer type who coos over every photo of your baby’s chubby knees (cough cough), you should not expect your co-workers to sit for an extended slideshow of photos of your little drool-faced tyke.
Unless of course you, like me, have an unusually cute and charming baby.
Be Honest with Your Colleagues About the Challenges of Going Back to Work After Maternity Leave
I told Laura Petrolino straight up on my first day back when my sleep-deprived and addled brain was starting to scream “Uncle!”
It was not yet 3 p.m.
She got it.
Hopefully you, too, work with empathetic human beings who realize going back to work after maternity leave isn’t easy.
In all likelihood, they will be a bit patient if it takes you a hot minute to get back up to speed on new clients, or if you need a refresher to remember where to find that one document you need on the server.
Maybe they’ll even be kind enough to look the other way if you happen to get misty-eyed when the sitter sends you a pic of your baby, looking somehow perfectly fine without you there to nuzzle her.