Working Mothers: Dealing with your first day back at work post pregnancy
For mums who have been on maternity leave, the first day back at work can almost seem more daunting than giving birth itself.
You went away to have a baby and in essence the universe changed in that time. You created a person where there wasn’t one before, which is impressive, however can take a little bit of a toll on your mind and body. You are not exactly the same person you were before you left.
Depending of course on how long you have been on leave, you might feel a bit like a fish out of water when you are returning. Some women might not just be returning to work after a long absence, but to entirely different roles or different employers than before, which can have an added level of stress to it.
You have changed a little now you are a mum
You probably already have worked this out, but your brain works a little differently to how it did before you were a mum.
Before you could focus your attention full-time on work, now half of your brain is also filled with concerns about your baby, thoughts about sleep patterns, dinner and poop, and reminding yourself that you need to get nappies and wipes on the way home.
You have probably had half the sleep of a normal person and could also be hormonal. Your breasts could be swollen and sore, or even leaking.
When before, the work version of you had it all under control, now you have twice as much stuff to control, and half the physical and mental power to do it.
Just kidding, it’s not all that bad. But going back to work is a juggling act, as well a bit emotionally taxing, so we’ve made some awesome advice notes below to help you be 100% prepared and focused for your first day back.
By the second day, you are on your own.
Administrative preparation beforehand
If you are starting a new role or new job, you made need some extra documents and administrative details handy to give to your employer. Check and see that you have, if needed, the following things:
· 100 points of ID
· Signed contract
· Tax File Number
· Superannuation details
· Bank details
· Police Check or Working with Children check
· Any Health checks
You may also wish to write down a list of questions that you want to ask your employer on the first day, such as pay arrangements, leave, who to contact if you are running late, parking, other employer benefits programs etc.
You will probably need to work out before the day itself how you are going to get to work. Most people will either drive or catch public transport.
You need to factor in dropping your child at childcare on the way as well, so you might drive to drop your baby off, park near there, and then catch public transport from there, for example.
It pays to have everything sorted out beforehand. Figure out:
· How you are getting there
· How long it will take
· Where are you going to park
· How much parking will cost, and if you need coins for this
· If you are getting public transport, work out which train or bus lines you need, perhaps download an app with the maps and schedules for your reference.
· Have your public transport ticket ready and topped up if needed so you are not running around trying to buy one at the last minute.
You will already have decided what childcare service you are going to use. It is an excellent idea to have your baby’s first day of childcare not be your first day of work. This is in case something goes wrong and you need to pick up your baby again, and also helps you to be less stressed when it’s your first day.
Your baby will love childcare. There is always someone there to feed him, cuddle him or play with him, and he will have a bunch of people his own age to hang out with. You might be slightly traumatised by the idea of him going into childcare, but he will love it. (More than once I’ve had to convince my very reluctant child to leave childcare and come home!)
When you are dropping your baby off, schedule in some crying time, for you, not the baby. Your baby will be fine. You might be a mess. You might hold it together in front of your baby, but once you get in the car or on the bus, maybe fall apart just a little.
This is completely normal, but maybe allow yourself a little time to cry, get cleaned up, and then get to work without being late.
Have organised a back-up person that can pick up your child if you are running late, such as a friend, family member or of course your partner. Make sure that person’s details are registered with your childcare service.
If you have grandparents looking after your baby you are very, very lucky, and should never take this for granted. Not only is it usually free, but they often throw in extra duties like cleaning, laundry or cooking dinner as well. (I am very jealous.)
Get your outfit ready the night before, have it chosen, ironed and ready to go. If you wear a uniform you are very lucky, this makes for one less decision in your life.
If you wear a jacket, don’t put it on until you’ve dropped your child off. You are guaranteed to get mashed banana or spit-up or something else on it. I found it really helpful once I was back at work to keep my heels and my jackets at work at the time, and then just wear sneakers to walk there.
Try on your clothes and shoes a few days before; both your body and feet may have changed size. You may need to buy something new. Wear something that will make you feel good, comfortable and not self-conscious.
If your baby is still fully breastfed and you want this to continue, then you need to figure out how to express while you are at work.
Figure out how to use the breast-pump at home, don’t leave this to figure out at work. These things can have 100 parts and require a degree in engineering to assemble.
Contact work and make sure that a place to express is being provided, plus somewhere to store your milk. You are entitled to request this, and it should not be just the women’s bathrooms.
There is an art to the juggle of breastfeeding and working. You will send your baby off to childcare with 2-3 expressed feeds and bottles for this as well. Then you will need to express the same amount during the day for your own comfort.
You may also need to express as soon as you get home, which is also the same time your baby wants to get another feed from you.
Then there is washing and sterilising the equipment and making sure you have everything ready to go again tomorrow.
You will figure it all out, I promise, but it helps to plan a little I found out.
Be nice to yourself
Having a baby was hard, but for a lot of women, leaving your baby and going back to work can be harder.
Sometimes you will put extra guilt on yourself for leaving your baby, as well as guilt for not being able to devote yourself to work as much as before. It is natural to want to be great at both, but it is also natural to struggle with actually achieving this.
On your first day back, you could be physically exhausted, have a sore brain, eyes, feet, back and breasts, and be emotionally all over the place. This is the day to be nice to yourself. We’ve thrown a few additional tips in below which are not essential, but highly recommended to get you through the first big day.
Working mothers are awesome rockstars and deserve to be nice to themselves whenever possible.
Here are some ideas how:
· Get your partner to check in on you; often this is a hard day.
· Make plans for lunch. Either meet a friend for a nice lunch out or prepare yourself something yummy from home. Don’t make a sad little salad and eat it alone in the lunchroom.
· Have a nice water bottle on your desk and make sure you drink a lot of water throughout the day, especially if you are expressing.
· Go for a walk sometime during the day and get some sun and fresh air.
· Discover a place near work for awesome coffee and sweet baked goods; around 3pm is a very good time to do this.
· Take a couple of personal things with you to adorn your desk. Take a photo of bubs (unless this sets off your tears again), a funny desk calendar and maybe a fresh plant.
· Get some good apps on your phone ready for the day: make a good music playlist, get podcasts or audio books, or a mindfulness app for the ride home.
· Look into getting groceries delivered home on an ongoing basis; you can do the shopping while you are on the bus!
· Have dinner sorted in advance: pre-cook something lovely to reheat or treat yourself to takeaway.
All that you need is some preparation, some confidence (about 12 hours of sleep) and the patience to be kind to yourself in the process.
Your baby will love his day, and won’t even realise you were gone, while you might miss him every second. But that’s ok. What you are doing is amazing, and tomorrow you will get up and do it all again.