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Going back to work after having a baby

Going back to work after having a baby

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, over 70% of women with children under 18 years old have a job in addition to their parental responsibilities. Going back to work after having a baby can be difficult. Adjusting to parenthood is exhausting, and it's also hard to get used to being away from your baby at work. The end of parental leave is often stressful, but preparing ahead of time and thinking of some smart strategies can help you create a smoother transition. Here are some tips for going back to work after having a baby.

Reconnect with your coworkers

Instead of jumping in without preparation, ease yourself into your work by reaching out to your coworkers for updates and checking your work email at least a week before your first day back. This gives you some time to bring yourself up to speed about any changes that may have occurred during your parental leave, ask questions, and make sure that everyone knows when you plan to return. 

It's also a good idea to ensure that you have some assignments or tasks scheduled for your first day. If you don't look productive and help your coworkers, you could have trouble advancing your career. 

Communicate with human resources and management

If your company's human resources department doesn't contact you to schedule a return date, call or email them and ask which date would be best. Choosing a date near the end of the week can help you minimize stress. You can get used to working again and then take a break on the weekend. This also gives you some time to deal with any issues that arise in your first few days.

You may need to fill out some paperwork before you return. If you plan to pump at work, you can determine the location of the company's lactation room or find out if you need to request another area for privacy. Asking where you should store pumped milk is a good idea as well. If you need a different schedule, you can speak to management about making adjustments to improve your work-life balance. 

Asking if your responsibilities have changed can help you prepare to start working again as well. Other employees may be handling some of your responsibilities while you're away. Transitioning slowly to your original workload and letting those employees finish their current projects can help prevent errors and increase consistency for customers or clients. It also keeps you from feeling overwhelmed when you return to work after having a baby.

Check your wardrobe

After having a baby, many of your work outfits may not fit, or they might not be practical for pumping. Before you go back to work, try on your clothing and put everything that still fits in a prominent place near the front of your closet. That way, you won't need to spend a lot of time deciding what to wear every morning. You'll also have time to go shopping for new professional outfits if needed. 

Plan childcare

A good daycare or nanny that fits your budget and needs can be difficult to find, so you should start looking as soon as possible. Some daycares and schools have very long waiting lists, and you'll need time to visit them before making a decision. 

Developing some backup plans is a good idea as well. Many daycares won't allow sick children, and your boss might not be happy if you have to miss an important meeting. You should have a way to contact babysitters, friends, or relatives who can be available on short notice. Before you go back to work, speak to people who might be willing to help and ask if it's OK to call for occasional emergencies. 

Consider working remotely 

Working remotely some or all the time can let you reduce or eliminate commuting, and it can make your schedule more flexible. With many remote jobs, you can choose your own schedule on most days, as long as you meet your deadlines. 

You may still need childcare so that you can focus on work. On some days, you might be able to care for your child while your spouse is at work and do more tasks for your company in the evening. If possible, use a secluded home office that's especially for working, and let others know that they shouldn't disturb you unless there's an emergency.

"Look at your schedule carefully for ways to save time and get more chances to relax. For example, instead of cooking a different dish every day, you can make a couple of options  at the same time and then freeze them for easy reheating."

Rehearse for your return to work

It can be difficult to get ready for work and care for a child at the same time, and then drop them off at daycare on your way in. To avoid being late on your first day back, choose a morning to rehearse by completing these tasks:

  • Wake up at least 15 minutes before the time you used to before your parental leave.
  • Feed and change the baby.
  • Get dressed.
  • Pack bottles, diapers, and any other supplies the daycare might need.
  • Drive to daycare to see what traffic is like.
  • Drive to the office like you would on your first day back. 

Instead of going inside, you can go shopping or take a walk with your baby in a nearby park. If you arrive late, wake up earlier next time to make sure your first day goes well. Planning to be a bit early can help you avoid delays from traffic or diaper changes. Rehearsing your new morning routine can help your spouse understand their responsibilities as well. For example, they could make breakfast for everyone else while you dress and feed the baby.

Review and manage your schedule

Look at your schedule carefully for ways to save time and get more chances to relax. For example, instead of cooking a different dish every day, you can make a couple of options at the same time and then freeze them for easy reheating. Restrict shopping for groceries to once per week, and have your spouse or relatives take care of any last-minute purchases. Hire a cleaner to come in once or twice per month and take care of tasks you may not have time for, such as cleaning the bathrooms and vacuuming the rugs.

It's OK to say no to invitations and explain that you need to focus on work or caring for your baby. For example, a friend could ask you to go to a restaurant with them. While this activity could be enjoyable later, arranging childcare might take the fun out of it for now. 

If your manager asks you to work late, you can let them know that you have to pick up your child from daycare, but you'll finish the task tomorrow morning. Saying no to some things can keep you from feeling stressed out after returning to work.

With these tips for going back to work after a baby, you can make the end of your parental leave much less stressful. Getting back to work can sometimes be tough, but you can return to a productive routine with some effort. If you have trouble readjusting to your job, you can upload your resume to CareerBuilder to look for a position with a more flexible schedule. 

Related reading: Returning to work 

Attaining a good work-life balance can help you go back to work after a baby.

You can transition into a new career that's less stressful than your current job. 

Creating a productivity plan can help you fulfill all your responsibilities at work and at home. 

After having a baby, working from home has many benefits.

You can consider the benefits of working part-time as well.

After you get back to work, learn some ways to prepare for your next performance review.