Congratulations! You’re on your way to your new normal! For better or worse, the days of spandex pants and 24/7 baby are over. Bring on the meetings, coworkers, and learning to fit it all in. As a mother of 3 kids under 4, I’ve returned to work 3 times. I could go on and on about how to have a great maternity leave in the first place so that your back to work transition feels as natural as possible, but that’s a post for another day. For today, I’ll share 8 sure fire ways to feel like you have it all together during those first few days back at work.
Clothing: Try on your clothes and plan your outfits, even the shoes!
Your clothes are the secret sauce to your confidence when returning to work after having a baby. And unless you’re Princess Kate, you may not able to wear much of your pre-baby work wardrobe when you return to the office. Which is totally normal! Yoga pants are one thing, those skinny ankle pants with an actual waistband are a totally different matter. Ladies, try on your clothes! See what fits and what doesn’t, yet. If you’re like me, then it may take a full 9 months to fit into your pre-baby clothing. Try your clothes on 2 weeks before you plan to return to work so you can purchase anything you need. Curate a killer back to work wardrobe by playing to whatever your current body type is. Trust me, you’ll feel more confident wearing what fits you as you are now.
It’s not enough to have your pieces identified, you also have to put outfits together, right down to the shoes! In my experience, the 1 morning you don’t have your clothing planned out is when you’ll sweat off your make up trying on outfits while your beautiful baby produces the biggest blowout ever. Seriously, mornings can be hectic even without an infant.
Disaster = an ever changing body + post baby hormones + impeding traffic on the highway + a helpless tiny human. Plan. Your. Outfits.
P.S. Try on your shoes. Like your body, your feet may not have returned to pre-baby size either. It’s also likely that you haven’t worn heels for months, so you may need to walk around the house for a bit. BONUS! Do this right before your husband gets home and remind him (& yourself) of the sexy mamma you are!
Pack your bags!
Do not wait till the morning of to pack your bags. If you’re like me, then you may not even know where you put your laptop charger all those weeks ago. Why? Because you’ve been preoccupied keeping a small human alive. Who needs laptop chargers when you’re knee deep in nipple cream and kisses?
As a reminder, here’s what you need in your work bag:
- Laptop, laptop charger, cell phone charger, badge, headphones
Here’s what you should bring for baby:
- Diapers, wipes, diaper cream, bottles, pacifier, back up clothing, blanket (check your daycare’s policy on blankets/swaddles/sleep sacks)
Let’s play 20 Questions!
Hi! How are you? How is the baby? Remind me, was it a boy or a girl? How long did you sleep last night? Are you nursing? Is it weird that I just talked about a small person sucking on your boobs? How was maternity leave? Ahhh the questions. You will have so many visitors that you’ll need to start handing out tickets. You’ll have more conversations in the bathroom than 2 people ever should. Hopefully you’ll feel super loved on your first few days back at work. Your colleagues are genuinely interested in you and your experience as a new mom. They may fondly recall their own maternity leave or wish they would find Mr. Right so they could have their own baby. So, be prepared for questions, plan a little elevator speech for each, but remember that you are at the office and you’re talking about very personal experiences.
- Remember that anything to do with parenting is personal, remind folks that the xyz method you chose (sleep training, bottle feeding, etc) is what was right for your family
- Be prepared to gracefully remove yourself from a topic or conversation that gets too personal or uncomfortable. You don’t have to defend your choices or allow anyone to let you feel guilty
- Parents of much older children may not realize how judgemental they sound when they talk about their own previous experiences. It’s best to nip these topics in the bud if you feel the person you’re speaking to is going to get judgy
Food: Map out healthy food options for breakfast, lunch & dinner
Guess what!? Your baby eats every 3 hours and so should you! It’s no surprise that mealtimes come up, yet during those first few days back at work we can forget the most basic thing: healthy food & water to fuel our bodies.
If you wait till you’re hungry to think about what you’re going to eat then you aren’t likely to make good choices. Reaching for the Cheetos or whatever is in the junk food drawer will make the exhaustion and emotions of the first few days back at work worse. Do yourself a favor and be kind to your body by hydrating and fueling it with real food.
Have a café onsite? Great! There are usually healthy and yummy choices on the salad bar or soups. Proteins and veggies may also easy to come by. Nothing onsite? You have 2 choices.
- Bring something from home. The best choice is to bring food you made at home (not to mention it’s easy on the wallet, daycare bills are a ‘mother!). I’m not a huge fan of frozen lunches, but they’ve come a long way and are healthier than a quick drive through mystery meat burger.
- Get out of the office. Enjoy the time away from both baby and the office and actually walk in somewhere! During your maternity leave you probably stuck to the drive through because those baby carriers can be so heavy! Find a fast casual joint, walk in and get a healthy lunch!
Bonus: You get to go out in public looking awesome & even without the diaper bag and baby!
Ready to take food to the next level? Pre prep the whole thing! Even for baby! Our household is 100% pre prepped during the week. We literally have all breakfasts, lunches, dinners, and bottles fully prepared. With food allergies, 3 kids under 4 and a dual income family, it’s the only way we stay sane.
Emotional Rollercoaster: Strap in and buckle up!
There is a wide spectrum of the emotions you may experience during your first week back at work. On one end, this may be the easiest thing you’ve ever done, as if you just hit the pause button at the office, or it might be an incredibly heart wrenching day that leaves you reaching for the Excedrin and seriously rethinking your whole future as a working Mom by 10 am.
The one thing you can do to deal with it? Grace. Give yourself grace! And remind others to do so as well. You just had a baby! You can’t go back to 9-5 in 0-60 seconds. It’s going to take more than a minute. Leave the office a little early if you can. Spend that extra time bonding with baby or going for a walk to decompress and digest everything you learned today.
Network: Make a list of everyone you want to catch up with and start filling up your calendar
After a significant absence or a life change, a 20 minute call or coffee chat will be accepted by anyone! Catch up with your work girlcrush. Call up your favorite client. Develop a deeper relationship with those around you. Most parents love talking to newbies, sharing helpful tidbits and their own stories! Welcome to the club!
For you boss ladies on the rise, take advantage of this special time and ask to chat with the director you’ve always looked up to but never had the guts to approach.
Be open and talk about your experience on maternity leave, but also have a hook to bring up business topics. Has your time away given you a great new idea? Are you closer to the consumers mind now that you’re away from the day to day?
Here’s a networking starter list:
- Your Boss
- Your Boss’ boss
- Your team mates
- Work friends from diff departments (they can give you the real scoop on any changes)
- Any mentors or sponsors
- Your office girl crush
- HR team member – tell her how you’re doing really, what could have made the transition into and out of maternity leave better. A good HR rep will care and will soak up everything you have to say.
- Seriously, this convo is a biggie! Ladies, we must help each other out. Look to the junior girl to your left, one day she will be in your shoes, do her a favor and try to make her return to work experience better!
New Image: New family member, new you!
Very rarely will we have the chance to reinvent ourselves without totally transforming our lives. Having a baby and going on maternity leave is one of these chances! Take this as an opportunity to recreate yourself. Write down what revamped first impression you want to make on your colleagues, really think about it. You had a baby! You have a new title (Mom)! Your life is on a completely different track now. You are literally a whole new person and you CAN recreate yourself!
- Want to project a more professional image? Take a peek at your wardrobe, research a new super sleek (and easy, hello 5am feedings) hairstyle, subscribe to the Harvard Business Review and have it sent to your office so you can put it on display, listen to your favorite professional podcast.
- Want to nurture lasting corporate relationships or stop talking about yourself and listening more to your colleagues? Be mindful of how much time you spend gushing about your baby. Your colleagues have updates too, be genuinely interested in hearing how their life and projects are going.
I’m talking to you miss planner, do not attempt to plan anything else the whole first week back at work. Allow yourself the empty space so that you can deal with whatever comes up. Remember, there is a wide spectrum of emotions and you won’t really know where you’ll land until you start.
Your entire to do list for the whole week should be:
- get baby to daycare
- get mom to work
- come home
- spend time with baby
- rinse & repeat
That’s it, well, maybe a glass of wine and your fave show.
Get it Mamma! I know you can crush your first week back!
Ladies who’ve already paved the way, what strategies worked for you? What did you do (or wish you did) to transition back to work after having a baby?