Tips on how to prepare for maternity leave and returning to work.
Although Women’s Empowerment Month has passed, I’m still convinced that us, women, should be honored every month and every day. Not only are we capable of surviving in the workforce with our counterparts, but some of us have two (maybe even three) jobs after we clock out – well, do we really clock out?
During my last pregnancy, one of my superiors told us he was retiring a month before I found out I was pregnant. As my manager and I started to prepare, I was terrified to let him know I was expecting since there would only be one person on our team while I was on maternity leave. Fortunately, my manager was very understanding, and we did our best to work with each other and prepare before and while I was on leave.
My best advice on preparing for maternity leave is to be proactive. Know your leave benefits and take advantage of them. You only get to experience motherhood once and nothing will give back the time you had with your baby. It’s understandable to not want to tell anyone about your pregnancy right away, but for work purposes, I think it’s best to at least let your direct supervisor and human resources department know in order to prepare. Communicate three months before your leave with any other individuals or departments that you work with – this was important for me since I’m in the corporate world and we focus on quarterly items.
Every working mother has her own preference and we all have different leave benefits. Some may completely check out from work and focus solely on their little one and others may check in once a week just to make sure they do not need to put a fire out at work. If you’re the latter of the two, I suggest that you block out time just for baby, just for work, and just for yourself – trust me, you’ll need it! During maternity leave, sleep when baby sleeps, you’ll never get that back.
Returning back to work was one of the hardest days postpartum. How was I going to work a full day and then have the energy for my son BJ while running on limited hours of sleep? Preparing for it was one thing, but leaving BJ took an emotional toll on me.
During that time, my husband and I were living with my parents, so I knew he was in good hands, but for six weeks straight, BJ never left my side (maybe for a couple of hours at most) and I didn’t know how I was going to be away from him for 10+ hours. It eventually got easier as I learned to get ready the night before.
Looking for childcare options as soon as your baby is born is ideal especially due to waiting lists. Some companies provide childcare benefits which can help save for more diapers and wipes in the long run. Every childcare facility is different and you’ll want to take tours, get a better understanding of what’s provided (meals, wipes, even diapers), and what the day looks like.
For breastfeeding mothers, I would start pumping milk at least one week before going back to work for some extra stock. Though you really only need one work days’ worth of milk the day you go back to work, you never know when you’ll need that extra – a return to work happy hour, anyone?
Checklists are my best friend. I had a checklist for pump parts to bring to work and a checklist for what needed to be packed for BJ with my mother and/or childcare is what helped me the most. My suggestion would be to have double of everything (that needs to be washed in particular) – pumping parts, bottles, bibs, sippy cups, in case you have one of those nights where you just don’t feel like sterilizing.
And up until this day, being a mother has never felt more than natural. It’s tiring and exhausting, for sure, but every stage with your little one is a learning experience for them and for yourself. I take pride in being a working mother as I am able to provide for my family and even get a break from the little one when needed (and I’m sure he needs a break from us also), however, my biggest advice is to learn to separate family from work. Though BJ may not remember these first couple of years, I’ve cherished every moment.
Sounds like a lot of preparation in such a short amount of time? See, we’re superwomen. But also, make sure to always ask for help – women love to help other women, mother, wifey, or not.