After becoming a parent, returning to work can be both exciting and a little nerve-racking. The workplace brings with it opportunities for social interaction, adult conversation, and career growth, which are some much-needed benefits for many new parents. However, from logistical measures to your emotional health, this transition can also bring about some worries and concerns. Here are our top tips to help you plan for a successful transition back to work.
Hash out the logistics
From organizing childcare to packing baby bags, returning to work will involve a whole new routine for you and your little one. Take the time to finalize childcare details, plan how the mornings and evenings will work, and call upon others for support. For instance, if you can share the load with a partner, arrange drop-offs, pick-ups, and alternative care options if you or your child feel unwell. A detailed plan that accounts for each step of the routine will help you feel more prepared for the transition and all the issues that may or may not arise in the process.
Stock up on necessities
Make a list of everything you think you’ll need to help make this transition easier for both you and your baby. For you, this list may include nursing pads, wipes, healthy snacks, and, if you’re breastfeeding, all the necessary pumping equipment. For your little one, ensure there is plenty of milk and bottles at home. Having all these necessities prepared early on can make all the difference for your first week back.
Ease back into it
If you can manage it, try and negotiate your starting day to be on a Wednesday or Thursday. A full workweek of around 40 hours will likely be a shock to your system – and your baby’s! Remember that both your mind and body need time to settle back into the routine, so try not to overdo it with an immediately heavy workload if you can.
Another option may be returning to work two or three days before your leave is officially over and working half-days. This will give both your baby time to familiarise themselves with their childcare provider and yourself a chance to practice the routine. While this will depend on the flexibility of your working arrangements, you could then use the extra hours you’ve worked to cut down on some days the following week, after which you might feel more prepared for a full workweek.
Talk to your employer
Returning to work is an adjustment, and understandably, it takes time to re-establish this routine. Help manage your employer’s expectations (and your own) by scheduling a meeting with your boss to discuss any flexible work arrangements you may be seeking, like working part-time, completing some hours from home, or working hours that fit your childcare schedule. If you’re breastfeeding, be sure to ask your employer about places to pump within the workplace.
You can also use this time to touch base with your supervisor about any changes in the workplace, like shifts in leadership or responsibilities. You may also like to ask what your top priorities will be when you’re back at work, which will help you focus on what’s important, rather than getting overloaded with trivial tasks.
Do a trial run (and get some downtime in!)
Once you’ve planned it all out, you could try and take a day to practice the routine. Plan meals and arrange childcare like you would for a real workday to assess how you and your little one will go, making adjustments as necessary. Then, instead of heading to the office, take this time to prioritize yourself and your own needs. Have you been meaning to get a haircut or do a grocery run? Use your practice day productively, whether that be by going for a long walk or running an errand to make the next day easier.
Remember, the decision to return to work is a highly personal one, so it’s important not to rush back if you don’t feel ready. This decision can depend on various factors, including your family arrangements, your child’s health, how they cope with change and the flexibility of your work and home situation. So, before you return to work, consider your situation carefully and be sure that it’s the right time for you and your family.
When you do head back to work, keep in mind that it takes time to establish a balance between work and family, so be patient with yourself and don’t worry too much if the day doesn’t go as smoothly as you expect. Reach out for support where necessary and give yourself time to get the hang of it!