by special guest blogger, Dana Greenlaw
I had my first son 6 weeks before I was scheduled to start maternity leave. I was at my baby shower when my water broke and I went to the hospital thinking I would be sent back so I could have dessert. Instead of cupcakes, 12 hours later I emailed my manager a picture of my tiny new baby; in his incubator with tubes running everywhere. Sorry can’t make it in on Monday. Surprise!
Going back to work was not easy for me. I was riddled with anxiety for weeks beforehand. My little baby had grown into a strong toddler but I still wanted to keep him safe in some kind of bubble (incubator?!). He was still breastfeeding. His sleep was still terrible (and that lasted until he was 3, but that’s another story). He seemed so small and I was terrified. Luckily we both survived and thrived in this new experience.
So as a good friend would, I’m sharing what I learned in the hopes of helping you to survive and thrive as you transition back to work after your mat leave…
1. Your feeding choices can jive with your job.
I was breastfeeding so here’s what I learned from my experience. You can continue breastfeeding even if you work away from home full-time! Some people choose to pump and send milk to daycare. According to the Ontario Human Rights Commission, an employer should provide a breastfeeding mother with enough time to breastfeed or express breast milk for her child. You should also be provided with a space that is not the washroom!
However, you may decide you don’t want to/need to pump. Your body is amazing and will adjust to the new reality quite quickly. For me that meant breastfeeding once or twice in the morning before leaving for work and when I returned at 6pm. I also continued breastfeeding a couple of times during the night (did I mention my kid didn’t sleep until he was 3?).
2. Consider flexible work options.
More and more companies are seeing the benefits of flexible work, which can include flexible schedules or flexible work spaces. If you can, consider working from home once or twice a week or even full-time. Coworking spaces provide shared work environments for people who work from home. They can be very handy if you have a project deadline, a meeting with a client, or need more focused work time. Even though it is a relatively new concept, some coworking spaces even provide on-site childcare so you can work with your child nearby.
3. Start a new routine early.
Don’t make your first week back to work also the first week of childcare for your child. Practice the route to work and daycare and do some drop-offs and trial runs at the childcare location. Get the routine going as much in advance as you can. Don’t know what to do with all that spare time? Go have a coffee, get your hair done or have lunch with a friend who has already made the transition back to work.
4. Be Kind to yourself.
I spent my first week loving being back at work because I could have coffee in peace and lunch out with my colleagues. But, within a few weeks the mom guilt set in. I felt like all my “good hours” were being spent at work. I spent weekends shuffling my son from one activity to another desperately trying to make up for the quality fun time I thought we were missing during the week. On those days, my toddler inevitably turned into a cranky, “hangry” little monster and I would become exasperated with him. Eventually, I learned to pick one activity per day and we would spend the rest of the day hanging out in our pyjamas playing trains or stacking blocks. Oh and the house doesn’t need to be clean either …and it’s ok to order pizza once (or twice) a week.
So in the big change of returning to work remember to be kind to yourself. You are doing great. Your kids will adjust and can thrive. You’ve got this!