Ijeoma S. Nwatu is a freelance writer and book lover who covers lifestyle content, women leaders, culture, and more.
All moms are working moms, but when you’re a working working mom, you need to take a few extra steps to prepare for your reentry into the workforce.
The best time to do so is before you leave. Life and surprises happen, say, an early delivery or an unplanned C-section. It is really important to enjoy your pregnancy journey and simultaneously plan for life after pregnancy. Regardless of whether you are going back to your workplace or transitioning into a flexible, remote schedule, consider a few ways to settle into a new routine.
Call In Reinforcements
As a new mom myself, the need to connect with other moms, especially the first-timers was crucial. In order to get back to work as soon as possible, I knew support systems would be important. I was grateful to rely on immediate family, extended relatives, church members, friends, and coworkers. With their help—visits, prayers, cooked meals—I healed faster and had less baby blues. Other support systems can include a doula and a nanny, especially as they can assist with childcare. Several women I know arranged for their mom to be with them as they recovered. Remember, it is okay to ask and accept help.
Pump It Up
One of the best pieces of advice I took was to store as much milk as possible before going back to work. Whenever I had a moment to pump breastmilk, I did. I had storage bags available and froze milk in small amounts. When I spoke with another new mom, who occasionally travels for work, she mentioned a milk storage service to her employer’s HR for approval. Haley Pass, senior vice president at Carat (3.2 stars), secured approval for this expense after learning of the idea from a colleague at Facebook. If you are committed to breastfeeding at work, engage HR and your boss prior to having your baby and/or before returning to the office. Solidify those arrangements, including access to a private room and a refrigerator, in advance to ease your worries. If you are comfortable, check in with other moms at your workplace to gauge best practices.
Read more: CEO of Winnie: How I Pumped At Work
Read and Then Read Some More
Both Pass and I read The Fifth Trimester: The Working Mom's Guide to Style, Sanity, and Big Success After Baby by Lauren Smith Brody. She coined the term “fifth trimester,” the period after baby is born and bonding all while going back to work. She collected feedback from more than 700 women and conducted dozens of interviews. In the book, she advocates, among other things, for women to ease into their workplace by suggesting a modified schedule before jumping all in.
I took this advice as did Pass, who initially worked three days at home and two days in the office. She felt supported by her “amazing boss who has three children.” If you can, try a different work schedule two weeks before your return. Determine what works best with your supervisor as well as your team but as Pass stated, “Be super clear about boundaries. I leave at 5 p.m. on the dot otherwise it’s a slippery slope. It’s a hard and fast rule. Time with your kids is important”.
I spent quite a bit of time online and became familiar with sites like Romper, mother.ly, Lucie’s List, The Bump, the occasional mom blog and discussion boards, and the hospital where I delivered my baby. Oftentimes, you stumble across some gems that make life and your transition into the working world a bit easier like keeping extras of everything at work and/or vehicle.
Wise words indeed. Though I enjoyed indulging my growing belly, I committed to staying in shape as soon as I was cleared by my doctor. (Tip: Get a doctor’s note for clearance just in case HR needs it for your file upon your return. You’re welcome.)
To ensure I would be in the right body and frame of mind, I drank plenty of fluids, napped as often as possible, read books, watched TV, anything that reduced stressed. I rarely checked work email and kept chores to the bare minimum. When I had the opportunity, I shopped for a new outfit or two. I would have loved a facial or massage, but a manicure and pedicure sufficed.
When everything is said and done, take a moment to realize how life has changed, either for the very first time or again, depending on your situation.
Author and Huffington Post (2.8 stars) founder, Arianna Huffington Post says, “‘The fastest way to break the cycle of perfectionism and become a fearless mother is to give up the idea of doing it perfectly—indeed to embrace uncertainty and imperfection.”
The key is to understand your new normal and plan accordingly, while also realizing you cannot control everything. Taking care of yourself, connecting with your support systems, and keeping tabs on resources will help you get back into a routine that makes for you. Rome was not built in a day and neither was your baby.