Recently, a friend of mine went back to work after a six-month maternity leave. She was feeling all of the feels: anxious and sad about leaving her daughter while also ready to start her new routine. She asked me for some tips to make her transition easier.
I am certainly not an expert working mom. (Nearly every day, I still wonder how I will do it all). I am also not a seasoned working mom, as I have only a year or so under my belt. Nonetheless, my friend was looking for help, and now I’m sharing my thoughts with all of you- because unsolicited advice from a non-expert is what we all love most.
If you are going to be working full time, return to work or start your new job on a Tuesday or Wednesday if you can. I know that sounds trivial, but if you can find a way to make it happen, I think it makes a difference. We never realize how long five-day work weeks are until our first week away from our baby. The weekend (aka quality kid time) comes much faster if you can eliminate a day or two from the mix. Plus, Monday blues are a real thing. Tuesday blues? Never heard of them.
If you are returning to work after a somewhat brief maternity leave (ie: while your baby is still an infant), experiment with your childcare situation before returning to the office. For me, this meant having our nanny stay with Brielle for a few mornings and then a few full days before I returned to work. This also gave me time to get everything else “in order” before leaving the house for my other full-time gig. (ie: buy all of the paper towels Target had to offer, because I was obviously never going to be able to go shopping again, ever).
Whether you are starting a new job or returning to a prior job, expect a lot of questions. Yes, it’s good to be back. Yes, it was hard to leave her. Yes, I know daycare will make her get sick often. (Or no, I do not think I’m letting my nanny raise her). No, she doesn’t sleep through the night- but thanks for reminding me about the bags under my eyes. No, I am not planning on having another baby any time soon. Because all of these things are obviously your coworkers’ business.
Set the Bar
Accept that you don’t have to do everything on our own, particularly at first. For me, returning to work was a lot like the week after I had a baby. I was running on adrenaline, wondering why everyone said it was so hard. Ha! That hit me like a ton of bricks in the second week. It’s okay to order dinner for your first night (or week or month) back. I also opted to have my groceries delivered for a while. If my husband got home first, he was on bath duty- so I could enjoy books and bed time. Every day is a juggling act, and you’re the only one expecting that you do it all. Lower your expectations of yourself.
You are also forced to prioritize like never before. You have significantly less time with your child(ren) by quantity, so you have to maximize the quality. It’s okay if the laundry doesn’t get folded until the weekend. It’s okay if the toys aren’t back where they belong before bed time (or ever). The night scene at home is chaotic enough (dinner, bath, bed: what a tizzy!)—don’t add to your own pressures.
Take it all one day at a time. The working mom life will slowly become your new normal, and soon you too will be giving unsolicited advice to the next new working mom!
Ashley Vallillo Manzi lives in Hoboken with her husband and one year old daughter. She is a family law attorney with Ruvolo Law Group in Hackensack, NJ. With focus on prenuptial agreements, divorce, alimony & child custody, Ashley sees her role as "helping someone arrive at a new beginning." On the weekends, Greg, Brielle, and Ashley love to go out for brunch, playing in Church Square Park, or chasing the birds along Sinatra Drive. With lots of friends and family (her siblings live here too!) this family is always on the go.