If you’re like many new moms preparing to go back to work, you might find yourself exhausted, overwhelmed and facing a lot of uncertainty. Obviously child care is on the top of the list, and it’s critical for getting back to work. But what else should you be thinking about? Look no further than this list to set you up for success as you transition back into work.
1. Do a dry run…or two or three
If you go the nanny route, have them come to your house for a few trial runs and leave your house while they are there. The first time you leave your child will likely be emotional, so it’s best if this doesn’t also coincide with the equally emotional first day back in the office. Practice (and time) your morning routine, so you know how long you need on a typical morning. By having a few trial runs with your nanny you can also see what else they might be able to help with, like the laundry, preparing meals or even some light housekeeping.
2. Make time for self-care
Remember to put your oxygen mask on first. If you don’t take care of yourself, you will be in no shape to take care of others or handle your workload. Incorporate acts of self care into your schedule before you go back to work to get into the habit of taking care of yourself. If you’re running low on ideas for self-care, check out the 20+ recommendations in this short video: Burnout Prevention Guide.
3. Practice mindfulness
Realize that it is going to be emotional and maybe even painful the first time you leave your little one. Practice mindfulness by embracing those feelings and feeling them fully without judgment. And then remember these powerful feelings are just signs of how much you love your little one. If you need help starting a mindfulness practice but are short on time (what new mom isn’t?!), try this Meditation Challenge that teaches you to meditate in only five minutes per day.
4. Determine (or refresh!) your values
When we’re facing transitions, the uncertainty can often be overwhelming and we forget why we do the things we do. Whenever we’re at a crossroads, it can be helpful to examine our values so we can connect what we do with why we’re doing it. If you want help determining your values, this exercise will help you gain clarity on what’s most important to you–and in less than 10 minutes. If you’re feeling frustrated and notice your inner critic getting loud, remember that working mom is not synonymous with “bad mom” and that you can be both a wonderful mother and a working mom.
5. Get support and ask for what you need
Don’t be afraid to ask for help and ask other moms how they do it. Many of the overachieving women that I coach find it tremendously hard to ask for help and have created a strong identity around being self-sufficient. Learning to soften the need to “do it all” will help you transition back into work, and make your life easier. I often tell my coaching clients to remember that it’s not weakness to ask for help, it’s a sign of strength. When you’re struggling, it’s helpful to remember how good it feels to help someone else, and you can share that positive energy by allowing others to support you.
6. Practicing saying no…without the guilt
Ahh, the art of saying no. I was just speaking at the Watermark Conference for Women, and being able to say an effective no was brought up multiple times as a critical skill for working moms. If you have trouble saying no, it’s helpful to start practicing with saying no to small things before tackling the big stuff. You will want to be firm with your no, because otherwise you’ll end up drawing out the process and wasting additional time and energy. It can often feel more natural to say no with an appreciation sandwich (example: I appreciate you reaching out and getting in touch, but I’m unable to help with the bake sale at school next month. Thank you for leading the charge–I appreciate your dedication to the school!) so you are both firm and compassionate. Check out this video for more tips on how to say no without feeling guilty.
7. Prioritize sleep
I can’t help but include this tip even though it probably seems both obvious and impossible at the same time. So here it goes: even if it means letting your partner do a night feeding, or having dirty dishes in the sink, or letting the bed go unmade, do whatever you can to protect your sleep. I highly recommend investing in an eye mask and earplugs so that when you do sleep, you get the highest quality sleep possible. One of the biggest disruptors (besides night feedings!) to our sleep are our phones. The extra time spent checking Facebook and then Instagram and then rechecking Facebook before bed not only pushes back our bedtime, but staring at a screen also disrupts the production of melatonin and messes with our sleep cycles. Confession: I’m powerless over my phone, so in order to actually put this tip into practice I had to buy an alarm clock and move my phone and charger into the kitchen so it wouldn’t tempt me. Consider making a similar adjustment if you’re finding it difficult to turn off the phone at night.
8. Plan and delegate
Setting clear expectations with your partner about responsibilities at home is important in any marriage, but especially a marriage with children. Can’t seem to convince your husband to do more around the house? Try sending him this study that shows that couples have more sex when household chores are shared. Another power tip for working moms is to do meal planning every Sunday night. This will help save yourself the hassle of figuring out what you’re going to have for dinner while your stomach grumbles.
9. Pay it forward
If there isn’t a moms group at your company, start one. Talk to HR about how they can improve their policies and how they can better reintegrate moms post-maternity leave. If the HR team is hesitant, you can send them this study that shows that having great parental leave policies is a key way to attract and retain top talent.
The transition back to work after having a baby can be a rocky one, but hopefully with these tips in hand you will be better prepared for what lies ahead.