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  • Writer's pictureLauren Buckley

Returning to Work as a New Mom: Preparing Physically, Emotionally, and Mentally

Returning to work after having a baby is a significant milestone that comes with a mix of emotions. For many new moms, this transition is filled with excitement, anxiety, and a touch of sadness. It's perfectly normal to feel a whirlwind of emotions as you prepare to balance your career and motherhood. It’s also perfectly normal that different moms may feel the polar opposite about return to work! Some moms can’t wait to go back and some wish they did not have to…both responses (and any in between) are normal and personal to you. Here’s a comprehensive guide to help you prepare physically, emotionally, and mentally for this new chapter in your life.


Physical Preparation


1. Gradual Adjustment

  • Start Small: If possible, try to ease back into work gradually. Consider part-time hours or flexible working arrangements initially. This helps your body adjust to the new routine without overwhelming you.

  • Practice Runs: A few weeks before your official return, do some practice runs. Wake up at the time you would for work, get ready, and even do a dry run to the office. This can help you identify any potential challenges and adjust your routine accordingly.


2. Prioritize Self-Care

  • Rest and Nutrition: Ensure you are getting enough sleep, staying hydrated, and eating nutritious meals. Your body is still recovering from childbirth, and maintaining your physical health is crucial.

  • Exercise: Incorporate light exercise into your routine. Even short walks can boost your energy levels and improve your mood. Check with your doctor before starting any postpartum exercise program.

  • Self Care: It may seem impossible to think about self-care when working and being a Mom. Most of the time, our own needs come last which leaves our tanks empty. Self-care doesn’t have to always be luxurious or expensive, but it is essential. What kind of self-care rejuvenates you? Is it a massage or bath? Perhaps seeing some friends for lunch or dinner? Maybe it’s having an hour to read a book outside by yourself. Whatever your self-care is, make sure it is not a neglected part of your routine when you return to work. 


3. Prepare for Pumping

  • Set Up a Pumping Schedule: If you’re breastfeeding, you’ll need to pump during work hours. Familiarize yourself with your workplace’s lactation policies and set up a comfortable, private space for pumping. Also, familiarize yourself with your rights regarding pumping at work. Here is a great website to refer to: U.S. Department of Labor: Pumping at Work

  • Stock Up on Supplies: Make sure you have all the necessary supplies, including a good quality breast pump, storage bags, and cleaning materials.



Emotional Preparation


1. Acknowledge Your Feelings

  • It’s Okay to Feel: Recognize that it’s normal to have a wide range of emotions about returning to work. Allow yourself to feel sad, excited, anxious, or even guilty. There are so many triggers behind possible back-to-work emotions such as missing milestones, worrying about being there for your child, pressure not to underperform at work, lack of support/equal splitting of responsibilities at home, feeling judged for going back to work or feeling guilty when you do take “me time.” Try to remember your “why.” Why did you choose this path? What advantages does your child get because of the path you have chosen? Talk about your feelings with supportive friends, family, or a therapist.


2. Stay Connected with Your Baby

  • Create Rituals: Establish rituals that help you feel connected with your baby, even when you’re apart. This could be a special goodbye routine in the morning or a nightly bedtime story.

  • Use Technology: Take advantage of technology to stay connected. Video calls, photos, and texts from your caregiver throughout the day can provide reassurance and comfort.


3. Seek Support

  • Lean on Your Tribe: Surround yourself with supportive people who understand what you’re going through. Join a working moms’ group or an online community where you can share experiences and get advice.

  • Communicate with Your Partner: Keep an open line of communication with your partner about your feelings and the support you need. Sharing responsibilities can ease the burden and strengthen your partnership.


Mental Preparation


1. Organize and Plan

  • Create a Routine: Develop a daily routine that includes time for work, family, and self-care. A well-structured day can help you feel more in control and less stressed.

  • Plan Ahead: Prepare for the week by organizing meals, outfits, and childcare arrangements. Having a plan can reduce last-minute chaos and help you feel more prepared.


2. Set Realistic Expectations

  • Be Kind to Yourself: Understand that it may take time to adjust to your new role as a working mom. Set realistic goals and give yourself grace when things don’t go perfectly.

  • Balance is Key: Remember that it’s impossible to do everything perfectly. Focus on finding a balance that works for you and your family, and don’t be afraid to ask for help when you need it.


3. Mindfulness and Stress Management

  • Practice Mindfulness: Incorporate mindfulness practices into your day, such as deep breathing exercises, meditation, or journaling. These practices can help reduce stress and increase your sense of well-being.

  • Take Breaks: Make sure to take regular breaks during the workday to recharge. Even a short walk outside or a few minutes of stretching can make a big difference in your mental state. If you commute to work, use your commute time to do something for you. Don’t use it to make calls related to work. Use this time to listen to a podcast or book that you enjoy; use this time for listening to your favorite music; use this time for silence; or use this time to catch up by phone with a friend (as long as it is not someone who is stressing you out more)!


Conclusion


Returning to work as a new mom is a journey that requires preparation and self-compassion. It can be a push and pull between wanting to return to work; but missing baby while you're there and wishing to be back at work while home with baby. By taking steps to prepare physically, emotionally, and mentally, you can navigate this transition with greater ease and confidence. Remember that it’s a process, and it’s okay to seek support and make adjustments along the way. Embrace this new chapter, knowing that you are capable and resilient and that there are many fellow working moms out there cheering you on!





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