It’s been a year since I went on maternity leave for the second time. I’ll be honest with you — reentering the workforce was not easy. At least it never has been for me. After 12ish weeks way, I am rarely emotionally ready to come back to work; however, the second time around, at least I knew somewhat to expect. And after re-entering the workforce two times now, I’ve learned from my mistakes.
Here’s what NOT to do upon your reentry to the workforce after maternity leave:
Try to fit into your old work clothes
Unless you are one of those people who somehow fit miraculously into all your pre-pregnancy clothes within just a few weeks, you may need to go shopping for a few essentials. Even if you are back at your pre-baby weight, your body may look different. A stellar new “first day of school work” outfit (or 2) can make all the difference as you re-join office life.
Expect things to be the same
You just had a baby. You were home for (if you’re lucky) several weeks. When you come back, cut yourself some slack – it will take some time to get back into the swing of things. But things may not be the same. For example, you may no longer be able to stay at the office late whenever you want; you may need to leave right on time to make sure you don’t arrive at daycare pickup one minute past 6. You may longer be able to be in all-day (or even 3-hour) meetings. No, you may need to find time to pump. You will probably cherish weekends a whole lot more. Things won’t be the same, but as long as you realize this in advance, it can help you prepare.
Expect things to be different
At the same time, things won’t be much different. Your coworkers/clients will still expect you to be at the top of your game, to make those meetings and to keep your usual hours. You may need to set some boundaries as you figure out your new schedule.
The fact that I was going back to work made me feel guilty. Then, when I couldn’t stay late or go to as many work happy hours I felt guilty. At night, if I was doing work after the kids went to bed, I felt guilty that I wasn’t spending time with my husband. Mom guilt comes in a variety of forms, but it doesn’t make any situation better. Cut yourself some slack – you’re doing the best you can.
Go at it by yourself
Being a working parent isn’t easy. And it’s even harder without someone to confide in about the everyday dilemmas (being 15 minutes late due to a potty training accident as you were leaving the house), hardships (having to take off unexpectedly due to your kid’s stomach flu) and milestones (preschool graduation). If you have other working parents in your office, grab coffee with them. Talk to friends outside of work. We’re all in this together and it’s better to have a support group. And find something that makes you feel like you — for me, that’s running. Without my support group and running, re-entering the workforce would’ve been much harder!
Question for you:
- Did you recently come back from maternity leave? What would you add?
- Have you reentered the workforce from maternity leave or another leave (sabbatical, etc.)? How did you handle it?
Note: In all the pictures above, I’m wearing Skirt Sports — hangout jacket, jette skirt and redemption run shorts. They’ve been with me through pregnancy AND beyond! I’m a brand ambassador, so if you end up purchasing anything, feel free to use the code SSA791Mel for 5% off.