Life as a working mom changes from week to week, but few weeks are as challenging as the first one back at work after maternity leave or an extended time at home. Thus, I’m writing a 6-week series on the first week back at work: what to expect, how to prepare, and how to get through it.
The Week Before
Successfully jumping back into the workplace starts the week before. A little advance planning and preparation will go a long way in smoothing your transition.
What to expect: Your emotions might be all over the map – nervousness, excitement, dread, happiness, anger…the list goes on. You’ll think of all the things you planned to accomplish during your time off and wonder where the time went.
Things to do this week:
- Make it count. The last thing you want is to go back to work next week and feel regretful about wasting your time at home. To prevent this, identify things you’d like to accomplish this week that will make you feel like you used these precious moments wisely. Whether it’s “organize the pantry,” “take the older kids to the park,” “meet ____ for lunch,” “make 3 freezer meals,” or simply “snuggle baby for 12 hours and catch up on my DVR,” use this week’s time on your terms so you feel good about it when it ends. But be realistic. “Finish photo books from 2010, 2011, 2012, and 2013” is not. “Update baby book” is.
- Plan for next week’s meals. Make a menu for next week. If you’re doing take-out, plan for it in advance. If you’ll be cooking at home consider incorporating as many pre-prepared or freezer meals as possible. Then get on about the business of stocking your freezer!
- Take inventory. Make sure you have all the things you need – a case of diapers/wipes for daycare, plenty of bottles, a labeled change of clothes, and bags for you and your baby big enough to carry all your gear.
- Tie up loose ends. Procrastinating on filling out the daycare vaccination form? Trust me, you don’t want to do it at 6:30 Monday morning. Do it now.
- Be intentional. Now that you’ve identified what you want to do and what you need to do before you go back to work, make a clear plan. Write out a plan identifying the tasks you want to accomplish each day throughout the week to make sure you fit everything in. You don’t have to overwhelm yourself with tasks, but you stand a better chance of getting things done if you have a clear plan.
- Tidy up the house. It’s easier to leave for work when you don’t feel like you have a pile of undone chores needing your attention at home, and it’s much more pleasant to come home to a house that isn’t chaos. I can guarantee you won’t keep this up 100% of the time, but it will at least help you start your week off on the right foot.
Coming up next week: Monday