Returning to work after having a baby is hard. There is a lot to organise, but there’s also a lot to think about. You can get very confused, and overwhelmed by it all.

The list of worries is endless. You worry that your work skills are rusty, that you won’t fit into your work clothes, that you won’t have time for everything. Your worry about not being able to work back when it’s busy, and about how rushed you’ll be each morning just getting to work.

You’re not alone. Every mother returning to work worries about these things. And the media doesn’t help. They make it look like all the competent people cope well, and only incompetent people crumble under the strain.

The reality is that most of us crumble. Most working Mums feel like they’re not coping at least some of the time, even if no one else knows. You are not alone.

Nor are you incompetent. You have a lot on your plate, and you need to learn how to manage your new life. You need to work out how to set limits and manage your workload, because it’s a lot bigger now.

You need to educate your colleagues and friends so that they can help you. Your need to manage the expectations that your colleagues, and your manager has, because you are not as flexible as you were. You have obligations, and it’s important that they understand where work fits with those obligations.

You do not want to be one of those parents who sacrifice important time with your family for work. Because no matter how important you might feel at work, and no matter how important work might feel to you, your family comes first. And that’s the way it should be

You also do not want to spend time feeling guilty that you’ve sacrificed family time for work.

So, how do you do all of that? How do you prevent guilt, and manage your workload?

Firstly, you need to know that if you expect too much of yourself, and your situation, you’re setting yourself up for disappointment. Don’t buy into all those motherhood myths that the media would have us believe.

You know the sort of stuff. How a mother can return quickly and easily to her pre-pregnancy figure, have a perfectly tidy house, move effortlessly up the corporate ladder, have a baby who sleeps through the night, and a partner who would  kiss her dirty feet if she asked.

You know that’s not the truth. You know there are no mothers out there who has a life like that.

The truth is that you’ll cope best when you accept that you life are unlikely to live up to this fantasy. When you accept:

  • that your body has changed, and you’ll make the most of the way you are now
  • that it’s not possible to have a perfectly clean and tidy house whilst working, and looking after a baby
  • that you need to manage you career
  • that babies aren’t perfect – and they’re often not great sleepers

After you accept the reality of your situation, and the life of a working Mum, you’ll need some practical tools to manage your workload. Here they are.

Top tips for surviving when you return to work:

  1. The most important thing you can do at this time is to take the pressure of yourself. Ensure you feel as comfortable and confident as you can, and don’t expect perfection. Remember that you are the most important person in the house, and deserve to put yourself first
  2. Do what you can to feel relaxed, whether that’s meditation, exercise, or regular ‘me’ time. When you’re relaxed you make much better judgements, and deal with the stuff life throws at you with aplomb
  3. Practice everything before day 1 at work, including your morning routine to leave the house, and how long it is likely to take you to get to work. If you’re going via daycare, factor in drop-off times
  4. Ensure your child is comfortable and familiar with their care environment. You’re going to be happier starting back at work if you know your baby is happy in their care environment
  5. Make sure you have suitable outfits that you’re comfortable in and happy to wear to work. Please don’t force yourself into your pre-pregnancy work clothes if they’re uncomfortable. It’s better to spend a little money getting a couple of simple things you can mix and match. Again, you’re going to be much happier and more confident if you feel you look good
  6. While we’re on clothing, I highly recommend having a back-up outfit, or at least a spare top, with you every day. You never know when you’re going to get some baby muck on your top (maybe at drop-off, when you thought you’d almost made it to work unscathed). And if you’re nursing, you don’t want to have to explain any leaky marks to colleagues
  7. If you get the chance, pre-prepare evening meals before your work week starts. You can freeze some meals ahead of time (or ask a friend or relative to do so!), or organise your quickest and easiest ‘go to’ meals for when you come home tired and hungry
  8. Do yourself a daily check-list, even if you’re not a list making sort of person. You don’t want to be half way to work and realise you’ve forgotten something. Having a check list also means that your partner can help ensure everything is in place
  9. Get super organised to make sure mornings are not stressful. Lay out everyone’s clothes the night before. Pack any lunches or bags the day before
  10. Clearly communicate with your partner what you’re expectations and needs are. Who is doing pick up and drop off on what days? Who is going to prepare dinner? When will you do laundry or other housework? Talking about this ahead of time will prevent arguments, and get you both working together
  11. Plan some things to look forward to once you return to work. This may be lunch with friends, an evening out with your partner, or a weekend away in a few weeks time. You need to make sure you’ve got something to look forward to (if you need some ideas, check out how to beat the back to work blues)
  12. If possible, ease back into work. You might try returning in the middle of the week, or starting with a few days a week and working up to full time over a couple of weeks
  13. Practice saying ‘no’. You have been busy looking after your baby, and now you’re throwing work into the mix. You need to make sure you don’t take on any unnecessary obligations until you’ve got things running smoothly. If you’re not used to saying ‘no’, at least stop saying ‘yes’ and practice saying ‘I’ll think about it, and get back to you’
  14. Put your purse in the back of your car. Putting your purse next to your baby ensures there is no chance you can forget the baby in the back seat. This may seem blindingly obvious, but it happens surprisingly often, particularly when you’ve got a lot on your mind.


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