There are two keys to the success of working motherhood. One is how well you can plan your life personally and professionally. Two, if you can maintain enough personal energy to do everything that you plan. If you follow this plan when you return to work, you won’t worry so much. Instead, you’ll feel organized and competent.
Keep Your Work Calendar Updated
Because your child is constantly changing, your pediatrician wants to see them often. Most will request to see them once per month for the first six months, then every three months, up until their second year of life. When you return to work check your work calendar and then schedule these visits as far out as your doctor’s calendar can go. Then update your work calendar, your spouse’s calendar, and people's calendar in your support system who you’d trust to take your child to their appointment. Plan for worst and hope for the best!
If you’re breastfeeding, put your pumping sessions in your calendar. Label these times as “meetings” as there's no reason to use "pumping session". This way you are doing your best to avoid scheduling conflicts.
If you are in charge of daycare pickup, mark your calendar as busy after 5:00 PM or whatever time you need to leave. This will help avoid getting out of business meetings or conference calls. If there are exceptions to your personal boundary, make them known but otherwise, part of working motherhood is setting boundaries and sticking to them.
Plan How to Handle Your Sick Baby
If your child is in daycare it is inevitable that they will get sick. Plan how you’ll handle things when daycare calls you to pick up your sick child. Who will pick up your baby, you, your spouse, or someone in your support system? If it’s you, make a plan with your manager on how you’ll handle this.
If your manager seems difficult to work with now that you’re a working mom use the A-E-I-O-U model to open up this discussion. The conversation may sound like this:
“I understand we’re really busy with our project and it's all hands in right now. Now that I’m back I’m looking forward to contributing again. My baby is in daycare and I think she’ll get sick sometimes so I wanted to discuss how to handle this before it happens. I will let you know as soon as possible if need to leave to care for her. If I do leave I can log in from home as soon as I get her down for a nap and can also make up time at night. I’ll also commit to sending you an email after summing up what I worked on. This way I’m contributing and also taking care of my child. What do you think of this plan?”
When you offer a plan you’re making less work for your manager and controlling the situation.
Reassess Your Workload
Your maternity leave gives you a chance to think about your career. When you return you may have a fresh perspective on where you’re headed or where you’re at in your career. This is a great time to reassess your workload.
Are there any projects you wish you were working on? Why are you interested in them? Are there some projects you no longer want to be a part of? Perhaps they don’t fall under your job description so you could delegate them to focus more on your performance goals.
Schedule a Meeting with Your Manager
When you schedule this meeting set the agenda. You’d like to discuss a plan to manage your work when you need to care for your sick child. You’d like to discuss your workload where you can share your thoughts after you’ve reassessed it. Perhaps someone took over your accounts or projects and you wish to get up to speed on what you missed during the last business quarter.
Plus, you want to connect on a personal level if that’s the kind of relationship you hopefully have. How have they been, their family, and how has their workload changed over the past three months. Then share what you thought about while you were on leave. Where do you see your career headed or what new perspectives did you gain while on leave? Do you want to take a class to strengthen your strengths or improve your weaknesses? Then research classes beforehand and present them to your manager.
Make Time to Get Reacquainted with Your Co-Workers
You have gone through some major changes but so have your co-workers. By the time you come back, it’s public knowledge you gave birth so keep your baby talk brief. Get super curious about everyone around you. What have they been up to for the past three months? What have they worked on? What have they accomplished?
Most people love to talk about their own life so take this opportunity to get people to open up to you. Since they haven’t seen you in a while it’ll be easy for them to think of something to share with you. Listening intensely is the best way to get to speed on things.
Plan Your Mornings to Avoid Running Late
Getting you and your baby ready in the morning is one of the biggest challenges a working mom faces. It doesn’t help your stress level if some people in the office are a stickler for promptness. Just because you’re a working mom now, do not expect people will give you slack. If you have a problem with tardiness before you became a working mom you need a good morning exit strategy.
This plan will need to be altered often because as your baby grows their needs change. When you introduce solid foods you’ll need to account for longer feeding times. The occasional diaper explosion or projectile vomit can also delay your departure so get prepared.
Instead of letting mornings stress you out treat your exit like a game. You have to get through three tests which are getting dressed, eating breakfast, and then packing and walking out the door. Yes, pack the night before, but for things you need to grab in the morning put neon pink post-its on them. This color will catch your eye and remind you to grab it. Leave a box of diaper wipes and disinfectant wipes on the kitchen table or kitchen counter. This will handle quick spills on tables and dirty faces in seconds.
Figure Out How to Take Good Care of Yourself
Self-care is vital to a working mom’s success. If you give all of your energy away with no plan to replenish it you’ll be in trouble. Before you get into hot water, make a self-care plan to follow.
Include things like taking walks during your workday so you get away from your desk. Take a bath on Sunday nights to start your work week off on the right foot. Start a journal and write about what you’re grateful for. Follow a bedtime routine, just like your kids, to help calm your mind and body.