Defining Your New Normal: Returning To Work After Baby (Maternity Leave)
Don’t let the stress of finding a new ground take away from the joys of motherhood or the highs of a career. Keep zen and you’ll become a multitasking maven in no time!
By Jyothi Prabhakar • 7 min read
There’s only one thing that’s normal here: that it’s not easy. You are a different you, now. You’re a mother. You learnt many things about your baby and yourself while you were on your maternity leave. But now, it’s time to get back to work, create a new normal as you juggle a baby, office work, housework, and also make time for friends, husband, other family members and squeeze in that ‘me time’ as well. You perhaps feel somewhat like this…
I am worried and nervous. Six months of maternity leave is just not enough. Nothing is back to normal yet. What if things are not the same at work? I don’t even look the same anymore, what will my colleagues say? My baby! Will my boss give me prime projects as he used to? Will I be able to work a 9-5 job? How can I leave my new born in someone else’s care? What if I am not a good mother and fail to raise this tiny bundle of joy into a warm, responsible adult? How do moms around the world do it? What if I don’t get a promotion next year?
Whoa! Stop right there. Now’s not the time to think that far ahead. Revel in the moment, the joys and discoveries of motherhood. While it’s true that you can no longer have an office-to-party lifestyle, and probably have to bung in more things into your bag as well as into your day, it’s not a U-turn taking moment in life. In fact, the road just became more beautiful with the addition of your baby. Yes, you need to set a new routine, but as mommies around the world would aver, there’s no one ‘new normal formula’ here. It’s mostly all trial-and-error till you fall into a routine that’s just perfect for you, your baby and your family.
Start planning during the last month of your maternity leave
Start at home. What do you want your new normal to be? For, that is what it shall be
- Think of various scenarios and options with a calm mind. What kind of a routine do you imagine being able to joyously sustain? Would you want a babysitter to look after the child when you’re at work, or do you prefer a creche? Do you need a house help to handle all household chores, or just a maid to handle strenuous work such as doing the dishes and sweeping-mopping? Clearing all this out will help you gauge how much time you will have on your hands and what all you can build into your routine.
- Discuss it with your husband and other family members, if you are in a joint family. How much would they pitch in with a helping hand? Do they have any preferences about the way the baby will be taken care of when you are away? Taking all opinions into account will ease any friction arising out of a new set of house rules because of the baby.
- If you do decide on a day care, try a few dry runs. How much time does it take to drop off and pick up your baby – this will be a prime part of your new normal. Who will do it? Will you and your husband take turns? How much time would you like to spend chatting with the day care supervisor? Figuring out these things earlier on will make it easy for you roll with it once it becomes your life’s reality.
Build in your workplace into your new normal
Have a discussion with your boss – appraise him or her about your new work-life balance priorities
- As a working mother, you will probably be distraught with having to leave behind a tetchy, teething child, or even an unwell one, behind in a day care. But that should not come in the way of your work priorities. So, schedule a meeting with your boss to discuss a few key points – such as the odd working hours you might have to keep.
- Plan with him or her in advance about how you will be handling unplanned leaves, ‘Baby’s sick so can I work from home?’ days. Tell your boss how you will handle your work load if you are looking for a change of profile from what you used to do before you went on that maternity leave.
- Have a session with your colleagues – ask them about what’s new in their lives, and also tell them about your ‘normal day’ at home as a new mommy, when you feed the baby, the baby’s sleep and bonding times. It helps two ways – it will get you up to date with their lives and it will also discreetly let them know the new boundaries you have set up for interaction with them.
Get a new, large bag – err… make that bags
Because you’re going to have to lug around a lot more things than you used to!
- You’re not just going to be carrying a baby, but all the things the baby needs, too! Get ready for red-faced declarations such as, ‘Gosh, I reached for my coin purse, really’ as you triumphantly pull out a diaper instead! So, your new normal would definitely include two more bags, perhaps
- Bag 1 for just the baby’s needs: Baby feed, diapers, soothers, rash cream, talcum, emergency medicines, two sets of clean clothes, towels, bibs… Keep the bag ready at all times, replenish the items you use, or are used at the day care centre the moment you return home, so that you’re not packing that bag in a last-minute rush
- Bag 2 just for you: Are you still breast feeding? Then in goes the breast pump. Also, on a daily note, pack extra snacks as you will feel hungrier when feeding, a healthy lunch, for, what you eat is what goes to the baby, right? The baby’s remote monitor, if your creche provides you with one, an extra pair of tops for you (milk stains can get embarrassing at the workplace)
- Bag 3 is the office bag: Thank God this one remains the same – charger, planner, laptop, pen… the usual office bag!
The other ‘normal’ things you should do
These are small, simple pre-thought out action points that will save you a lot of heart-sore on a tough day
- Create a special ‘baby calendar’: Mark all your and your baby’s doctor appointments in a new calendar – vaccine dates, regular check-up dates, last visited dates. Mark up with your comments, special medications suggested, etc. Sync this calendar with your husband's – so that he feels involved and can participate in all the milestone appointments, too!
- Share the doctor’s and creche’s contacts with your family members as well as a few friends you trust to take over in case, God forbid, something falls out of routine.
- Make a me-time plan: In all this new-normal and routine setting chaos and stress, do not forget yourself. Your body and mind need love and care, too. So, make a me-time plan. It can even be a separate calendar. Use it to get back into shape, to pamper yourself with the odd day at the spa. To meditate, or do yoga. Remember, only if you are happy, healthy and calm will everything around you fall into place. You are the key that can unlock this whole new beautiful universe of love, laughter, fun and a life lived to the fullest. So, keep that key safe, come what may.
To take you right back to the top, yes, it isn’t easy. But then again, millions of moms do it over and over again, so actually, it must be a lark, really. The trick lies in your head – believe that you are the best mom for your child, believe that you can ace it all, and you will. Plus, a little planning, of course. So square that chest, up that chin, and get on with the mommy walk – it’s going to be quite a march, lady!
About the author:
Written by Jyothi Prabhakar on February 15, 2021.
The author is a journalist, writer and the managing editor at ParentCircle.
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