The first few weeks of maternity leave were so hectic I completely put work out of my mind (as you should!) but toward the end I started to feel very anxious about returning. How could I leave her all day? What If I missed a big milestone? Will she forget me? How will I manage my time?
So many questions, so many tears.
I knew I had to snap out it and figure out a plan. Here’s what helped me transition into this new chapter of our lives:
I would remind myself every day why I was going back.
When I became pregnant with Jeneen, we knew all along that I’d have to return to work full-time. Not only for financial reasons, but because I love what I do and want to teach my daughter that she can have both a career that she enjoys and a family that she loves. Despite the occasional hope that I could stay at home full-time with baby and work from home, I knew deep down inside I was really excited to get back to work after maternity leave and I had to keep reminding myself of that.
I would remind myself that she’s safe, loved, and in good hands.
Whether it’s my husband, the grandparents, or the babysitter – I had to teach myself how to relax and trust that she’s safe and loved with her caretaker. I was extremely uptight during the newborn phase, mostly because being a first-time parent is “on the job training.” Accepting the help and trusting in others felt like a weight was lifted off my shoulders. And guess what…all is well and she’s thriving!
I planned the logistics in advance.
Being an extremely structured person, the logistics worried me so we made a plan and tried it out a few weeks before. For me, it meant waking up an hour earlier in the morning, taking showers at night, packing and preparing bottles the night before. Having baby on a sleep and wake schedule helped so much! I follow the Mom’s on Call schedule, which helped baby sleep through the night by 12 weeks.
We FaceTime while I’m at work.
We did this a lot in the beginning and it was great. I cried the first day but then the tears turned into laughs. Seeing her smile through the phone got me through the first day. I did read though, try to limit the times you check-in as it can cause added stress and sadness, especially if you check-in and the baby is being fussy.
I make the most out of the weekends.
Jeneen and I hang out hard on the weekends. My husband gets up early so I can sleep in and then we make the most out of our time together. Saturday is a day for either one of us to run errands we couldn’t run during the week, but Sunday is designated family time. I browse Facebook events for things we can do as a family. Also, I take advantage of time-savers like grocery pickup.
We hired a cleaning service.
This was some of the best advice I heard way before I was even thinking about having a baby. I heard a female CEO say this on a panel I attended and it always stuck with me. I spend SO MUCH time cleaning on the weekends which leaves me exhausted and with half the day gone. We decided to cut back in other areas like dining out and hire a cleaning service. I cannot even begin to tell you what a difference this has made for us. There are lots of affordable ways to do this. Ask around!
I try to find a balance between a social life and mom life.
This is still hard for me. If I can help it, I avoid events that take place immediately after work so I can see Jeneen before her 7pm bedtime. I designate a few hours on Saturday so I can do some things for myself, and I utilize my lunch break at work for errands or quick Target runs. I don’t do nearly as much as I used to socially or for work, but I’m okay with that right now because I know things will continue to evolve.
I try to be totally present when I’m with her.
My time with Jeneen is limited, so I try my hardest to avoid checking my phone when I’m with her. I keep my phone nearby so I can capture some of my favorite moments with her, but try to save emails, social media, and texting for later.
Let me just say: I got a small taste of being at home full-time with a baby while on maternity leave and it is, hands-down, the hardest, most demanding job I’ve ever done. These women are heroes! They never, ever turn off and their shifts never end. Now that we’ve fallen into a groove, I love being back at work. That moment when I walk in the door after work and she smiles at me is one of the absolute happiest moments of my life. I always say I wish I could just bottle them up and save them for later. That smile and squeal make everything worth it.