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I like to prepare. It helps me when I'm feeling overwhelmed or anxious about something to be able to at least know, loosely, how I'm going to get through it. That's exactly how I felt going back to work after my first maternity leave. With so much unknown, I wanted to put together the steps that would help me get to the office, make it through the day, and transition back home without missing or forgetting anything.

The only problem was, I didn't know what I didn't know.

So I did things to prepare like pack my work bag, lay out all my pumping essentials and I even did a practice run with our sitter to make sure my son got a chance to "test the waters" and I got a chance to make sure I was sending all the right supplies with him for a day away from home.

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While those things were all important, but there were a few other things that I learned from my first go-round that made my second return much easier.

Heading back to work can be stressful, emotional and overwhelming but having a plan in place as you countdown those final days at home with your little one can help give you a sense of control.

Here are eight ways to help in your transition back to work from maternity leave:

1. Set expectations with your boss.

Be in communication with your boss in the weeks leading up to your return if you can and if it's comfortable. Check in to see how things are at the office and talk through your transition plan back into your normal groove. Will your job and responsibilities look the same? Should you anticipate any changes? Is there an opportunity to phase back into your normal workload, especially in that first week as you adjust to a new schedule with childcare drop-offs, pumping (if that's what you choose), etc.?

Having breakfast with my boss two weeks before returning to work put many of my fears to rest. We worked out a transition plan to ease me back into my normal workload and I openly shared with her the logistics behind my new schedule with childcare so that she would have realistic expectations. It made me feel a part of the team again and helped to know that we were on the same page from the minute I came back—no explanations necessary.

2. Prepare the night (or week) before.

Don't make the first morning back to work frantic by running around trying to find your keys, your work badge or your baby's favorite travel blanket. Make sure that your work bag is packed, that it includes everything you'll need for the entire day (including spares), that the coffee is set, your lunch/snacks are packed, the bottles are prepped and your outfit is laid out. You are going to be distracted enough with everything else that leaving your baby will entail. Don't add to the stress by not having the basics ready to go the night (or the week) before.

3. Do a dry run with the sitter or daycare.

Speaking of preparing in advance, I know many mamas who do a couple of practice days with their childcare provider in the week leading up to returning to work. It gives you a chance to see what the baby needs and provides a level of comfort with how things will work on that first morning. Iit even gives you a couple of hours to run errands, pick up some new clothes, or do the preparation stuff that you want to have ready when the real day arrives.

4. Have pictures ready to go.

I always try to bring a baby picture to my desk and updated pictures of my kids in general when I head back to work. It gives me something to do when I first settle in at the office that makes me feel connected to my babies while still present at work. Whether that's a framed photo, a new digital wallpaper on your work computer, or a special coffee mug that you make with their photo on it, take a small reminder with you to the office. Just be cautious that you don't get too sucked into scrolling through pictures on your phone all day or checking in constantly with the sitter. This is a big day for both of you and you need to honor that and give yourselves both a little space to figure out how you're going to make it work.

5. Focus on work—but don't hide the fact that you just had a baby.

Finding that balance between acknowledging that you're in a major transition stage while not dwelling on it is tough. I remember swinging back and forth between wanting to push thoughts of my baby at a sitter's house from my mind completely, to only wanting to chat with coworkers about my maternity leave.

You have to find the right balance for you. For me, acknowledging the fact that I was just back from maternity leave was always appropriate. Saying a few words about that time or about my new baby, also appropriate. I find people do care and are genuinely interested. But at the end of the day you are back at work with a job to do and focusing on that is going to take some practice. Just be sure that you are showing up, doing the work and demonstrating your commitment to what you do as a professional, in addition to being a great mama.

6. Have responses prepared for colleagues who ask how you're doing.

When dealing with coworkers, you may find it easier to have some responses prepared. Think about what you want to share and how honest you want to be. I remember fighting back tears, hard, when asked that question. I had such a tough physical recovery, a colicky baby and I was not sleeping much at all. That simple question was like a landmine when asked. The next time I returned from leave, I made sure to think about the type of response I wanted to share and yes, I practiced it. I felt so much more in control when talking with colleagues that second time around, and that gave me confidence.

7. Have a great outfit.

Nothing can mess with your self-confidence like trying on an old work outfit only to find that your hips haven't closed, your belly is still mushy and your bust size just isn't the same. Be sure you have something that fits, is functional (especially if you're pumping), and makes you feel good. For me, it was slacks or jeans (in a new, larger size) and button-up shirts that looked smart and polished but still gave flexibility for my changing mid-section and were easy for daily pumping at the office.

8. Fuel your body.

Unless you're one of the lucky ones who has a baby already sleeping through the night, chances are you're going to have to make it through your workday on much less sleep than you're used to. Now is the time to make sure you're eating fruits and veggies, drinking water, taking a walk or doing some stretches to give your body the extra energy it needs.

Your knee-jerk reaction will be to expect to return to everything as it was before your leave. But know that how you feel about your work may change. And that is okay. It's a period of transformation, new routines and new normals. You'll make it through, and my guess is you'll like who you are on the other side even better.

Originally published on Mother Nurture

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    When it comes to holiday gifts, we know what you really want, mama. A full night's sleep. Privacy in the bathroom. The opportunity to eat your dinner while it's still hot. Time to wash—and dry!—your hair. A complete wardrobe refresh.


    While we can't help with everything on your list (we're still trying to figure out how to get some extra zzz's ourselves), here are 14 gift ideas that'll make you look, if not feel, like a whole new woman. Even when you're sleep deprived.

    Gap Cable-Knit Turtleneck Sweater

    When winter hits, one of our go-to outfits will be this tunic-length sweater and a pair of leggings. Warm and everyday-friendly, we can get behind that.

    $69.95

    Gap Cigarette Jeans

    These high-waisted straight-leg jeans have secret smoothing panels to hide any lumps and bumps (because really, we've all got 'em).

    $79.95

    Tiny Tags Gold Skinny Bar Necklace

    Whether engraved with a child's name or date of birth, this personalized necklace will become your go-to piece of everyday jewelry.

    $135.00

    Gap Brushed Pointelle Crew

    This wear-with-anything soft pink sweater with delicate eyelet details can be dressed up for work or dressed down for weekend time with the family. Versatility for the win!

    $79.95

    Gap Flannel Pajama Set

    For mamas who sleep warm, this PJ set offers the best of both worlds: cozy flannel and comfy shorts. Plus, it comes with a coordinating eye mask for a blissed-out slumber.

    $69.95

    Spafinder Gift Card

    You can't give the gift of relaxation, per say, but you can give a gift certificate for a massage or spa service, and that's close enough!

    $50.00

    Gap Stripe Long Sleeve Crewneck

    This featherweight long-sleeve tee is the perfect layering piece under hoodies, cardigans, and blazers.

    $29.95

    Gap Chenille Smartphone Gloves

    Gone are the days of removing toasty gloves before accessing our touchscreen devices—thank goodness!

    $9.95

    Ember Temperature Control Smart Mug

    Make multiple trips to the microwave a thing of the past with a app-controlled smart mug that'll keep your coffee or tea at the exact temperature you prefer for up to an hour.

    $79.95

    Gap Flannel Shirt

    Our new favorite flannel boasts an easy-to-wear drapey fit and a flattering curved shirttail hem.

    $59.95

    Gap Sherpa-Lined Denim Jacket

    Stay warm while looking cool in this iconic jean jacket, featuring teddy bear-soft fleece lining and a trendy oversized fit.

    $98.00

    Gap Crazy Stripe Scarf

    Practical and stylish, this cozy scarf adds a pop of color—well, colors—to any winter ensemble.

    $39.95

    Nixplay Seed Frame

    This digital picture frame is perfect for mamas who stay up late scrolling through their phone's photo album to glimpse their kiddos being adorable. By sending them to this smart frame to view throughout the day, you can get a few extra minutes of sleep at night!

    $165.00

    Gap Crewneck Sweater

    Busy mamas will appreciate that this supersoft, super versatile Merino wool sweater is machine washable.

    $59.95

    This article was sponsored by GAP. Thank you for supporting the brands that support Motherly and Mamas.

    Our Partners

    For parents of babies and toddlers, diapers are a big expense that can represent a substantial portion of a family's monthly grocery budget, but when families fall on hard times and get support paying for groceries, diapers aren't covered. Programs like the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) are meant to fill families nutritional needs, not hygiene needs, so you can't buy diapers with a SNAP card (also known as food stamps).

    This week San Fransisco county became the first county in America to offer free diapers to families who use SNAP, (known at the state level as CalFresh). Starting this month, parents in San Fransisco who use CalFresh qualify for a free monthly supply of diapers thanks to the San Francisco Diaper Bank, a partnership between the Human Services Agency (HSA) and Help a Mother Out (HAMO). This is made possible by a $2.5 million grant from the California Department of Social Services.

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    It's good to see communities recognizing that diapers are as necessary as food. Studies indicate that when mothers don't have the diapers they need for their babies their mental health suffers, but that an "an adequate supply of diapers may prove a tangible way of reducing parenting stress, a critical factor influencing child health and development"

    "It costs like $25 for one box of diapers. I remember the time when I had to decide between buying milk and buying diapers. No parent should have to go through that. You have no idea what this program has meant for me," San Francisco Diaper Bank participant Hanen Bouzidi explains.

    Without the extra help, parents like Hanen end up at the mercy of convenience stores that separate the large boxes of diapers to sell them individually. It's one of those times when being poor means you have to spend more money: You can't afford a $25 box containing 96 diapers, so you have to spend $1 on one individual diaper at the corner store just to get your baby through the day.

    And while many people are quick to suggest low-income parents take up cloth diapering, it is not practical for every family. If the only laundry machines you have access to are coin-operated and outside your home, you may not have the money or the time to launder them. Plus, most laundromats won't let you wash them and some childcare providers will only take kids who are wearing disposables. In short, cloth diapers are a wonderful solution for many families, but they are not a practical solution many families using SNAP cards. That's why San Fransisco's move to provide free diapers is so important.

    Some lawmakers in other parts of the country are trying to introduce legislation to provide free diapers to families who need them, so we could see other areas following San Fransisco's lead in the coming years. This is important because no child should be at risk for the physical problems that can happen when parents feel they have no choice but to reuse or overuse diapers, and no mother should be forced to carry the weight of the guilt of diaper need.

    Providing diapers to families who desperately need them improves the health of moms and babies, and removes a barrier that keeps moms from accessing childcare and early childhood education programs.

    News

    This week marked World Kindness Day, but in Pittsburgh, PA the hometown of the late Mr. Rogers, it was also Cardigan Day—a chance to celebrate an icon of kindness and his iconic knitwear.

    That's what staff at UPMC Magee-Womens Hospital were doing when they dressed all the babies like Mr. Rogers in hand-crocheted cardigans and sneaker-style booties made by nurse Caitlin Pechin.

    Pechin says crocheting is something she does for fun and while making all the little outfits took several hours, she "really enjoy[s] making things for all the babies because they look so cute in them."

    They absolutely do!

    😍😍😍

    The sweetest little neighbors

    The babies looked so cozy and cute and they even got a visit from the woman who was closest to Mr. Rogers, his widow, Joanne Rogers. "She was so sweet and so sincere and just wished us the best of luck as new parents," Kristen Lewandowski, whose first child, Mary Rose, was among the cardigan-wearing newborns, told Good Morning America.

    "She told us to support one another and we thought that was great advice," Lewandowski explained.

    Mr. Rogers died in 2003 but his legacy lives on

    The new movie about Mr. Rogers—A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood, starring Tom Hanks—hits theaters on November 22. Mr. Rogers has been gone for 16 years, but the new film and the way we talk about kindness today proves that his legacy lives on in 2019.

    "When I was little, I watched Mister Rogers' Neighborhood with my grandmother, my grandma Mary, who we named our [daughter] Mary after," Lewandowski's partner, Michael, explains.

    Mrs. Rogers reportedly loved getting to meet little Mary Rose and the other babies and told their parents she was sure her husband would have loved to meet them, too.

    A Mr. Rogers sweater for Mrs. Rogers

    The babies weren't the only ones donning cardigans at the event. Mrs. Rogers wore a cardigan that belonged to Mr. Rogers, and the nursing staff wore t-shirts designed to mimic the tie-and-cardigan look Mr. Rogers was known for.

    The whole event was absolutely adorable and has us thinking a lot about the lessons Mr. Rogers taught us (and looking forward to seeing another beloved icon, Tom Hanks, play him.)

    The movie hits theaters this Thanksgiving 

    The reason why people are dressing babies up as Mr. Rogers 16 years after his passing is the same reason why Tom Hanks wanted to play him: He was the personification of kindness in a world that needs more of it. He brought love and empathy to a medium that is usually used to sell breakfast cereals and plastic toys. But Mr. Rogers wasn't pushing artificial ingredients and consumerism: He just wanted us kids to love each other and ourselves.

    "I think that, when Fred Rogers first saw children's programming, he saw something that was cynical," Hanks said at the Toronto Film Festival, explaining why he wanted to take on this role.

    "And why in the world would you put a pipeline of cynicism into the minds of a 2 or 3-year-old-kid? That you are not cool because you don't have this toy, that it's funny to see somebody being bopped on the head, that hey, kids be the first in line in order to get blah, blah, blah. That's a cynical treatment of an audience, and we have become so inured to that that when we are met with as simple a message as hey, you know what, it's a beautiful day in the neighborhood, [it's a reminder] that we are allowed...to start off feeling good," Hanks shared.

    Mr. Rogers was a pioneer in using screen time to raise empathetic and kind kids and he made an impact on a generation.

    Let's all take a look at these little neighbors and feel good today

    There is something so pure about Mrs. Rogers visiting these babies, who are dressed like her husband because of the kindness of a maternity ward nurse. In a world where there is so much bad, let's look at all this good—and all these adorable babies who could become the next icon of kindness.

    News

    American humorist Josh Billings said something over a century ago, and it still remains today: "Advice is like castor oil, easy enough to give but dreadful uneasy to take." Advice is hard to take, but so easy (and often fun) to give. But, when it comes to parenting advice, most mamas are all ears. We're always ready to get the best tips on how to raise happy, successful humans.

    That's why we looked to the parenting threads on Reddit where mamas discuss their cures for mom burnout.

    Here's the best parenting advice Reddit mamas swear by to cure burnout:

    1. Hire help

    "Get yourself a mother's helper. They're someone who's there when you are for the most part. They can supervise, play with the kids, take to the park, make lunch, help with chores and sometimes if they're old enough watch them while you shop/run errands. I used to find them at the high school in my area that ran a child development class, they had background checks and training in child development. You could also try local daycares to see if anyone wanted hours outside of those. Everyone needs a break sometimes." — Mudd82

    2. Don't be afraid to do nothing

    "You need the time to rest in the evenings. After kid goes to bed, take a bath. Run an errand if you need to. Maybe husband can take over bedtime and bath every other day so you get to sit on the sofa and do nothing." — KatesDT

    3. Share the load

    "My wife and I go every other night with the toddler. I do bed time one night and she does bed time the next night.

    Gives a few hours of alone time."— jonahsnarc

    4. Take advantage of nap time

    "During his nap time, try to do things that will help you recharge. Reading, a long shower, painting, gardening, whatever hobby you have that is fulfilling for you. I know for me that nap time is valuable time for chores or sleeping." — etherealbadger

    5. Have a baby proofed room

    "Aggressively baby proof one space in your house just for the kiddo. Get rid of all chokeables, protect the outlets, anchor the furniture. Having a room where the worst that can happen is they fall over of their own accord can give you a little mental peace." — avesmaria

    6. Drink water

    "Drink water. The health and beauty benefits are totally worth having to pee." —apotatopirate

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    7. Encourage independent play

    "Start teaching your child how to play alone. Maybe with a kitchen timer and start with small increments of time. They can play by themself for X minutes and then when the timer goes off, you play with him a little. Gradually increase the amount of time as you go. While they are playing, do something for yourself." —Domina_Mollia

    8. Take a shower—alone

    "My self-care consists mainly of uninterrupted showers! My husband knows that's my tiny slice of sanity." —moondruidmum

    9. Find a quiet place

    "Sometimes my self-care is as simple as going through the drive through at Starbucks, parking on a quiet street somewhere and watching Netflix on my phone while I drink it. I also enjoy baking, walking around places like Hobby Lobby or Target, or just taking a long bath." —MrFoxSox

    10. Put on some music and let go

    "I like to turn on Beyoncé and bake cookies while dancing and singing along." —MollyStrongMama


    Life

    Going through infertility let me know that there are some things in life that I just can't control. For someone who already has a hard time relinquishing control in life (call me a bit of a control nut!), entering the world of IVF was not only hard physically and mentally, but it also was incredibly difficult because it showed me things about myself that were at odds with this journey.

    I realized how much I had needed to be in control of my life, how much I took for granted that my life path most often "always worked out" the way I imagined it would and I also realized how impatient I was.

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    IVF treatment strips away a lot of yourself. You are forced to give up control and forced to wait….a lot. In our case, both my husband and I had potential issues and the two of us pulled away from the rest of our friends whose sperm romantically found their partner's ripe egg and impregnated them the old fashioned way.

    While we were undergoing a lot of things physically and emotionally in a dark, isolating world of blood labs, doctor's offices and at many times, what seemed like barbaric tests. Something made me very "hush-hush" about it and I'm usually a wide-open book about everything. I guess you could say I was ashamed, I felt like it was a weakness or a flaw.

    I only opened up about our struggle with fertility when I, finally, had a successful pregnancy and realized that once you go into the world of IVF there's no turning back. I was now an "IVF person." I became really passionate about the world of infertility especially once I started talking to others who went through it. This was one of the things that I felt now defined me, I had an "infertility journey," I was a #ttcsister, and because of IVF, I became a mom.

    I embraced it and became proud of it. I launched my business by sharing my infertility story and it was so much a part of who I was. It motivated me to start to form an in-person community of women, pregnant, trying to conceive, or already moms based on my struggles with motherhood... before they even started! All while pregnant and then giving birth to my daughter.

    Then a year and a half later I accidentally got pregnant.

    The truth is, I never went back on birth control after having our baby because I didn't want to go through getting off of it again. Some people might not be able to relate to thinking you can't get pregnant on your own. They can't imagine the idea that you and your husband's test results indicate that the likelihood of pregnancy without IVF is basically zero.

    But somehow, one of my husband's sperm in the millions of sperms that were morphologically corrupt found its way to my egg at the perfect time. The interesting part is that one of the most prominent thoughts I had when this happened was that I now felt like an imposter. How could I just get knocked up?!

    I was helping and advocating for infertility and it was actually approaching National Infertility Awareness Week. I spent several weeks hiding just like I did during my last pregnancy.

    Then, one day at work, I felt so sick from morning sickness and I couldn't tell anyone why. I went into the bathroom and just cried. Not just because of how debilitating the sickness was, but because of how alone I felt. Here I was trying to bring moms together yet I was isolating myself.

    I was experiencing every IVF veteran's dream and I wasn't happy. I was feeling badly, torn, upset and just irrationally guilty and I needed support. I picked myself up, walked out of that bathroom and told every one of my colleagues at work "I'm pregnant, by mistake, and I need help."

    The truth is, I've realized that just because I dodged IVF and some of those hardships this time around and truly feel like I was given the biggest stroke of luck, it doesn't change what I went through to get my first daughter. It also doesn't change my passion for advocacy in infertility and fighting with all my might for motherhood.

    Life
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