Menu

What the mom returning to work from mat leave wants you to know

Leaving my baby to come back to work was one of the hardest things I have ever done. Luckily, I have amazing colleagues who made my transition back at work feel nearly seamless, and their efforts helped me realize that it's the small things that add up to make a big difference.

What the mom returning to work from mat leave wants you to know

Two things happened the moment I left for maternity leave: My colleagues began counting down the days until I returned to work, anxiously awaiting a few baby photos and the possibility of a visit to the office with my new bundle of joy, and I began feeling the weight of every single one of those precious days, knowing that my time at home was finite.

The person who walked (okay wobbled…) out of that office hours before her baby was born was very different than the one who came back.

Leaving my baby to come back to work was one of the hardest things I have ever done. Luckily, I have amazing colleagues who made my transition back at work feel nearly seamless, and their efforts helped me realize that it's the small things that add up to make a big difference.

FEATURED VIDEO

Here's what they did that helped me:

Let your colleague know she was missed. Leading up to my leave, I struggled with thinking I was replaceable, and that as soon as I left no one would even notice I was gone. While those worries lessened after my baby was born, it meant a lot to come back and be reminded that even though the wheels kept turning while I was out, the company still looked to me as the best person to do my job.

Give her space while she is on leave. While you do want to let your teammate know she is missed, don't obstruct her maternity leave by sharing unnecessary work information or office drama. Those weeks at home are sacred (and often unpaid), and while it can be nice to hear what is going on in the outside world, nothing can make a new mom feel more distracted than hearing about situations at work that may make her anxious to go back.

Make her first day back feel special. Whether it's texting a note of encouragement, leaving pictures of her baby on her desk, or coordinating a team breakfast, these little things make a mom feel special and supported. At the very least, make sure her desk is clean and the way she left it before she went on leave.

Be open to a flexible schedule. While not every job allows for a flexible schedule, many do, and one can really help a new mom make the transition back. If you are lucky enough to work for an organization that embraces flexibility, support your co-worker who needs to exercise that benefit for a season of life. She isn't any less committed to her job, and chances are she will be your biggest advocate when you need some flexibility too.

It's okay to ask about her baby. Take a minute or two to ask your colleague about her baby on a regular basis. While your co-worker's baby might be low on your totem pole, recognize that the new mom back at work likely can't think of anything else but her baby.

Respect her right to pump. Chances are your colleague is going to make regular trips to a private room so she can feed her baby. I was upfront about my need (and right) to pump with my colleagues and I let my team know that my calendar would be blocked twice a day for pumping sessions. While my team was respectful, that is not always the case for new moms. Many women sacrifice pumping sessions to make time for "urgent" meetings and last-minute requests. Even though occasionally moving a session is fine, doing so on a consistent basis will result in a drop of milk supply for that mama. So, if it is urgent, ask her if she doesn't mind taking a call from the pumping room. If it must be done in-person, apologize and don't make it a habit.

Empower her to be a mom first. One of the best things we can do as colleagues is support all parents as they put their families first. When mom needs to leave early to go to take her baby to an appointment, wish her well rather than asking her when she is going to be back online. A team member who feels content and fulfilled at home is going to bring so much more to the workplace than one who feels burdened with guilt.

Invite her to join team events. While recognizing her role as mom is her top priority, chances are she can use a break—and maybe a cocktail too. Even if your colleague declines the invitation to join after-work happy hours, continue inviting her along. Motherhood is all about balance, and while most nights she is probably vying to get home and cuddle her baby before bedtime, I guarantee you she is looking forward to a happy hour with colleagues too.

These little things add up, and the more we are self-aware of how we treat new moms, the more likely we are to keep that mom in the workplace and make her feel validated in her role at home and at work. Many of these apply to dads too, and it is equally important for fathers and partners to feel supported and encouraged in their roles.

At the end of the day, nothing teaches you how to give grace more than motherhood, and returning to work will undoubtedly present you with opportunities to exercise that grace both with yourself and with your well-intentioned colleagues.

I remind myself often that we don't know what we don't know, so don't be afraid to be vulnerable with your colleagues and let them know how they can best support you during your transition back to work.

You might also like:


A very important letter for new mamas

Listen, mom-guilt is a dirty liar. Yes, it's your job to fill your little human's needs, but you matter too. Don't forget to take care of yourself. Hang out with friends, take a drive blaring 90's hip hop or shower without interruptions—trust me, you'll be a better person (and mom) because of it.

Dear new mom,

You will shave again someday. Today is not that day.

Set expectations low, my friend, and set your partner's lower—at least where body hair and overall hygiene are concerned.

That conversation could go something like this: “From now on let's not consider shaving a “standard," but more like a gift that happens on birthdays and the first day of summer."

Voila, you are a gift-giving genius. You know what else is a gift? Shaving the inch and a half of skin that is between your skinny jeans and your boots. You're welcome world.

You will not be perfect at parenting.

Boom.

I have yet to meet a perfect mother, but when I do, she's going to be a tiger who is insanely good at making up songs. (Daniel Tiger's mom, we salute you.)

Keep reading Show less
Life

9 products that will help baby sleep better (and longer!)

For many parents, attempting naps and bedtime can seem like a never-ending cycle of rocking, shushing and hoping for some kind of magic sleep solution.

How do I get my baby to sleep? This is one of the most commonly asked questions among new parents, and it makes sense, given that babies are born with their days and nights mixed up. For many parents, attempting naps and bedtime can seem like a never-ending cycle of rocking, shushing and hoping for some kind of magic sleep solution.

And while that might not exist (yet), we have found some of the best products out there that can help baby fall asleep faster and for longer durations. Because when baby is sleeping, so are you!

Dreamland Baby weighted sleep sack and swaddle

Designed by a mama, parents swear by this weighted sleep sack. It mimics your hug to give your baby security and comfort that helps them get to sleep faster and stay asleep longer. The detachable swaddle wing makes it easy to transition as they grow.

It's also super easy to get on and off, and includes a bottom-up zipper for late night changes, so you don't have to wake your baby in the process.

$79

Yogasleep Hushh portable sound machine

Yogasleep hushh sound machine

With three soothing options, this is a perfect solution to help your baby settle when naps are on the go and during travel! I love how compact this noise machine is and that it can run all night with one charge.

$30

Bebe au Lait muslin crib sheets

Burt's Bees Organic Crib Sheets

With a variety of print options to choose from, these breathable sheets are *so* soft and smooth, even through multiple washes. The luxury fabric keeps little ones warm without overheating—a formula that helps ensure more sleep for everyone.

$32

The Simple Folk perfect pajamas

The Simple Folk perfect pajamas

You know what's going to help baby have their best sleep ever? Some quality, super soft pajamas. The timeless (and aptly named!) Perfect Pajama from The Simple Folk are some of our favorites. They last forever and they're made from organic pima cotton that is safe on baby's precious skin. They come in a wide range of sizes so siblings can match and feature fold-over hand covers on sizes up to 12 months.

$37

The Snoo bassinet

Snoo

Designed by expert pediatrician and sleep guru Dr. Harvey Karp, the Snoo bassinet gently rocks your baby to sleep while snuggled up in the built-in swaddle. Not only does it come with sensors that adjust the white noise and movement based on your baby's needs, there is also an app that allows you to adjust the settings directly from your phone.

While this item is a bit on the expensive side, there is now an option to rent for $3.50 a day, which is a total game changer!

$1295

Hatch Baby Rest sound machine + nightlight

best baby sound machine

The Hatch Baby Rest is a dual sound machine and nightlight that will grow with your family. Many parents use this product with their infants as a white-noise machine and then as a "time to rise" solution for toddlers.

The thing I love most about this product is that the light it gives off isn't too bright, and you can even select different color preferences; giving your toddler choices at bedtime.

$59.99

Crane humidifier

Crane Humidifier

The only thing worse than a sick baby is a baby who is sick and not sleeping well. The Crane humidifier helps take care of this by relieving congestion and helping your baby breathe better while sleeping.

Personally, I think the adorable design options alone are enough of a reason to purchase this product, and your child will love watching steam come out of the elephant's trunk!

$46.99

Naturepedic organic crib mattress

Naturpedic Lightweight Organic Mattress

In the first few months of life, babies can spend up to 17 hours a day sleeping, so choosing a mattress that is safe (read: no chemicals!) and comfortable is incredibly important.

Naturepedic uses allergen-friendly and waterproof materials with babies and children in mind, making them easy to clean and giving you peace of mind.

$259.00

Happiest Baby sleepea 5-second swaddle

best baby swaddle

There are baby swaddles and then there is Sleepea. Similar to the brand's swaddle that is built into the Snoo, the Sleepea is magic for multiple reasons. First, it's got mesh panels ensuring baby never overheats. Second, the zipper zips from the top or the bottom, so you can change the baby's diaper in the middle of the night without ever waking them. Third, it's hip safe. Fourth, the patterns are SO cute. And fifth, the interior swaddle wrap that keeps baby's ams down has a "quiet" velcro that won't wake baby if you need to readjust while they're asleep.

$27.95

We independently select and share the products we love—and may receive a commission if you choose to buy. You've got this.

Shop

It's science: Why your baby stops crying when you stand up

A fascinating study explains why.

When your baby is crying, it feels nearly instinctual to stand up to rock, sway and soothe them. That's because standing up to calm babies is instinctual—driven by centuries of positive feedback from calmed babies, researchers have found.

"Infants under 6 months of age carried by a walking mother immediately stopped voluntary movement and crying and exhibited a rapid heart rate decrease, compared with holding by a sitting mother," say authors of a 2013 study published in Current Biology.

Even more striking: This coordinated set of actions—the mother standing and the baby calming—is observed in other mammal species, too. Using pharmacologic and genetic interventions with mice, the authors say, "We identified strikingly similar responses in mouse pups as defined by immobility and diminished ultrasonic vocalizations and heart rate."

Keep reading Show less
News