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Surviving Your First Few Weeks Back from Maternity Leave

Expert answers to real questions about making the transition to working mom.

Surviving Your First Few Weeks Back from Maternity Leave

As your maternity leave draws to a close, you’re likely a big jumble of emotions. No need for me to spell them out – if you’re about to become a working-outside-the-home mama, you know the spectrum from dread to glee.

Let’s spend some time thinking about what actually happens at your job, though, once you’ve arrived back on your employer’s clock. What will those first few weeks back at the office really look like? And what can make them just a tiny bit easier for you?

Below find 3 real questions from real mamas who I’ve coached in my Mindful Return E-Course. Here’s my advice on how to head back to the office feeling calm, supported, productive and satisfied:

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Question: I’m worried that I won’t be able to catch up on everything I missed while I was out on maternity leave. How will I possibly have time to do the work that’s required now and read my e-mail backlog, learn what happened while I was gone, and feel like I don’t have a big knowledge gap?

Answer: This was absolutely one of my fears, and with my first kiddo, I did it entirely wrong. I tried to catch up on everything I missed while I was out, plow through all those e-mails…and quickly got overwhelmed.

My advice? Schedule 30-60 minute meetings with your key stakeholders at work (direct reports, bosses, key members of your teams) throughout the first few weeks you’re back. Ask them (1) to give you highlights of what happened while you were gone, and (2) to advise you on how you can contribute best right now. Then let go of whatever happened. Don’t read every old e-mail. And don’t worry about knowing every detail of what happened while you were out. Look ahead and focus on what you can add to the team moving forward.

(Note: this strategy works to give yourself a fresh start, if you’ve already gone back, have little ones, and are feeling behind.)

Question: I’m really dreading the actual week of returning to work. Between trusting a new caregiver for my munchkin, feeling sad about separating, and wondering how I’ll function on so little sleep, I’m really anxious. What if I’m a teary mess at the office?

Answer: Set yourself up to be surrounded by others who will understand and have been there. Everything you’re describing is completely normal. (Yes, we all cry when we go back to work.) So before you go back, get in touch with other working parents at your office or who work near you, and set up lunches with them for the first week back. They’ll be able to relate to what you’ve been through, for sure. If you shed a few tears over lunch, they won’t judge you. And chances are, you’ll look forward to lunch with some good adult (though likely kid-related) conversation.

If you’re a parent who has already gone back to work, help those new parents at your office with their return. Reach out to them, find out their return-to-work date, and offer to take them out to lunch that first week back. They will probably be thrilled to hear from you and delighted you thought of them.

Question: How on earth will I ever feel productive at work again, between having to leave “early” to pick up my child before daycare closes, taking pump breaks, and having to stay home when my baby gets sick?

Answer: Take the long view, mama. Your career is more like a marathon than a sprint. You will discover new super-powers of efficiency at work (I promise!). And studies show that over the long term, women with children are actually more productive than their peers. So take deep breath. Cut yourself some lots of slack. And ease back in as you’re able. Give yourself time – I’m talking the better part of a year – to feel more like yourself.

And finally, if your employer doesn’t accommodate an easing-back-in transition period with some compassion and understanding, perhaps it’s time to think about a change. I’ve coached women who have made a job change shortly after returning from maternity leave, so I know it can be done. Resources like Fairygodboss can also help you figure out which employers out there are truly family friendly.

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I felt lost as a new mother, but babywearing helped me find myself again

I wish someone had told me before how special wearing your baby can be, even when you have no idea how to do it.

My first baby and I were alone in our Brooklyn apartment during a particularly cold spring with yet another day of no plans. My husband was back at work after a mere three weeks of parental leave (what a joke!) and all my friends were busy with their childless lives—which kept them too busy to stop by or check in (making me, at times, feel jealous).

It was another day in which I would wait for baby to fall asleep for nap number one so I could shower and get ready to attempt to get out of the house together to do something, anything really, so I wouldn't feel the walls of the apartment close in on me by the time the second nap rolled around. I would pack all the diapers and toys and pacifiers and pump and bottles into a ginormous stroller that was already too heavy to push without a baby in it .

Then I would spend so much time figuring out where we could go with said stroller, because I wanted to avoid places with steps or narrow doors (I couldn't lift the stroller by myself and I was too embarrassed to ask strangers for help—also hi, New Yorkers, please help new moms when you see them huffing and puffing up the subway stairs, okay?). Then I would obsess about the weather, was it too cold to bring the baby out? And by the time I thought I had our adventure planned, the baby would wake up, I would still be in my PJs and it was time to pump yet again.

Slowly, but surely, and mostly thanks to sleep deprivation and isolation, I began to detest this whole new mom life. I've always been a social butterfly. I moved to New York because I craved that non-stop energy the city has and in the years before having my baby I amassed new friends I made through my daily adventures. I would never stop. I would walk everywhere just to take in the scenery and was always on the move.

Now I had this ball and chain attached to me, I thought, that didn't even allow me to make it out of the door to walk the dog. This sucks, I would think regularly, followed by maybe I'm not meant to be a mom after all.


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Motherly editors’ 7 favorite hacks for organizing their diaper bags

Make frantically fishing around for a diaper a thing of the past!

As any parent knows, the term "diaper bag" only scratches the surface. In reality, this catchall holds so much more: a change of clothes, bottles, snacks, wipes and probably about a dozen more essential items.

Which makes finding the exact item you need, when you need it (read: A diaper when you're in public with a blowout on your hands) kind of tricky.

That's why organization is the name of the game when it comes to outings with your littles. We pooled the Motherly team of editors to learn some favorite hacks for organizing diaper bags. Here are our top tips.

1. Divide and conquer with small bags

Here's a tip we heard more than a few times: Use smaller storage bags to organize your stuff. Not only is this helpful for keeping related items together, but it can also help keep things from floating around in the expanse of the larger diaper bag. These bags don't have to be anything particularly fancy: an unused toiletry bag, pencil case or even plastic baggies will work.

2. Have an emergency changing kit

When you're dealing with a diaper blowout situation, it's not the time to go searching for a pack of wipes. Instead, assemble an emergency changing kit ahead of time by bundling a change of baby clothes, a fresh diaper, plenty of wipes and hand sanitizer in a bag you can quickly grab. We're partial to pop-top wipes that don't dry out or get dirty inside the diaper bag.

3. Simplify bottle prep

Organization isn't just being able to find what you need, but also having what you need. For formula-feeding on the go, keep an extra bottle with the formula you need measured out along with water to mix it up. You never know when your outing will take longer than expected—especially with a baby in the mix!

4. Get resealable snacks

When getting out with toddlers and older kids, snacks are the key to success. Still, it isn't fun to constantly dig crumbs out of the bottom of your diaper bag. Our editors love pouches with resealable caps and snacks that come in their own sealable containers. Travel-sized snacks like freeze-dried fruit crisps or meal-ready pouches can get an unfair reputation for being more expensive, but that isn't the case with the budget-friendly Comforts line.

5. Keep a carabiner on your keychain

You'll think a lot about what your child needs for an outing, but you can't forget this must-have: your keys. Add a carabiner to your keychain so you can hook them onto a loop inside your diaper bag. Trust us when we say it's a much better option than dumping out the bag's contents on your front step to find your house key!

6. Bundle your essentials

If your diaper bag doubles as your purse (and we bet it does) you're going to want easy access to your essentials, too. Dedicate a smaller storage bag of your diaper bag to items like your phone, wallet and lip balm. Then, when you're ready to transfer your items to a real purse, you don't have to look for them individually.

7. Keep wipes in an outer compartment

Baby wipes aren't just for diaper changes: They're also great for cleaning up messy faces, wiping off smudges, touching up your makeup and more. Since you'll be reaching for them time and time again, keep a container of sensitive baby wipes in an easily accessible outer compartment of your bag.

Another great tip? Shop the Comforts line on www.comfortsforbaby.com to find premium baby products for a fraction of competitors' prices. Or, follow @comfortsforbaby for more information!

This article was sponsored by The Kroger Co. Thank you for supporting the brands that supporting Motherly and mamas.

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The American Academy of Pediatrics says that newborns, especially, do not need a bath every day. While parents should make sure the diaper region of a baby is clean, until a baby learns how to crawl around and truly get messy, a daily bath is unnecessary.

So, why do we feel like kids should bathe every day?

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