How to Survive at Work after Baby Kept You Up All Night

5 working mom tips for when last night was a disaster.

How to Survive at Work after Baby Kept You Up All Night

Going back to work after you have a baby is hard. And while most people warn you about the hormones, the tears, and the seperation anxiety, nobody properly preps working mamas for the physical toll on your body. Especially when that body only got a wink of sleep last night thanks to a hard-partying baby.

If there’s anyone who knows what to do when last night was a disaster, it’s Lori Mihalich-Levin, founder of Mindful Return and author of the new book Back to Work After Baby: How to Plan and Navigate a Mindful Return from Maternity Leave. It’s a working mama must-read that teaches you how to create your own path when your return from maternity leave, and covers every emotional, logistical and practical back-to-work scenario. Including the one where you got no sleep last night.


Below are Lori’s 5 best working mom survival tips for those days when you just don’t think you can make it through.

1. Re-set expectations for the day: Survival = Success. On days like this, my husband and I often quote to one another that line from Monty Python and the Holy Grail (in the appropriate creaky voice), "not dead yet!" Remind yourself that this particular day is about putting one foot in front of the next, taking deep breaths (and drinking coffee if that's your thing), and remembering that with little ones at home, the stages fly by so quickly. This isn't the day to attempt to achieve major life goals or make any big decisions. It's just about making it through until bedtime.

2. If at all possible, take a nap before you go into work. I know this is not possible for everyone, given roles, schedules, and unmovable commitments. But, if you have an opportunity to drop your child off at daycare and come back home to sleep for an hour before going into the office, it can make a world of difference. There were days in the very early years of my children's lives, when I was so exhausted I was literally in tears at daycare drop-off, not knowing how I would function for the day. A small handful of times, when I really and truly was a hazard to myself and others, I went home and slept a bit before going into work. The nap salvaged the rest of the day for me, and my colleagues were understanding.

3. Separate the Must-Dos from the Nice-to-Dos. When you do make it into the office, ask yourself, "what MUST get done today?" Of course there are things that are nice to get done, looming deadlines for next week, etc. But don't focus on those now. For today, think back to #1 (Survival! Self-preservation!), and focus only on what absolutely has to happen right now. Take an hour to turn OFF your phone and your inbox so you can focus on the task at hand and minimize distractions. And promise yourself you'll worry about those non-urgent obligations tomorrow.

4. In the evening, choose sleep over clean-up. Even on the day after a horrible night, I've been known to get a second wind in the evening, after dinner. At this point, though I know I should collapse into bed, the state of the house sometimes gets the better of me. The dishes need washing, bottles and lunches need to be packed, the laundry needs to be done, and toys are strewn all over the living room. Today, after that horrible night of sleep, close your eyes to the mess, and put your head on the pillow. It's okay to let everything pile up for a night. You need the rest more than your house needs to be clean before you head to sleep.

5. Find the good. The chaos and sleep-deprivation of motherhood inspired me to start a gratitude practice. My version is writing down 5 things I'm grateful for before I go to sleep at night. And as I'm sure you know, working a gratitude practice is indeed sometimes work. When I've reached my limit of sanity and am up all night with a little person, there's often not a whole lot I'm automatically feeling grateful about. On these exhausting and frustrating days, I challenge you to choose gratitude over defeat. To feel your feelings (have a good cry in the shower), and then find the good. Take a minute to re-set your brain, by reminding yourself of those cuddles, smiles, and baby giggles that make it all worthwhile.

Get Lori's new book here!

Illustration by Sara Lautman for Well Rounded.

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.

Keep reading Show less

I never wanted to be a mom. It wasn't something I ever thought would happen until I fell madly in love with my husband—who knew very well he wanted children. While he was a natural at entertaining our nephews or our friends' kids, I would awkwardly try to interact with them, not really knowing what to say or do.

Our first pregnancy was a surprise, a much-wanted one but also a unicorn, "first try" kind of pregnancy. As my belly grew bigger, so did my insecurities. How do you even mom when you never saw motherhood in your future? I focused all my uncertainties on coming up with a plan for the delivery of my baby—which proved to be a terrible idea when my dreamed-of unmedicated vaginal birth turned into an emergency C-section. I couldn't even start motherhood the way I wanted, I thought. And that feeling happened again when I couldn't breastfeed and instead had to pump and bottle-feed. And once more, when all the stress from things not going my way turned into debilitating postpartum anxiety that left me not really enjoying my brand new baby.

As my baby grew, slowly so did my confidence that I could do this. When he would tumble to the ground while learning how to walk and only my hugs could calm him, I felt invincible. But on the nights he wouldn't sleep—whether because he was going through a regression, a leap, a teeth eruption or just a full moon—I would break down in tears to my husband telling him that he was a better parent than me.

Then I found out I was pregnant again, and that this time it was twins. I panicked. I really cannot do two babies at the same time. I kept repeating that to myself (and to my poor husband) at every single appointment we had because I was just terrified. He, of course, thought I could absolutely do it, and he got me through a very hard pregnancy.

When the twins were born at full term and just as big as singleton babies, I still felt inadequate, despite the monumental effort I had made to grow these healthy babies and go through a repeat C-section to make sure they were both okay. I still felt my skin crawl when they cried and thought, What if I can't calm them down? I still turned to my husband for diaper changes because I wasn't a good enough mom for twins.

My husband reminded me (and still does) that I am exactly what my babies need. That I am enough. A phrase that has now become my mantra, both in motherhood and beyond, because as my husband likes to say, I'm the queen of selling myself short on everything.

So when my babies start crying, I tell myself that I am enough to calm them down.

When my toddler has a tantrum, I remind myself that I am enough to get through to him.

When I go out with the three kids by myself and start sweating about everything that could go wrong (poop explosions times three), I remind myself that I am enough to handle it all, even with a little humor.

And then one day I found this bracelet. Initially, I thought how cheesy it'd be to wear a reminder like this on my wrist, but I bought it anyway because something about it was calling my name. I'm so glad I did because since day one I haven't stopped wearing it.

Every time I look down, there it is, shining back at me. I am enough.

I Am Enough bracelet 

SONTAKEY  I Am Enough Bracelet

May this Oath Bracelet be your reminder that you are perfect just the way you are. That you are enough for your children, you are enough for your friends & family, you are enough for everything that you do. You are enough, mama <3


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


Becoming a mother has been life-changing. It's been hard, tiring, gratifying, beautiful, challenging, scary and a thousand other things that only a parent would ever understand.

It is these life-changing experiences that have inspired me to draw my everyday life as a stay at home mom. Whether it's the mundane tasks like doing laundry or the exciting moments of James', my baby boy's, first steps, I want to put it down on paper so that I can better cherish these fleeting moments that are often overlooked.

Being a stay-at-home-mom can be incredibly lonely. I like to think that by drawing life's simple moments, I can connect with other mothers and help them feel less alone. By doing this, I feel less alone, too. It's a win-win situation and I have been able to connect with many lovely parents and fellow parent-illustrators through my Instagram account.

Keep reading Show less
Work + Money