“Set yourself up to be surrounded by others who will understand and have been there.”
So Lori hears from a lot of women about their worries and concerns as they return to work after baby is born.
Have no fear! Lori shares some of the most common worries—and answers them, on how to handle life as a working new mom:
Question from new mamas: I’m really dreading the 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?
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-relatedJ) 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 from new mamas: 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?
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 from new mamas: Every ounce I pump requires so much effort that it feels, as they say, like liquid gold. In what increments should I freeze my breast milk so that I can avoid wasting any? I don’t want to thaw too much and then have to throw it away when my baby doesn’t drink it all.
I can SO relate to that feeling of defeat upon having to pour any more than a few drops of that precious liquid down the drain. And figuring out how much baby will drink on a given day was, for me, always more art than science. He would get into a groove, though, so I had a rough idea of what to expect in terms of how much he’d drink at daycare.
My trick? As I was freezing milk in the evenings after work, I intentionally froze it in a wide variety of different ounce increments, so I could mix and match. At any given moment in my freezer, you could find bags with any number of ounces – from 1 ounce to 6. Any more than six ounces in one of those Lansinoh freezer bags, and I wound up losing milk to a bag explosion.
My biggest piece of advice, though, is to let go of the live-or-die-by-every-ounce mindset. Pump what you pump (wherever you’re able to pump it). Supplement what you supplement. And know that however you nourish your baby, you are doing enough, mama.
Question from new mamas: Help!! My previously bliss-filled weekends are now more stressful than my work week. I have a million and one things to get done at home, want to spend quality time with my little one, and can’t seem to do it all. Those 48 hours are gone before I blink, and I can’t seem to catch up.
One of the best decisions we ever made was to take family friends up on their offer to have their then 12-year old daughter come to our house as a parents’ helper on weekends. She started coming shortly after we had our second child, and “chaotic” did not even begin to describe the state of our household. (“Desperate” might be a more accurate word choice.)
She started coming about two Saturdays a month, from 10am-1pm, which may not sound like much but made a HUGE difference. At first, having her there simply freed up one parent to do one or two household chores that wouldn’t have gotten done otherwise. Gradually, though, as the kids came to trust her, and she grew in her childcare experience, we were both freed up to get more done while she is there.
We’ve taken her grocery shopping with us. She’s helped out with swimming lessons. She’s come over during daycare closure days. And she’s even accompanied us to the County Fair.
What are the big benefits? You get more done at home, which frees you up to relax a bit more on weekends. You’re still in the house, so you get to spend time with your kiddos and monitor the parents’ helper’s evolving caretaking skills. They’re affordable. Enthusiastic. And they grow up into independent babysitters who know and love your little ones.