9 tips for going back to work from maternity leave during COVID-19

You are *not* failing. You are being asked to do the impossible right now.

coming back from maternity leave during COVID-19

If going back to work after having a baby seemed difficult before, it's hard to imagine having to find your footing back in your professional job during a global pandemic. Many parents currently have no childcare options. Many are going back to jobs on the front lines and have to use emergency childcare. No one is doing this the way we would have wanted to.

Here are my 9 tips for going back to work from maternity leave during COVID-19:

1. Remember that you are not failing

You are being asked to do the impossible right now. There is a reason people line up childcare when they go back to work after maternity and paternity leave because it's simply not possible to put in a full day of work while also being responsible for the full-time care of your baby. Yes, you will probably feel frustrated. Yes, you will feel like you're not getting "enough" done. And none of it is your fault. You, mama, are doing the best you can right now. Talk to yourself as you would talk to your best friend. Don't belittle yourself for anything.

2. Find the good

Perhaps you're now working 100% virtually and that means you don't have to drop your baby off with a caregiver every day. Maybe you can breastfeed more and not have to pump as much. If you're still going out of your house to a job, perhaps the good you find each day is in your baby's soft skin and amazing giggles. Wherever that good may be, find it and note it every day.

3. Re-negotiate *everything* at home

If you have a partner in this parenting adventure, now is the time to sit down and re-assess all of the daily tasks you complete and to come up with a new daily schedule. When you were on leave, you probably took on certain home-related work that you will no longer be able to complete while you are working. Put everything on the table and talk about who will do what. Also discuss how you will split your work day and responsibilities. Some couples split their days in half, where one works during the morning and the other works in the afternoon. (And then they both try to work at night after baby falls asleep.) Other couples trade off every hour or two. Read this if you need a script for talking to your significant other about difficult topics like this one.

4. Ask all work stakeholders two questions

  1. What did I miss?
  2. How can I help now?

Plan virtual meetings (video is better than phone) for your first week back with your supervisor, any direct reports and key colleague collaborators. Don't spend time reading old e-mails or trying to get "caught up" on everything you might have missed while you were out. Simply ask them the short version of what happened while you were away. And then ask them what you can dig into that will most help your work team right now.

5. Plan a virtual date with another working parent for your first day back

In pre-COVID-19 times, I found that new parents always benefited from being able to commiserate with other working parents on that first day back in the office. These connections are all the more important now. Yes, the other working parent you'd like to talk to probably has a tight schedule to juggle, but with a little coordination, you'll be able to get together for at least a short chat. And that other parent will know exactly how you're feeling.

6. Focus strategically

Use the Pomodoro Method and Daniel Pink's "Most Important Task" to help you with focus and productivity. Everyone—and I mean parents and those without children alike—is distracted right now. By illness, anxiety, fear, the news, change, loneliness, you name it. There are two tools that have really been helping me lately. First, to identify each night what my "most important task" will be for the following day (check out Daniel Pink's short video about this "MIT" here). And second, to do work in short but undistracted chunks using the Pomodoro Method.

7. Avoid comparison

Repeat after me: Comparison is the thief of joy. If there's one thing my nine years of parenthood have taught me, it's that comparisons simply aren't helpful in working parenthood. Before, during, or after this COVID-19 crisis. Comparing the way you worked before baby to how you work now will be useless and unproductive. Similarly, comparing the way your return to work would have gone before the crisis isn't helpful. Comparing yourself to your colleagues and how they are working (particularly those without children) or to other parents and how they are parenting (particularly those who aren't employed "outside") doesn't help anyone. You do you, mama. Whatever that looks like during these crazy times.

8. Remind yourself that parenthood is giving you skills that are useful in your job

What? You're getting better at your job by being a parent? Surprise—it's true! Working parents are prioritization ninjas. We know how to problem-solve like nobody's business. And we're able to communicate with cranky stakeholders who can't articulate their needs. The list goes on. (Still don't believe me? Check out this post.)

9. Please, please don't do this return-to-work-thing alone

Find your people, mama. Isolation is the shortest route to burnout, and in a time when many of us are confined to our homes, meaningful connections are proving even harder to come by. Not sure how to connect to other new working parents navigating the same thing right now? The Mindful Return program starts May 4 (find out more and register here for the mom version or here for the dad version).

This is an incredibly difficult transition, especially now. Reach out for help when you need it.

Without camps and back-to-school plans still TBD, the cries of "I'm bored!" seem to be ringing louder than ever this summer. And if you're anything like me, by August, I'm fresh out of boxes to check on my "Fun Concierge" hit list. It's also the point of diminishing returns on investing in summer-only toys.

With that in mind, we've rounded up some of our favorite wooden toys that are not only built to last but will easily make the transition from outdoor to indoor play.

From sunny backyard afternoons to rainy mornings stuck inside, these toys are sure to keep little ones engaged and entertained.

Meadow ring toss game

Plan Toys meadow ring toss game

Besides offering a fantastic opportunity to hone focus, coordination, determination and taking turns, lawn games are just plain fun. Set them up close together for the littles and spread them out when Mom and Dad get in on the action. With their low profile and rope rings, they're great for indoors as well.


Balance board

Plan Toys balance board

Balance boards are a fabulous way to get the wiggles out. This one comes with a rope attachment, making it suitable for even the youngest wigglers. From practicing their balance and building core strength to working on skills that translate to skateboarding and snowboarding, it's a year-round physical activity that's easy to bring inside and use between Zoom classes, too!


Sand play set

Plan Toys sand set

Whether you're hitting the beach or the backyard sandbox, this adorable wooden sand set is ready for action. Each scoop has an embossed pattern that's perfect for sand stamping. They're also totally suitable for water play in the wild or the bathtub.


Water play set

Plan Toys water play set

Filled with sand or water, this tabletop sized activity set keeps little ones busy, quiet and happy. (A mama's ideal trifecta 😉). It's big enough to satisfy their play needs but not so big it's going to flood your floors if you bring the fun inside on a rainy day.


Croquet set

Plan Toys croquet set

The cutest croquet set we've ever seen! With adorable animal face wooden balls and a canvas bag for easy clean up, it's also crafted to stick around awhile. Round after round, it's great for teaching kiddos math and problem-solving skills as well.


Mini golf set

Plan Toys mini golf set

Fore! This mini golf set is lawn and living room ready. Set up a backyard competition or incorporate into homeschooling brain breaks that shift focus and build concentration.


Vintage scooter balance bike

Janod retro scooter balance bike

Pedals are so 2010. Balance bikes are the way to go for learning to ride a bike while skipping the training wheels stage altogether. This impossibly cool retro scooter-style is built to cruise the neighborhood or open indoor space as they're learning.


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


Products that solve your biggest breastfeeding challenges

Including a battle plan for clogged ducts!

When expecting a baby, there is a lot you can test-run in advance: Take that stroller around the block. Go for a spin with the car seat secured in place. Learn how to use the baby carrier with help from a doll. But breastfeeding? It's not exactly possible to practice before baby's arrival.

The absence of a trial makes it all the more important to prepare in other ways for breastfeeding success—and it can be as simple as adding a few of our lactation aiding favorites to your registry.

MilkBliss chocolate chip soft baked lactation cookies

MilkBliss lactation cookies

Studies have shown the top reason women stop breastfeeding within the first year is because they are concerned about their milk supply being enough to nourish baby. Consider MilkBliss Lactation Cookies to be your secret weapon. Not only are they wholesome and delicious, but they were formulated specifically for breastfeeding moms based on the science of galactagogues—also known as milk boosters. They also come in peanut butter and wild blueberry flavors.


Evereden multi-purpose healing balm

Evereden multipurpose healing balm

Also up there on the list of reasons women stop breastfeeding: the toll the early days can take on nipples. Made from just five ingredients, this all natural healing balm is ideal for soothing chafed nipples, making for a much more comfortable experience for mama as her body adjusts to the needs of a breastfeeding baby.


Lansinoh milk storage bags

Lansinoh milk storage bags

For a breastfeeding mama, there are few things more precious and valuable than the milk she worked so hard to pump—and it's the stuff of nightmares to imagine it spilling out in the fridge. With these double-sealed milk storage bags, you can be assured your breastmilk is safe and sound until baby needs it.


Belly Bandit bandita nursing bra

Belly Bandit bandita nursing bra

Nursing a baby is a 24/7 job, which calls for some wardrobe modifications. Because Belly Bandit specializes in making things more comfortable for the postpartum mama, they've truly thought of every detail—from the breathable fabric to the clips that can be easily opened with one hand.


boob-ease soothing therapy pillows

Boob Ease soothing therapy pillows

For nursing moms, duct can quickly become a four-letter word when you suspect it's getting clogged. By keeping these soothing breast pillows in your breastfeeding arsenal, you can immediately go on the defense against plugged milk ducts by heating the pads in the microwave or cooling them in the freezer.


Belly Bandit perfect nursing tee

Belly Bandit perfect nursing tee

A unfortunate reality of nursing is that it can really seem to limit the wardrobe options when you have to think about providing easy, discrete access. But by adding functional basics to your closet, you can feel confident and prepared for breastfeeding on the go.


Bebe au Lait premium cotton nursing cover

Bebe au Lait cotton nursing cover

Nursing in public isn't every mama's cup of tea. But babies can't always wait until you've found a private place to get down to business if that's your preference. That's where a nursing cover comes in handy. This one is made from premium cotton and features a patented neckline that allows for airflow and eye contact even while you're covered.


Lactation Lab basic breastmilk testing kit

Lactation Lab breastmilk testing kit

Curious to learn more about the liquid gold you're making, mama? The testing kit from Lactation Labs analyzes your breast milk for basic nutritional content like calories and protein, as well as vitamins, fatty acids and environmental toxins to help boost your breastfeeding confidence.


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


I wasn’t sure if I wanted to have kids—so here’s what I did

We asked our three most pessimistic friends who have kids whether it's worth it or not

As told to Liz Tenety.

Around the time my husband and I were turning 30, we had a genuine conversation about whether or not we wanted kids. I was the hesitant one because I was like, "Whoa, whoa, whoa, whoa. Let's just hold on. Okay, let's talk about this. Because we love our life. We like traveling. Is this what we want?"

My husband said, "Let's ask our three most pessimistic, crabby friends who have kids whether or not it's worth it."

And every single one of them was like, "Oh, it's unmissable on planet earth."

So when I got pregnant, I was—and I'm not ashamed to say this and I don't think you should be—I was as connected with the baby in my belly as if it were a water bottle. I was like, I don't know you. I don't know what you are, but you can be some gas pain sometimes, but other than that, we're going to have to meet each other and suss this relationship out.

But all the cliches are true that you just know what to do when the baby comes out. Some of the times are hard, some of them are easier, but you just gotta use your gut.

Keep reading Show less