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.

In This Article

    These challenges from Nike PLAYlist are exactly what my child needs to stay active

    Plus a fall family bucket list to keep everyone moving all season long.

    While it's hard to name anything that the pandemic hasn't affected, one thing that is constantly on my mind is how to keep my family active despite spending more time indoors. Normally, this time of year would be spent at dance and gymnastics lessons, meeting up with friends for games and field trips, and long afternoon playdates where we can all let off a little steam. Instead, we find ourselves inside more often than ever before—and facing down a long winter of a lot more of the same.

    I started to search for an outlet that would get my girls moving safely while we social distance, but at first I didn't find a lot of solutions. Online videos either weren't terribly engaging for my active kids, or the messaging wasn't as positive around the power of movement as I would like. Then I found the Nike PLAYlist.

    I always knew that Nike could get me moving, but I was so impressed to discover this simple resource for parents. PLAYlist is an episodic sports show on YouTube that's made for kids and designed to teach them the power of expressing themselves through movement. The enthusiastic kid hosts immediately captured my daughter's attention, and I love how the physical activity is organically incorporated in fun activities without ever being specifically called out as anything other than play. For example, this segment where the kids turn yoga into a game of Paper Scissors Rock? Totally genius. The challenges from #TheReplays even get my husband and me moving more when our daughter turns it into a friendly family competition. (Plus, I love the play-inspired sportswear made just for kids!)

    My daughter loves the simple Shake Ups at the beginning of the episode and is usually hopping off the couch to jump, dance and play within seconds. One of her favorites is this Sock Flinger Shake Up activity from the Nike PLAYlist that's easy for me to get in on too. Even after we've put away the tablet, the show inspires her to create her own challenges throughout the day.

    The best part? The episodes are all under 5 minutes, so they're easy to sprinkle throughout the day whenever we need to work out some wiggles (without adding a lot of screen time to our schedule).

    Whether you're looking for simple alternatives to P.E. and sports or simply need fun ways to help your child burn off energy after a day of socially distanced school, Nike's PLAYlist is a fun, kid-friendly way to get everyone moving.

    Need more movement inspiration for fall? Here are 5 ways my family is getting up and getting active this season:

    1. Go apple picking.

    Truly, it doesn't really feel like fall until we've picked our first apple. (Or had our first bite of apple cider donut!) Need to burn off that extra cinnamon-sugar energy? Declare a quick relay race up the orchard aisle—winner gets first to pick of apples at home.

    To wear: These Printed Training Tights are perfect for when even a casual walk turns into a race (and they help my daughter scurry up a branch for the big apples).

    2. Visit a pumpkin patch.

    We love to pick up a few locally grown pumpkins to decorate or cook with each year. Challenge your child to a "strongman" contest and see who can lift the heaviest pumpkin while you're there.

    To wear: Suit up your little one in comfort with this Baby Full Zip Coverall so you're ready for whatever adventures the day brings.

    3. Have a nature scavenger hunt.

    Scavenger hunts are one of my favorite ways to keep my daughter preoccupied all year long. We love to get outside and search for acorns, leaves and pinecones as part of our homeschool, but it's also just a great way to get her exercising those gross motor skills whenever the wiggles start to build up.

    To wear: It's not truly fall until you break out a hoodie. This cozy Therma Elite Kids Hoodie features a mesh overlay to release heat while your child plays.

    4. Have a touch-football game.

    Tip for parents with very little kids: It doesn't have to last as long as a real football game. 😂 In fact, staging our own mini-games is one of our favorite ways to get everyone up and moving in between quarters during Sunday football, and I promise we all sleep better that night.

    To wear: From impromptu games of tag to running through our favorite trails, these kids' Nike Air Zoom Speed running shoes are made to cover ground all season long.

    5. Create an indoor obstacle course.

    Pretending the floor is lava was just the beginning. See how elaborate your personal course can get, from jumping on the couch to rolling under the coffee table to hopping down the hallway on one foot.

    To wear: These ready-for-any-activity Dri-FIT Tempo Shorts are perfect for crawling, hopping and racing—and cuddling up when it's time to rest.

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

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