The 5 stages of returning to work after maternity leave

Last week was my first week back at work after nearly three months of full-time mommyhood.

While this was my second time around, there is still nothing quite as jarring as being forced out of your sweatpants and fuzzy socks and into non-elastic waistbands and heels overnight.

Both with my 2-year-old daughter and now with my infant son, I’ve experienced the highs, lows and inevitable cringe-worthy moments of working motherhood.


Also known as grief, wallowing in sorrow lasts pretty much the entire week before return.

Suddenly, the piercing screeches that typically had me shuffling and shushing across the house like a crazy person turned into sweet little lamb cries.

I lamented never doing the museum circuit or taking a stroller strides class and instead going to Target every day.

(On the plus side, going back to work = saving tons of money on too-adorable-to-pass-up baby clothes and Dollar Spot trinkets.)

Organizing all the things

The weekend before I returned to work, I decided that if I was going to do it, I was going to do it like a boss.

If I learned anything after going back to work the first time, it’s that I must do everything on Sunday and then do maintenance work every evening throughout the week.

I made myself a handy to-do list, including: lay out everyone’s clothes, organize the nursery, get pump packed up and ready to go, put out bottles for prepping in the morning, dye my ridiculously gray roots.

Check, check, all the checks.

By Sunday evening, I was an unstoppable superwoman.

Falling back down to Earth

Monday, Monday.

Mothers who have to pack up their kids and make it out of the house before noon are the true champions.

My children’s sitter comes to the house, and yet Monday mornings will always feel like a marathon—except without a course map.

Somewhere between trying to do my makeup while breastfeeding and coaxing a 2-year-old off my leg, I chugged some coffee and gave myself an internal pep talk.

My incredibly supportive husband drove me the three blocks to work and I somehow made it there by 9:15 (late, but, like — super early, right?).

Sucking it up, sucking it in + pretending like nothing happened

“He’s doing really great. Sleeping pretty well.” (I just fell asleep a little bit while we were talking. My son woke up three times last night.)

“It’s great to be back!” (Where am I? Why am I here? I’m going to miss him roll over for the first time, I just know it.)

“Oh, thank you—breastfeeding really helps.” (I’m still wearing my maternity pants.)

Nod head, throw in an emphatic “Mmhm,” pretend I know exactly what my colleague is talking about. (I haven’t watched the news in 12 weeks—mostly it’s been Sofia the First and Frozen on repeat.)

Letting it go

The first Monday back to work, I ran home twice.

First because I forgot to pack the flanges for my pump and was about to explode (a welcome excuse).

The second time because there was a free 15 minutes between meetings... and I forgot extra bottle lids... and I needed to smell my kid’s head.

Instead of trying so hard not to be that mom, I found myself over-talking to coworkers about my daughter’s obsession with her new Elsa nightgown.

I gushed over video clips their sitter sent me from story time at the library.

I allowed myself a few minutes of Camera Roll time during pump sessions instead of trying to do all the things at once just to prove I could.

I let go of all the expectations of a perfect balance.

I made it through the first workweek with an nearly complete to-do list. I experienced my son’s first giggle fit. I had a tea party with my daughter. I drank some wine.

Cheers to week two.

Sandi Villarreal is Web Editor and Chief Digital Officer at Sojourners. She lives with her husband and two children in Washington, D.C.

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These are the best bath time products you can get for under $20

These budget-friendly products really make a splash.

With babies and toddlers, bath time is about so much more than washing off: It's an opportunity for fun, sensory play and sweet bonding moments—with the added benefit of a cuddly, clean baby afterward.

Because bathing your baby is part business, part playtime, you're going to want products that can help with both of those activities. After countless bath times, here are the products that our editors think really make a splash. (Better yet, each item is less than $20!)

Comforts Bath Wash & Shampoo

Comforts Baby Wash & Shampoo

Made with oat extract, this bath wash and shampoo combo is designed to leave delicate skin cleansed and nourished. You and your baby will both appreciate the tear-free formula—so you can really focus on the bath time fun.

Munckin Soft Spot Bath Mat

Munchkin slip mat

When your little one is splish-splashing in the bath, help keep them from also sliding around with a soft, anti-slip bath mat. With strong suction cups to keep it in place and extra cushion to make bath time even more comfortable for your little one, this is an essential in our books.

Comforts Baby Lotion

Comforts baby lotion

For most of us, the bath time ritual continues when your baby is out of the tub when you want to moisturize their freshly cleaned skin. We look for lotions that are hypoallergenic, nourishing and designed to protect their skin.

The First Years Stack Up Cups

First year stack cups

When it comes to bath toys, nothing beats the classic set of stackable cups: Sort them by size, practice pouring water, pile them high—your little one will have fun with these every single bath time.

Comforts Baby Oil

Comforts baby oil

For dry skin that needs a little extra TLC, our team loves Comforts' fast-absorbing baby oil aloe vera and vitamin E. Pro tip: When applied right after drying off your baby, the absorption is even more effective.

KidCo Bath Toy Organizer

KidCo Bath Organizer

Between bathing supplies, wash rags, toys and more, the tub sure can get crowded in a hurry. We like that this organizer gives your little one space to play and bathe while still keeping everything you need within reach.

Another great tip? Shopping the Comforts line on to find premium baby products for a fraction of competitors' prices—and follow along on social media to see product releases and news at @comfortsforbaby.

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

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This is my one trick to get baby to sleep (and it always works!)

There's a reason why every mom tells you to buy a sound machine.

So in my defense, I grew up in Florida. As a child of the sunshine state, I knew I had to check for gators before sitting on the toilet, that cockroaches didn't just scurry, they actually flew, and at that point, the most popular and only sound machine I had ever heard of was the Miami Sound Machine.

I was raised on the notion that the rhythm was going to get me, not lull me into a peaceful slumber. Who knew?!

Well evidently science and, probably, Gloria Estefan knew, but I digress.

When my son was born, I just assumed the kid would know how to sleep. When I'm tired that's what I do, so why wouldn't this smaller more easily exhausted version of me not work the same way? Well, the simple and cinematic answer is, he is not in Kansas anymore.

Being in utero is like being in a warm, soothing and squishy spa. It's cozy, it's secure, it comes with its own soundtrack. Then one day the spa is gone. The space is bigger, brighter and the constant stream of music has come to an abrupt end. Your baby just needs a little time to acclimate and a little assist from continuous sound support.

My son, like most babies, was a restless and active sleeper. It didn't take much to jolt him from a sound sleep to crying like a banshee. I once microwaved a piece of pizza, and you would have thought I let 50 Rockettes into his room to perform a kick line.

I was literally walking on eggshells, tiptoeing around the house, watching the television with the closed caption on.

Like adults, babies have an internal clock. Unlike adults, babies haven't harnessed the ability to hit the snooze button on that internal clock. Lucky for babies they have a great Mama to hit the snooze button for them.

Enter the beloved by all—sound machines.

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It's science: Why your baby stops crying when you stand up

A fascinating study explains why.

When your baby is crying, it feels nearly instinctual to stand up to rock, sway and soothe them. That's because standing up to calm babies is instinctual—driven by centuries of positive feedback from calmed babies, researchers have found.

"Infants under 6 months of age carried by a walking mother immediately stopped voluntary movement and crying and exhibited a rapid heart rate decrease, compared with holding by a sitting mother," say authors of a 2013 study published in Current Biology.

Even more striking: This coordinated set of actions—the mother standing and the baby calming—is observed in other mammal species, too. Using pharmacologic and genetic interventions with mice, the authors say, "We identified strikingly similar responses in mouse pups as defined by immobility and diminished ultrasonic vocalizations and heart rate."

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