Tips for New Moms Returning to Work After Baby: Coping with the end of maternity leave and a new reality

A little over three months after I gave birth to Phil, I returned to working full time. My adventure transitioning back to work after maternity leave was a rough one. Every morning, I committed Phil's face to memory, said my goodbyes, and tried not to cry. 

Phil when he was a bit older than three months. He loves pandas!

Phil when he was a bit older than three months. He loves pandas!

My guilt for leaving Phil clouded my thoughts. Our daily separation left me anxious and depressed. Coping with changes in my daily schedule, I felt unprepared. One minute, I was an Orca-whale-mommy, one who got to spend every moment beside her baby. The next, I was traveling to my 9-5, sleeping on a crowded train, and spending over 12 hours a day (counting commute time) away from my new baby. Some days, I shook with sadness. 

I cried. And cried. And cried some more. And it's okay to cry. New moms have it tough: our hormones are imbalanced, our bodies have changed, we're stressed, exhausted from sleep-deprivation and everything else, confused, and irritated. As amazing as mommies are, we're still only human.  

And though we may feel alone, we really aren't. When I'm at work, Phil is with my parents. I know that not everyone has that sort of luxury, to leave their new babies with loved ones. But trust that you've made the right decision and picked the right caregiver for your baby, granted that you've done your homework: interviews, background/reference checks, tours, etc... When you're at work, trust the good hands that your child is in. You should still, of course, check in with the caregiver, loved one, nanny, or daycare center on how your child is doing while you're at work. If you're still worried, install a live-streaming webcam system so that you can watch your baby on your phone whenever you please.

My mom with Phil. She and my dad have been taking care of Phil since I returned to work. Both my parents are retired. We took Phil to my workplace two weeks before I returned to work.

My mom with Phil. She and my dad have been taking care of Phil since I returned to work. Both my parents are retired. We took Phil to my workplace two weeks before I returned to work.

If your workplace allows for you to telecommute, set up a telecommuting schedule. See if you're allowed to work one or two days from home every week. Working from home on a Wednesday (hump day!) will make the work week go by much quicker, and you'll be able to spend some time breastfeeding and cuddling with your new baby during your breaks. Daddies should also try to work from home when they can to spend some time with baby and help mommy out.

J. working from home with Phil on his lap.

J. working from home with Phil on his lap.

When I'm in the office, I find that when I'm busy and focused on my work, I'm less sad even though I still miss Phil. Concentrating on your work will eventually ease your anxieties, sadness, and guilt. Slowly assimilate yourself back into working life. Grab lunch with your work buddies. Hang out during happy hour when you can. Support other new mommies at work and at the same time, accept support.

The first month during your transition from maternity leave to work will be the toughest. Though you will eventually settle into a good rhythm, there will still be days when you feel like the sky is falling. When you're feeling overwhelmed, and before you rip your hair out, take a sick day. It's okay to recharge. Mental health, after all, is as important as physical health. 

Mommies want to do it all and frankly, we can't. We are, however, masters at juggling and we wear a million hats. As you return to work, you're also returning to a "normalcy" that existed pre-pregnancy. Your baby will grow and become more self-sufficient as time flows. So when you're ready, set aside some time for yourself. Go on dates with the hubby again. Enjoy life. Take a breather. Celebrate you so that you're able to celebrate life and love. 

J. and me on a date at Blue Ribbon Izakaya in NYC. We did not feel guilty about leaving Phil that night with his grandparents. After date night, we were refreshed and energized to take care of him through the night :)

J. and me on a date at Blue Ribbon Izakaya in NYC. We did not feel guilty about leaving Phil that night with his grandparents. After date night, we were refreshed and energized to take care of him through the night :)

Mommies (and daddies) out there, how did you cope with going back to work after maternity (or paternity) leave? How are you coping now? Care to share your tips?

Check out my checklist of must-have milk pumping supplies to bring to the office when returning to work.