I’ll fess up. I cried like a baby when I left my daughter in daycare for the first time, sobbing myself all the way to my office. While working, I thought of nothing but her, feeling as if in a daze as I tried to remember how to do my job. I doubted my decision to return to work, considering myself the worst mother in the world for leaving her. But just as it takes adjustment to become a mom, it also took some adjustment to figure out how to balance my two worlds. You, too, can get back on track and have happy, healthy children—just like my own, well-adjusted toddlers!
The first week
After spending three months following your own schedule—well, your baby’s schedule, anyway—working 9 to 5 for five days can be a shock to the system. Consider easing your way back into the office, one step at a time:
Shorten the week
Return to work on Wednesday instead of Monday—the days will fly by quicker than you know.
Go part way
Ask your boss if you may work half days for the first couple of days or the first week. Or, consider going in one hour later and leaving one hour earlier. You’ll get extra time at home, and avoid the rush hour traffic!
Make a social call
Visit the office with your baby just before you return to work. Your coworkers are going to be eager to talk to you after your time away, and by visiting at your own schedule during your off time, they can get their social time in and see the baby, freeing you up of time-draining social visits to your desk those first days back.
Request a catch-up meeting with your boss or coworkers for your first day. That way, you can find out what’s happened while you were away, what’s pressing now, and where you’ll need to be in the coming weeks.
If you’ve chosen to breastfeed, you already know that pediatricians recommend nursing for 6 months to a year for your baby to receive the best benefits. When returning to work after 6 to 12 weeks, obviously, you’ll need a plan:
Invest in a quality breast pump
If the price tag scares you away, trust us when we say you’ll get a lot of use out of your pump and you want one that will pump as quickly, efficiently, and painlessly as possible.
Follow a schedule
Nurse before you leave for work, pump two to three times a day while at work, and then nurse your baby as soon as you get home.
Talk to your boss
Considering you’ll need to pump every few hours, and depending on how quickly you can do so, you’ll need to let your boss know of your schedule so meeting disruptions can be avoided and people understand why you’re disappearing every few hours.
If you do not have a private office, you’ll need to find a comfortable place to pump. If there isn’t one available, it’s your employer’s responsibility to make one available to you. You just don’t want to be having that discussion on your first day back when you’re engorged and wondering how much time you have before your nursing pads begin to leak!
Whether you choose to hire a nanny, have grandma spend the days with your baby, or enroll her at a daycare facility, leaving your child with someone else will be heartbreaking. (Although you may discover the secret joy of having a moment of silence or an adult conversation while at work—don’t feel guilty when it happens, just enjoy it!) At-home care may provide you more peace of mind, and you’ll be able to call home and check on your little one as often as you like. To find that peace with a daycare center or nanny, you have to find a place (or person) you trust.
Get an early start. Consider starting your nanny or enrolling your child a couple of days early to ease into it. An hour the first day, a half day another, and maybe even a full day to see how she (and you!) responds.
Go to school
Visit and spend time with your infant’s new class or your nanny a few times before you return to work. Watch how the caregivers interact with the children and ask lots of questions.
Find a center that utilizes web cams so you can log on to a website and see just what’s going on in her nursery at any given time.
Love is all you need
While we can’t guarantee you won’t be in the parking lot wiping runny mascara off your face after leaving your little one behind, we can guarantee that she will adjust quickly to a caregiver. And really, a caregiver is just one more person to love her, and doesn’t every baby deserve all the love they can get?