Working Moms-to-Be: Back-to-Work Tips

This article offers some advice for making the return to work after maternity leave go as smoothly as possible.
Returning to Work After Maternity Leave

Soon after Your Baby is Born

  • Call a good friend in the office. He or she can share all the birth and baby details with everyone.
  • Call the office from time to time. Your objective is to keep in touch. Unless you've structured your maternity leave to include office work, keep shop talk out of the conversation. Be polite, but steer the conversation to other subjects.
  • Be definite about your return date.
Four Weeks before
  • Complete your child-care arrangements.
  • Make emergency sick-care arrangements.
Three Weeks before
  • Take stock of your wardrobe. If you gained weight, as most women do, don't rely on squeezing into old clothes or wearing maternity clothes back to work. You want to look your best, so buy a few pieces that fit your post-baby body or borrow from a friend. Some maternity things can be used; for instance, you can belt a jumper. Or take your maternity things to a consignment shop and buy new clothes with the proceeds.
  • Talk to your hairdresser. Have your hair done in a style that's easy to maintain. You won't have the time for elaborate preparations before work.
Two Weeks before
  • Contact the office again. Get an update on what's happening to the business, and ask to have industry reports or trade journals sent to you. Eliminate guesswork. Make sure your household and baby-care routines have been well established so that any problems are eliminated and stress is minimized.
One Week before
  • Show off your baby. Stop in at the office for a short visit to let your associates meet your baby (see "Taking Your Baby to Meet Your Coworkers" ).
  • Stop in at the office by yourself. Straighten up your desk and go through papers that might have accumulated. You might take some paperwork home to give you a head start on resuming your duties. At the very least, call your boss to check on the current state of projects and to say how you're looking forward to coming back.
  • Try a couple of trial runs away from your baby. These will prevent you from being emotionally overwhelmed on your first day at work. In addition, you'll be able to test your child-care arrangement and make sure that your estimated travel time to work has been figured properly.
  • Ask your caregiver to stop by. Talk about your baby's routine and clear up any confusions or misunderstandings. Prepare the list of emergency numbers.
First Day Back
  • Start midweek. It's preferable to return to work sometime in the middle of the week, rather than on Monday, because then your first week is shorter than usual, and you won't be as tired.
  • Feed your baby before leaving. That way your caregiver can concentrate on watching and playing with your baby rather than on feeding her. Also, if your baby is upset about your leaving, she may refuse to eat throughout the day.
  • Don't socialize at first. Don't plan lunches or any social activity after work for the first few days in order to save energy. If there are social functions that don't interfere with your getting home on time, be sure to attend, at least long enough to chat with coworkers.
  • Hit the ground running. Try to arrive half an hour early the first day wearing your most professional-looking outfit. Make your entrance as a businesswoman who is still in business.
  • Set up meetings with key people, including clients, your boss, your staff, and other company players. Use these meetings to refresh your insight on current projects, familiarize yourself with new projects, or get a glimpse of projects that may be coming down the pipeline in the near future. You'll be letting everyone know that you're back 100 percent.
  • Remain businesslike. Keep the talk about your baby and childbirth to a minimum. Make your first day back at work as productive as ever.
  • Be prepared for changes. Even when you've been briefed, there will be moments when you'll feel out of touch. It'll take time to settle in and feel in control again. Don't let mixed feelings get the best of you.
  • Check with home unobtrusively. At first, you'll probably make many calls to reassure yourself that everything is well at home. Do it quickly when no one else is around.
  • Reassure your boss. You want your employer to feel that you're at ease about your childcare and that it wont interfere with your performance at work.