Once you’ve had a baby, it’s hard enough just to squeeze in a five minute shower, so the idea of pulling it together for a day at the office might make your head spin. If you’re planning to return to work, organization and preparation are your allies. The more time you give yourself to sort out the details, the better you’ll feel.
So, where to begin? Here are some helpful guidelines:
Start talking. Get the conversation started with your spouse, because teamwork is massively important and you’ll want to be on the same page. Based on your family needs, what type of child care makes the most sense? How will you support each other to share tasks and balance home and work life?
Connect with a co-worker mom who has gone through the back-to-work process, and schedule lunch or time to talk, getting an inside perspective. If you plan on pumping, there should be (by law) a space designated for you (no, the toilet doesn’t count), so if you don’t have private office space, check with your employer. Also, look into the possibility of a “soft return” to work. Does your employer support returning to work on a gradual basis? If so, this option gives you time to transition and will give you time to smooth out your routine.
Research child care options. Do you prefer center-based care or home-based care? Is a blended option available, where you split the week between a family caregiver and a nanny or center-based care the rest of the week? There are many online resources for vetting providers like care.com and childcareaware.org, and check with family and friends for referrals. Once you start interviewing and touring, this list will help you cover the important questions.
Do a trial run. Doing a run-through of the morning routine and drop off/pick up (if it applies) will give you an exact idea of what to expect and reveal any kinks in your planning. Also, it’s hard to know how you’ll feel when you actually leave your little one in the care of another person, so a trial run will prepare you and increase your confidence. You can leave your baby with a care provider for a few hours or full day and use the personal time as needed. If possible, have your partner or a friend with you for support.
Lists are an organized person’s passion. Make a list of tasks to be done each morning to help you get out the door in one piece! on time. Keep it on your fridge or wherever it’s easily accessible. Also, consider sharing a calendar with your spouse to make scheduling easier and to leave each other notes for/from the day.
Do shopping and meal prep in advance. Not having to do either of these things at the end of the day will reduce your stress level. If meal prep is challenging, keep dinners simple and save the gourmet stuff for weekends.
Save yourself added stress in the morning and organize your baby’s bag and your own the night before work. Also, decide on outfits ahead of time, and have a backup in case you’re suddenly covered in spit-up before you get in the car. And speaking of backups, have a backup plan ready in case your child care provider falls through. You just never know, and it’s better to have a plan in place then scramble for a last-minute solution.