It never fails: Just as you’re starting to get the hang of being a mom, the end of maternity leave is in sight. Going back to work can feel incredibly daunting, but with some planning, you can prepare yourself and your family for this transition. Use this checklist to help make the road back to work a little less bumpy.
Six Weeks before Maternity Leave Ends
__ Finalize (and feel good about) your childcare arrangement.
Having childcare that is the right fit for your family is crucial. The more comfortable you are with your provider, the easier it will be to leave your little one in their care. It’s likely that your childcare plans have been finalized for months now. But if you haven’t done so already, now is the time to make a final decision about a caregiver, check references, agree on terms, sign contracts and mark your calendar with a start date. If you’ve already made these decisions, but are feeling anxious, meet up with your nanny or do a walk-through at your daycare center with your baby. Seeing your child interact with his or her caregiver will help put your mind at ease.
Four Weeks before Maternity Leave Ends
__ Think about your work schedule.
While it’s nice to have agreed on a flexible work schedule prior to maternity leave, sometimes you don’t know what is going to make sense until you’re facing the reality of going back. If your company allows for flexible arrangements, think about your ideal schedule and how to pitch it to your boss. Even if it isn’t a long-term option at your company, a short-term flexible schedule (even just a few weeks) can help ease the transition for the whole family. At the very least, consider asking if you can return mid-week. That way, you won’t be facing a 40-hour work week on your first day back.
Three Weeks before Maternity Leave Ends
__ Get in touch with your boss.
A simple email to your boss should be sufficient. Make sure he or she is aware of your return date, and ask if there is anything important you should be aware of (e.g., structural changes to your department, major projects on the horizon). If you’ve agreed to a flexible work arrangement, outline your intended schedule. If you’re asking for a flexible schedule and think your boss will be surprised, suggest a short-term arrangement or a trial period. This is also a good time to make sure you will have access to accommodations if you plan to pump at work. If you’re not comfortable approaching your boss about pumping, reach out to human resources.
Two Weeks before Maternity Leave Ends
__ Talk to your partner about expectations.
You’ve been your baby’s primary caretaker during maternity leave while your partner has gone to work each day. Since this dynamic is about to change, talk through expectations and agree on the best way to split household chores and infant care. Once you’ve solidified your work schedule, start discussing what a typical day will look like. What time do you need to be at work? When do you expect to be home? Who is in charge of picking up and dropping off your child? Answering these questions now will make the transition less chaotic for everyone.
__ Assess your wardrobe.
Maternity clothes no longer make sense, but your pre-pregnancy clothes may not fit yet. Go through your closet, and determine which pieces work and which don’t. Plan to buy yourself a few transitional pieces that you’ll feel good wearing. If you’re going to pump at work, make sure you have nursing tops that are office appropriate.
__ Get on a schedule.
Your baby has been functioning as the world’s most unpredictable alarm clock for a few months now. While it may be painful, start setting a real alarm now. Set it for an hour later than you’ll need to get up for work, and push it back 10 minutes every few days. When maternity leave ends, you’ll be ready to get up on time.
One Week before Maternity Leave Ends
__ Do a trial run with your child’s caregiver.
Regardless of your childcare plans, schedule a trial run before you go back to work. This will help alleviate some of the first-day jitters you have about leaving your baby behind and will give you time to work out any kinks you and the caregiver experience. You’ll also get some much-needed alone time—plan to run errands, go shopping, make an appointment with your hairdresser or book a massage.
When Maternity Leave Ends
__ Get ready the night before.
Getting out the door in the morning is about to get a lot trickier. You may need to have bottles prepared, extra baby outfits ready, and instructions written out. Prevent last minute meltdowns by making a checklist and having these items ready to go in the evening.
__ Do something nice for yourself.
Whether it’s picking up your favorite coffee in the morning, having lunch with a friend or just taking a short walk, do something for yourself during the work day that feels special. Look forward to these moments and use them to help you recharge for your new role as a working mom.
__ Don’t feel guilty.
It’s normal to be upset about going back to work. But, you also may end up enjoying this change. That’s OK, too! Regardless of your reaction, don’t make yourself feel guilty. Have faith that you’ve done your due diligence and chosen the right childcare provider. Focus on the positives of being back at work, and do your best to make the time you have with your baby count.