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How to Prep for Returning to Work after Parental Leave
Work-Life Wellbeing

How to Prep for Returning to Work after Parental Leave

It’s time. That bittersweet moment where your other reality creeps in. Back to work. The most important thing - as with many things - is to prepare yourself - for the feelings, the logistics, and the transition in general. Thank you, Mommy's Bliss 360 expert and Career Coach, Becca Carnahan for thoughtfully commiserating and offering helpful tips as we buckle up and head back to work.

Over the past several months, you’ve traded late nights at the office for late nights in the nursery. You never stopped working (parenthood is hard work!), but as your parental leave wraps up, it will be time to prep for a return to your paid work.

Let’s create a plan to ease the transition!

Define Success for a New Season of Life

Before you grab your blazer and head out the door, let’s take time to be intentional about what the new version of you wants and needs in this season of life. Whether this is your first child, second child, or beyond, your life has changed, and it’s important to recognize that.

Take a walk, grab a journal, or sit quietly while you’re nap-trapped under the baby and reflect on how your life has changed recently.

  • Are your goals still the same now that you’re a parent?
  • Have your interests evolved?
  • What do you want to optimize for your career, family, and health as you look ahead to the next year?

Asking yourself these questions helps you to pause and make decisions that are truly aligned with your values and priorities.

Divide Household Labor

Making a plan for childcare is only one piece of the home life puzzle as you return to work after parental leave. Your family will be making adjustments to many aspects of daily life now that your day also includes work outside of the home.

If you have a spouse or partner, set aside time to talk about how key activities will be divided up between the two of you or with outside help. That will include childcare/communicating with childcare providers, cooking, grocery shopping, cleaning, pet care, laundry, etc. A system like Fair Play can offer a great jumping-off point for this conversation as it breaks down domestic life into 100 tasks that you and your partner can discuss and make a plan for. Communication is key so that tasks don’t default to the parent who has been handling life at home for the past several months!

If you are solo parenting, communication is still key! Enlist paid help where needed (childcare, grocery delivery, cleaners, laundry service, etc.) and communicate your needs and expectations. Local friends and family members will also be an important part of your village, but it’s critical to talk through what help you need and what help they can provide so that expectations are clear.

Connect with Your Manager

While you’re on parental leave, you do not need to stay in touch with your office. The company offered this benefit and you’re using it; good on both of you! However, as your parental leave comes to a close, it can be helpful to touch base with your manager before day one to iron out logistical details and set yourself up for success upon return. Before reaching out to set up a call, think about what questions you would love answers to. For example, do you want to ease back into your first week at work with a three-day work week using some vacation time? Would it be helpful to understand what projects the team is working on right now so that you feel up to speed?

It’s very common to carry worries with you back to work, but as the saying goes, worrying is like a rocking chair. It gives you something to do, but it doesn’t get you anywhere! Turn your worries into questions, set up a check-in call, and get those questions answered before you walk in the door.

Iron Out Day One Logistics

Now, let’s talk about making day one back to work go as smoothly as possible.

If you’re like many parents on parental leave, your daily outfits have likely centered on a rotating set of spit-up-stained sweats. No shame in this; we’ve all been there!

However, even if you’re working from home, your outfits will likely look a little different as you return to work, so take some time to think about what you’re going to wear on day one and beyond. If your body has changed, then change with it, my friend! Find clothes that fit the fabulous body you have right now and that make you feel confident heading into the office.

Look ahead to what other day-one logistics can be smoothed out ahead of time. For example:

  • Prepping breakfast and lunch the night before
  • Making sure the car is gassed up
  • Packing pumping supplies
  • Laying out clothes for the next day

There will be some trial and error as you settle into a new routine, but looking ahead to potential roadblocks will decrease stress.

Rest and Hydrate

Adding another full-time job to your current full-time job of taking care of a baby and recovering after childbirth is going to take a lot of energy.

And if you’re leaving your baby with another childcare provider for the first time, you may find yourself crying on the way into the office. I speak from experience!

So, while rest and hydration are always important, we need to double down on looking out for your health as you return from parental leave. Prioritize getting extra sleep where possible, nourish your body with food that makes you feel strong, and fill that Stanley cup to the brim. Maybe even grab yourself a little “back to work” gift as a congratulations for navigating this big transition!

We know you’re thinking about your baby, your family, your colleagues, and your clients, but you matter, too. You matter a lot! Make sure that your well-being is a big item on your “to take care of” list. We’ll be thinking of you!

This site is intended for informational purposes only and does not provide medical advice. Please consult your physician or other health-care professional.

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