I would take Oliver to the infant nursery room, cringe at the fluorescent lights and the smell of baby poop mixed with cleaning chemicals, walk down to the bathroom, close the door and burst into tears. Every day. For months.
Going back to work was the most challenging and depressing time of my life. I wasn’t happy at my job; I wasn’t happy to leave him; I wasn’t happy that over half of my pay was going to childcare; I wasn’t happy with the arguments my husbands and I were having; I wasn’t happy. When I went back to work I was problem-focus, I couldn’t shake myself out of the guilt and sadness.
Jump five years later and my son is in Kindergarten and a co-worker, Rebecca, is going through the same scenario. I watched her, talked to her, and supported her. I asked her about ways to make the transition back to work easier. Here’s what she said:
The first thing Rebecca said was she regretted not asking for accommodations when she returned to work. It’s hard to return and feel like you are walking on thin ice, but more and more employers are learning that the key to keeping a returning mom is by supporting her during the transition. I recommend hashing out a game plan with your boss prior to leaving or connecting with them while on maternity leave, you may loop in HR with these conversations for additional guidance.
2.The Mid-week Return
This idea is incredible. First day back to work baggage plus a case of the Mondays, ugh sounds like a recipe for a lunchtime cocktail. Rebecca asked to return on a Wednesday; she had a modified schedule for the first week, so she really eased back into the full-time work routine. During the first week or so, you might also ask to do some work at home allowing you to have more time at home in the beginning.
3.Anything but 8-5
For her first baby, Rebecca asked for a 7:30-4:30 schedule two days a week, for the second she asked for that every day. A thirty-minute shift in schedule may mean forty-five minutes less in traffic or a chance to nurse your baby at the nursery before driving home. Ovia Health, a group dedicated to support and research for women, found that 77% of surveyed women want and need more flexibility. With such a large portion of women needing more flexibility employers are becoming more open to alternative schedules. With that, there is no set in stone modified schedule. Talk to your family and decide several options to propose to your employer. Don’t forget to discuss you will complete your work, assuring him/her that your schedule modification will be beneficial to you, your employer and team.
4.Is temporary part-time an option for you?
Rebecca states, “I wish I asked for a part-time schedule my first month or 6 weeks upon my return. I felt like I got hit by a bus.” Full-time is 40 hours or work plus hours of driving to and from and pick-up. That is a lot. Researching the possibility of temporary or extended part-time maybe a good option to explore. I advise you to look into this option prior to leaving to understand all aspects so you can take your maternity leave to ponder and debrief with your new family.
One thing Rebecca didn’t bring up in our chat was her request for no travel for the first 6 months postpartum. This request was granted and our team supported her by reorganizing the schedule and taking on additional trips while she requested to stay put. Our team was very happy to step up to aid her transition and enable her to be with her family more.
Nursing your baby is a thread that keeps you connected to your baby while your away. Unfortunately, due to an abundance of in-person meetings, deadlines and unideal breastfeeding quarters, nursing decreases.
According to Johnston and Esposito (2007), employed women who return to work after giving birth must cope with the “ecosystem” of the work environment, which includes attitudes of coworkers, length of maternity leave, length of working shifts, and hourly wages or salary. In their study, the researchers found that women who were employed had a 9% lower rate of breastfeeding at 6 months postpartum than women who were unemployed. Johnston and Esposito also found that supportive work environments increase breastfeeding duration. Before returning to work, the employed women in their study felt it was necessary to meet with their managers to discuss breastfeeding.
Here are some ways you can make breastfeeding more attainable after returning to work: