Maternity leave can go by in a flash and for anyone returning to work, it often feels like relearning your routine all over again.
New parents may also feel a sense of guilt or anxiety heading back to work, says Vancouver-based parenting coach Julie Romanowski, and this feeling is completely natural.
“What you do with the guilty feelings is going to make or break you,” she tells Global News. “Are you going to let it knock you down and control you? Or lift you up and motivate you to grow as a person? Part of this too is accepting the new change for what it is.”
In most provinces and territories, employment insurance (EI) maternity leave is available for all biological mothers (including surrogate mothers) for a maximum of 15 weeks of benefits.
Parents have two EI parental leave options, including a maximum of 35 weeks paid (within a 12 month period) or a maximum of 61 weeks paid (within a 18 month period). Claimants receive 55 per cent or 33 per cent of their average weekly insurable earnings.
Romanowski says the transition can also leave some women feeling anxious for leaving their child.
“Whether you are happy to return to work or not, unexpected feelings and behaviours may occur due to this process. I like to encourage parents to surround themselves with a good support network of family, friends, colleagues and professionals,” she continues.
She adds some women may also fear feeling judged by their co-workers or not being able to keep up with the workload. Whatever your initial insecurities are, Romanowski says getting back into a work routine can take time.
“After having a baby and all that it entails, it doesn’t leave very many mothers in a super confident state of mind, it can really mess you with both physically, hormonally and emotionally,” she says. “Take time to recover, heal and adjust. Spend time in reflection and be around people who make you feel good.”
Below, Romanowski lists six things every new mom should do before heading back to the workplace.
Hold a family meeting
Things are about to change, not only for the parent heading back to work, but everyone else in the household as well, Romanowski says.
“Hold a family meeting and discuss all changes, expectations, hopes and realities,” she says.
This could be as simple as figuring out which parent has to cook at night or how to schedule some alone time.
Make a schedule
Once you have your family meeting, Romanowski says the next thing you need to do is create a realistic schedule both parents (and children) can follow.
“A visual is always helpful in times of stress, panic or change. Include everything from pumping, feedings, grocery shopping, transportation and most importantly, down time.”
She adds a schedule will not only make sure you stay somewhat on track, but you’ll also remember important deadlines or appointments coming up.
As soon as you head back to work, Romanowski suggests starting your day earlier — this will be easier since you’ll be used to sleeping less and waking up around your baby’s schedule.
Use that extra time to catch up on emails or start a to-do list.
Keep communication going
“Keep communication open with everyone involved such as your partner, nanny, childcare provider, family and friends,” she says.
Whether this means sending an email or texts, make sure how the people your life know how you’re adjusting to the change.
Check-in with yourself
New moms should take a step back and check in with themselves from time-to-time, she continues. “Use this technique to troubleshoot and stay on top of things.”
Celebrate the successes
Going back to work after a year (or more) can bring both highs and lows. For parents, it’s important to spend time celebrating successes, both big and small. Whether this means having a successful night of sleep, or accomplishing something at work.
“Staying positive can be hard to do but it is worth it,” she says. “Positive self-talk, actions and relationships make a huge impact on our physical and mental well-being.”