No matter how ready you are to go back to work after maternity leave, those first few weeks back can be rough, really rough!
I have put together some tips for surviving that first week back. Although there is nothing that can make this week easy, hopefully having these tips and this knowledge in your back pocket will soften the blow a little bit.
1. Just accept that housework won’t get done this week. You have to go into that first week knowing that dishes will pile up, laundry won’t get done, your bathroom will be a disgusting mess. Your baby who was used to having you all day, is adjusting to not being able to see you for 8 hours. Don’t be surprised when all they want to do is nurse and cuddle all night. All those chores you were used to getting done after work, will now be filled with a cuddly baby who doesn’t want to be put down.
2. Ask for help- This one is the hardest for me. I hate asking for help. But you are going to need it this week. Ask your mom to come over and help you with that growing mound of laundry. Ask your husband to cook dinner all week. Girl, you got a lot going on. You just brought a life into this world, and you are a bad ass working mom. Give yourself some credit. Take the time to enjoy all the baby cuddles, while they still actually want to cuddle with you, and ask someone else to do the dirty work, blame the baby!
3. Delegate tasks to your husband-I am guilty of just assuming that my husband knows exactly what I need help with, expecting him to do it, and then getting mad when he doesn’t. Most men are feeling pretty helpless in this whole baby thing. You are the one that carried the baby for the past 9 months, felt all the aches and pains of pregnancy. I mean you gave up alcohol for 9 months, you are pretty much superhuman to your husband right now. He had to watch you give birth, while he sat there helpless. And now you are the only one with boobs to feed the baby, and the only one who can make the baby stop screaming. Their self worth about this whole baby thing is pretty low right now. They would love to be able to be useful and do something to help you. They just need to know what exactly needs to be done. Men work well with lists. I have found that if I just ask my husband to help out more, that nothing changes. But if I tell him what exactly I need help with, he will happily help out. So let him help you! He wants to feel useful, he wants to help! Tell him exactly what it is he can do to make life a little easier for you right now.
4. Sleep deprived has a whole new meaning- You thought you were tired before, it becomes a whole new level once you go back to work. That whole, sleep when the baby sleep thing goes out the window when you go back to work. As if you were ever able to actually do it before anyway!! All of a sudden you have to set an alarm again. It doesn’t matter that the baby was up 8 times last night, and you had to pace the house for an hour at 2 AM to calm him down. That finally just got him back to sleep about 30 minutes before your alarm goes off. You will still have to be out the door, looking somewhat presentable, with the diaper bag packed at 7AM. Use those nursing breaks to get in a few power naps during the day (just make sure to set an alarm!!).
5. Rock the messy buns- It’s a good thing the “messy” look is now in style! Not only are you too tired to actually be able to do your hair and make up, good luck actually having an hour to yourself in the morning to get yourself ready. Remember that whole constant nursing, not wanting to be put down thing? That starts over again in the morning. I remember for the first few weeks, I was waking up extra early while my son was still sleeping so I could do my hair and make up before work. I quickly realized that it was not worth sacrificing my sleep over! I rocked messy buns and minimal make up for months.
6. Don’t be self conscious– This is another one that I struggled with. When you are on maternity leave people don’t care that you look like a hot mess, because clearly they can see you just had a baby. I felt like when I went back to work, and I was out in public sans baby, people just thought I looked like a hot mess. I felt myself wanting to explain to strangers that these bags under my eyes are not because I was just released from the psych ward, but because I was up with a baby half the night! Give yourself some grace! People are not judging near as much as you feel like they are, and even if they are, so what, you just had a baby! You are pretty much a super hero!
That first week back to work sucks, it really sucks! There is no way to sugar coat it! But be easy on yourself, and know, that this isn’t going to be forever! In a blink of an eye these days will be a distant blurry sleep deprived memory.