How should I plan for my first day back at work?

When you were pregnant, going back to work once your baby was born probably seemed like no big deal. Daycare lined up, bottles pumped and ready, put on your nice clothes and off you go, right? But now you have an actual baby at home, and it probably seems a lot more daunting. I remember being unsure if I’d actually even be able to get out the door on my first day back. Missing the baby is one thing, but for me, the biggest hurdle was getting organized.

My son was in daycare, so I had to pack bottles for the day, extra clothes and diapers, my lunch, my pump, an extra shirt for me (in case of leaks…) – as well as those unmeasurables like the strength to be away from my kid for 9 hours, the ability to stay awake for those same 9 hours, and my ability to focus on my actual job for even 5 minutes once I got there.

Here are a few tips I wish I’d had before I started back.

  • Take a practice start. Take a day where you get up at the time when you’d have to get up for work and do your normal morning routine. Do you need a shower? Coffee? Breakfast? Fit it all in before you have to leave. Pack up your stuff, the baby’s stuff, the baby, and walk out the door. Get in the car or to the subway station. There – you’re done! Go back inside and go back to bed. This is just a test that will tell you what you need to do the night before (I haven’t had a shower in the morning since 1999), how much longer it will all take with baby in tow, and how much you’ll have to get other members of the household to help out with.
  • Make the official first day a Thursday. Don’t launch into your first day knowing you have to do face it five times over before you get a break. Short weeks rock.
  • Take a half day. Can you take a short day each week? Or start back with shorter weeks? Every little bit helps, and for me, working 4 days a week meant a 20% cut in pay in exchange for an 80% improvement in quality of life and lowered stress.

Kristen Berggren, PhD, IBCLC
Author of Working Without Weaning