Mat leave back-to-work countdown

By Marie Potter

After a year on mat leave, you may be tired of being at home in sweats doing the same thing day in and day out. Alternately, you may be wishing you could stay at home with your baby as long as possible. In either case, returning to work can be stressful. It’s normal to feel a range of contradictory emotions—from excitement to sadness and relief. But getting yourself organized and planning ahead can result in a more positive and easy transition back to work. 

Nine Months Ahead

Financially Smart – Having a baby comes with lots of expenses including childcare. Opening a savings account before you return to work, and contributing to it regularly can take a big load off when the time comes to make childcare payments.

Six Months Ahead

Considering another – If you are thinking of having an additional child, set up a system to keep suitable baby clothes and toys by age. Additionally you can repurpose your maternity clothes, so store and label them.

Connect with colleagues – A lot can happen at work while you are away. Keeping in touch with colleagues and management throughout your leave is a good idea.

Two to Three Months Ahead

Tearless Transition– If you don’t leave your child very often and want to minimize separation tears and anxiety, it’s a good idea to start early and have a babysitter or family member take care of the baby, so they get used to being without you.

Seeking Childcare – If you want to have the peace of mind and deal with one change at a time, get your childcare in place early. You’ll need one to three months to find a suitable match. Also keep in mind you may be faced with waitlists. Set up childcare a month prior to your return if you can afford it. Your baby can transition and you can process the emotions more gradually.

Getting the Right Childcare – Create a spreadsheet to compare and investigate options. If you are hiring a nanny, create a list of questions to ask during the interview, check references and have a contract to outline expectations, remuneration and vacation. EXPERT TIP – encourage your nanny to take vacation when you do.

Start the Conversation – This might seem scary but do it anyway. Talk with your employer about a gradual transition. So, instead of Monday 9-5, ask to start midweek or do three days a week or half days to get your work brain back. You could suggest working from home using technology to stay connected. If you are given this flexibility, respect it.

One-Month Ahead

Prep Ahead – You will have a lot less time when you go back to work, so go crazy preparing and freezing as many meals as possible. You’ll appreciate being able to walk in the door, pop something in the oven and have hang out time with your family

Planning to breastfeed – If you are planning to continue feeding your child breast milk once you’re back at work consider purchasing a good quality double breast pump.  EXPERT TIP – If you buy two, you can pump both breasts and save time. Block time in your calendar to pump. Have someone else feed your baby so they can adapt.

Create a schedule – Provide your child›s caregiver with a schedule of the baby’s feeding and napping times.

Ready with back up – Be sure to have a backup plan if your childcare provider is ill or on vacation. 

One-Week Ahead

Coffee with colleagues – Meeting with one or two colleagues before the big day will help ensure you are not overwhelmed by changes.

Get set for the week – Choose your outfits for the week and buy a couple of new outfits so you really feel on your game.

Time saver – Set up an account for online grocery delivery.

Three Days Ahead

Positive planning – If you’re worried about getting emotional, use meditation to help you through. In your meditation practice, imagine being at work and bring forward a positive calm state of mind.  EXPERT TIP – Try the app, “Calm”, it works miracles.

Stay connected – Block time with your spouse weekly to review the to do lists and share your calendars. Set a regular time to text or call you childcare provider.

First Day Back at work

Capturing special moments – Just because you are at work doesn’t mean you have to miss out. Encourage your childcare provider to take snapshots or video to share milestones and priceless moments with you when you are away from your child. Place a picture of your child on your desk or rotate pictures in your screensaver.

Pat Yourself on the Back – Once you settle into work, you’ll notice how much more productive you are than colleagues without children. While you likely can’t stay late, you’ve learned how to seriously get stuff done. You’ll skip going for coffee, idle chitchat and constantly checking your phone. All that time at home, you learned when you have two minutes it can’t be wasted. So the time management and multitasking skills you’ve learned will payoff in a stronger work ethic.

If you’re looking for an expert who can offer effective organizing solutions before returning to work following a mat leave, look no further than Professional Organizers in Canada (POC).

Marie Potter is the marketing director for Professional Organizers in Canada, trained professional organizer, POC Silver and Gold Leaf member.