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The Back-to-Work Guide for New Moms

7/29/2014 Erin van Vuuren

Maternity leave fading fast? Cut down on the back-to-work chaos and stay connected with your family with these tips from TheBump.com.

Step 1: Set the Date
If your return date is flexible, you might be tempted to put off the decision as long as possible. Resist! The delay is nothing but unnecessary stress.

Decide what you want.
"The worst thing you can do is feel powerless," warns TheBump.com parenting expert Tammy Gold, founder of Gold Parent Coaching. "Look at your options — even if there aren't a lot of them. Is there a proposal you can put forth?" Sit down with your partner and write out your ideal plan.

Pitch it.
Talk to your employer about your return plan. "Be honest," Gold urges. "Just explain it to them." Even if your boss can't accommodate all of your wishes, you'll open the door for discussion.

Mark your calendar.
Once you've set your date in stone, you can move on to trickier things, like...

Step 2: Hire a Caregiver
You'll be trusting someone with your most prized possession, so do your homework and don't be afraid to be picky.

Make a plan.
Nanny? Group sitter? Day care? What works best for your family (and your budget)? Sit down with your partner and hash it out. Ask other parents for recommendations. If you don't know many parents in your area, plenty of websites are geared toward connecting local moms. Sites like lilaguide.com and mamasource.com can be great resources.

Test your options.
Visit day care centers, interview sitters, check references, and ask tons of questions. This isn't the time to be shy! Watch caregivers interact with your child and get a real feel for who you (and baby!) are comfortable with. Even if you've been on a prestigious waiting list since baby was an embryo, you still need to introduce your child and make a final decision.

Go with your gut.
"Trust yourself!" Gold insists. If the caregiver comes recommended, has great credentials, and feels right, go ahead and make a commitment.

Step 3: Test-Drive
Big changes are ahead. Preserve your sanity by giving your new schedule a few whirls before you're heading out the door.

Warm up your sitter.
"You don't want your first day at work to be your caregiver's first day," says Gold. "Let them start as early as you're financially prepared to let them." A child care trial run allows time for bonding, smoothing over questions, and practicing spending a few hours apart. (This also gives you time to get a haircut, buy work clothes, and prepare to reenter the world of grown-ups.)

Practice your routine.
A little rusty when it comes to certain life skills (applying makeup, walking in heels)? There are new skills to master too (getting showered and ready with baby in tow). "We choreographed our whole morning and practiced for 10 days," says New York mom Lori. "We still follow the same schedule now, almost a year later." Not ready for two full pretend workweeks? At least give it a couple of tries. Working out the kinks ahead of time can save you precious minutes when you really need them later.

Step 4: Stay Connected
Time in the office can make a momma feel out of touch. Get creative and find ways to stay connected.

Schedule and visualize.
"Give caregivers a detailed schedule and have them keep notes for you," Gold advises. If you bring in a notebook and ask nicely, even day care workers may be willing to record a few details. If you know baby's general schedule, you can sit back and imagine her sleeping at nap time, strolling through the park at 11 a.m., and so on.

Make the most of family time.
"Family time is all about quality — not quantity," Gold assures. The best way to maximize that time? Map it out. "Your life is now scheduled," explains a mom on one of the message boards at TheBump.com. Get a calendar and mark off time for play, family outings, errands, and — yes — being alone with your partner. A tool like Google Calendar can make it easy for both you and your partner to update and share a schedule that you can check daily.

Tech it out.
Use technology to your advantage. "My nanny and I text all day long. It's what gets me through the day!" admits another mom on TheBump.com. Lori keeps even closer tabs, with live video feeds from the living room and nursery. Some day care centers are even offering streaming video on their websites! Not so tech-saavy? Drop off a camera and ask caregivers to snap a few shots throughout the day.

Step 5: Commiserate
Tons of moms have walked this path before. "You MUST connect," Gold says. "Mothering can be very isolating. The more you connect, the more comfortable you'll feel."

Office Moms
"It's like a club. I get so many tips from the moms at work," laughs Lori, who sometimes sends emails to her mommy colleagues for advice before calling her own mom or pediatrician. Find the other moms in your workplace and chat it up.

Mommy Groups
Not many moms in your office? Most cities have local groups for working mothers. "Find someone with similar circumstances to yours and connect. They'll love to share their story," says Gold. "In times of stress, people bond." Online tools like Yahoo! Groups can help you seek out neighborhood allies.

Websites
Parenting websites are a great place to find comrades too. On sites like TheBump.com, moms chat on message boards about their fears, roadblocks, and successes. "You can learn a tremendous amount just by listening," explains Gold. "Or you can engage online and type your concerns." Either way, you'll know you're not alone.

Step 6: Give Yourself a Break
Emotions (and, yes, guilt) might run wild in those first weeks without baby. Relax — it's normal.

Be crazy.
Give yourself permission to feel the way you feel. Gold even encourages scheduling time to obsess. "Try setting aside five minutes of every hour to think about baby. Write down questions, ideas for things to do together — whatever's on your mind. Then refocus on work until your next 'baby break.'"

Forget about dinner.
"You CAN'T be everything," Gold reiterates. Something's got to give. Let go of the elaborate meals. Let the dishes pile up. Put off the vacuuming. You're being a great mother, wife, and professional — don't worry about being a great maid. A supportive partner will be able to pitch in without a fuss, but don't expect them to read your mind. Ask for help when you need it.

Keep it real.
When it comes to managing the fine balance of family, work, and relationships, communication is everything. Keep a notebook to record your worries and talk out any issues as they arise. "The more you can write down, the less chaos there'll be," Gold urges. Feel guilty for ignoring your pals? Send out a mass email. Qualms about your caregiver? Have an honest discussion. Miss couple time? Schedule a date night. Keep your cards on the table and constantly reevaluate. You'll have this "working mom" thing down in no time.

Photo: Veer

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