If you’re one of the nearly 273,000 new mothers that’s taken maternity leave this year, you may understand that returning to work when this leave ends can be difficult. Your priorities will shift from loving and caring for your newborn full time to balancing your life and career. Raising a child is difficult enough, but adding a career into the mix adds another element. Whether you’re choosing to return for the enjoyment you get out of your career or for financial reasons, know that you’re making the right decision for you and your family. Working mothers raise some of the best children.

Work Out the Details

Deciding the best date to return is the first step in the process. If it’s possible for you to return midweek, do so. This way your first week back is short and more manageable. Once you have determined this, you’ll need to communicate with your human resources department and anyone that you report directly to. If they are available for a meeting, this can be a great way to establish the details of your return and what their expectations are. Will you have any limitations? Are there any days that you may need to take off for doctors appointments, childcare conflicts, etc?

It’s important to know if your office provides a private space for you to pump in if you are breastfeeding. Knowing what perks your office has available to new mothers is useful information. For example, if there is a flexible work option, take advantage of it. Being able to leave on a moments notice is helpful for emergencies. If working from home a day or two a week is a viable option for you, this can be a great perk as well.

Don’t Get Overwhelmed

It’s normal to experience many different emotions during this transition. Whether it’s a feeling of guilt leaving your baby (which many new working mothers tend to experience), or a bit of nerve returning to your position. These feelings are normal. What’s important is not letting these emotions overwhelm you. Find creative ways to deal with the emotions you’re experiencing. For example, you can bring in photos for your office that might help your desk feel homier. Grab a cup of coffee with another mother in the office who has been through this before. She’ll understand best what you’re going through and can give you her own tips and tricks for adjusting back into your work comfort zone.

Ask for Help

Every mother wants to be the best mom she can be. Thinking that you can do it all isn’t always realistic, however. As much as you may want to be supermom, know that it’s okay to ask for help every once in a while. Having a child is an amazing accomplishment, but it’s also a lot of work. Adding your career into the mix, only makes things more difficult. When you’re feeling stressed out, invite a family member or friend over for a few hours to watch your baby while you get a few chores done or take a peaceful trip to the store by yourself. You’d be surprised how this simple ask can make a big difference to you.

Prepare in Advance

If you were to rate yourself on a scale of 1-10 of how prepared you are to go back to work, what would your answer be? Anything less than a 5, you might want to take a few notes from the pros. Mornings can be hectic. Preparing yourself and your family for smoother mornings can make your routine much better. Once you have established the childcare option you’ll be using, become comfortable with them. When hiring a nanny or choosing a daycare center, there is nothing wrong with running background checks, calling references and going with your gut. It’s important to ensure that this will be the best fit for you both. Start childcare a few days before your return to help your baby get comfortable around new people and spending time away from you.

Creating a routine can help everyone in the family. Place a large calendar somewhere in the house that everyone can easily add their schedule to. This will eliminate the chance of someone forgetting an event or an overlap in activities. Picking out outfits the night before or meal prepping early in the week can save you a few hectic minutes each morning. Additionally, taking a practice run of your typical morning routine the week before is a good way to make sure you can get to work and the childcare center on time.

Take Care of Yourself

For a busy working mother, an established self-care routine often goes out the window the moment they return to work. It’s human nature for mothers to place others needs before her own, yet it’s important to take care of yourself. Neglecting to have any simple form of a self-care routine can lead to negative physical and mental side effects. There is a multitude of different shapes that the term “self-care” can take such as:

  • Taking time to figure out the best ways to manage your stress.
  • Partaking in hobbies that you enjoy such as yoga, painting or reading.
  • Finding professional clothes for work that make you feel good, fit well, and are comfortable, like a supportive nursing bra or a cozy new sweater.
  • Spend a day at the spa.

Following these tips and tricks can help make your transition go a little smoother. Things probably won’t be the same as they were before you had a child, but you’ll find your new comfort zone. Working mothers are some of the strongest, most independent and caring people. They deserve our praise.

When you have young children, going to your office job can sometimes make for a really nice change of scenery. Being among co-workers instead of children can feel like an entirely different world. For example;

  • There’s no requirement to tidy up after everyone else, clean up their spills or wipe their bottoms.
  • There’s no piercing ‘muuuuummm’ requests stabbing at your eardrums every four minutes.
  • You can go to the toilet and no-one will follow you into the cubicle and try to climb all over you.
  • There are adults there, with adult things to say, and nice sophisticated conversations that do not involve the words bum, fart or undies.

It can be really quite lovely.

When you have young children, going to your office job can sometimes make for a really nice change of scenery

But while you may circulate in this whole other world, and even relish in it, you are not entirely inconspicuous. There are clues to the parenting world in which you also exist. You may try to cover up as much as you can in the name of professionalism, but there are some tell-tale signs.

Here’s 10 that might sound familiar:

  1. You look in the bathroom mirror a few hours after you arrive only to find that your top is on inside out.
  2. You have baby wipes in your handbag.
  3. You gasp at your phone when caller ID shows it’s the daycare centre calling, imagining the worst-case scenario.
  4. You only wear jewellery which cannot be broken with a swift yank of a small hand.
  5. You randomly laugh out loud when recalling something cute your child said that morning.
  6. You work super-productively because staying back late is not an option.
  7. You have narrowed the possibilities of the stain on your black pants to be either snot, toothpaste or vomit – none of which would be yours.
  8. You spend your entire lunch-break running errands.
  9. You have a strange nostalgic smile on your face when your co-workers complain of hangovers from bars and clubs they went to last night.
  10. You probably consume more coffee than anyone else in the office.

However, there are some things your co-workers may not know, and might not want to either.

Like how when you sat down at your desk to begin the day at 9am, you had already been up since 5am. You bathed, dressed & fed multiple people, did two loads of washing, cleaned the kitchen, vacuumed, walked the dog and managed the school drop-off without forgetting the show & tell. Give yourself a pat on the back for this, but perhaps don’t expect your colleagues to – they will find this information excruciatingly boring.

Another thing they might not want to hear about is how the pictures on your desk represent the little people who give your life a depth and meaning you have never experienced before. They are the reason you are doing all this. They are your little rays of sunshine and you wouldn’t have it any other way … and you simply can’t wait to get home for cuddles, giggles and to pretend to be the pirate queen of the dining table ship.

But you don’t need to tell your colleagues that, keep some stuff to yourself. They know enough already.

What do you share with your co-workers about your life as a parent? Share your comments below.

Sally Miles Sally is the Women’s Editor at Leaders in Heels. She is a wife and mother to two children and spends her working hours as a publisher at a global education company.

Featured photo credit: Lotus Carroll via photopin cc