Since the birth of your new bundle of joy, you’ve been going through a parent’s version of rigorous, survival training. Click To Tweet In a short period, you are subjected to a mixture of strenuous physical demands, mental-strengthening drills, and unavoidable sleep-deprivation as you work to develop a routine. If that’s not challenging enough, within a matter of weeks, you are expected to have conquered the new-mommy landscape, and morph into a high-performing, working mother without missing a beat.
Although an unreasonable expectation, ask any new mom and they will tell you, absurd or not, it’s still the expectation. It’s the basis for the stigma surrounding new moms in the workplace. When I use the term “stigma”, I mean the perception that working moms are too distracted to do their jobs, as well as they did before the miracle of birth. Click To Tweet
How can you return to work and disprove the stigma without losing your mind and irritating the hell out of your co-workers? If I’ve learned anything over the years, it’s how people feel about working moms, because they tell me often enough. Considering all that feedback and my own experiences as a working mother, here are five tips to help you prepare for your return and transition well.
#1: Create A Realistic Working-Mom Schedule
If you worked late in your pre-mom life, I’ll take odds in Vegas that you will still work late now. I’m not suggesting you work late every day, but make sure your schedule is versatile enough to handle the fluctuating time demands of your job and new motherhood, so you don’t need to bolt. Propose a schedule change to staff solutions management, if you need one. After you consider your own needs, talk to your boss about how the change could benefit the team, help talent recruitment with how to attract top talent, or support another time zone. Click To Tweet
#2: Play Nice With Others
Chances are, a few things have changed during the past 12 weeks. While you were off doing the motherhood thing, everyone else was busy doing the work thing. Stay calm when you settle back in. Notice how relationships have flourished, and any new processes in place. Some things may have been done incorrectly, and others not at all. Take the time to understand before reacting. The people doing your job and theirs, deserve that you be kind with any criticism. Individually thank each person for their support and acknowledge their role in keeping things afloat. Appreciation goes a long way, as do eclairs and cupcakes. During your “Thank You” Tour, don’t forget to ask others about their life adventures as you’re sharing yours.
#3: Set Boundaries
Motherhood is amazing, but recognize that some topics aren’t appropriate at work. You need boundaries. Sharing your cervix measurements, what you did with your placenta, or lamenting about any other body part is unprofessional. Some conversations need to be kept private, and shared privately, by invitation only. And, while we are on the topic of keeping things private, your pumping schedule and the production that goes along with it is not a team activity.
#4: Read The Room
People are happy about your return, but everyone heard all about your pregnancy, threw you a baby shower and had to do all your work while you were on leave. They sure don’t want you to come back to the office so they can hear you talk about parenthood all day. Your infant’s sleep and poo patterns might fascinate the hell out of you, for everyone else, not so much. Click To Tweet Just because one co-worker listens and engages in conversation with you doesn’t mean everyone within earshot wants to hear the chit-chat. Talk about topics that interest a broad audience, like binge-worthy shows on Netflix.
#5: Don’t Use Motherhood As An Excuse
When you drop the ball or arrive late for an important meeting, that’s not motherhood’s fault. It’s your fault. That may sound a little harsh, but repeated incidents of this sort can and do impact the perception others have of you, and your commitment to the job. People already expect you to throw the “mom card” when you miss a deadline, make a quick exit at day’s end, or decline a client dinner. So, surprise them by not doing it! Keep most of your motherhood challenges to yourself, especially the ones that interfere with your ability to work.
Here are four habits every working mom can develop to keep their day job and navigate the demands of motherhood:
- Have A Backup Plan
Because children get sick and moms miss work, it’s more important than ever to have a contingency plan for every possible scenario. Have people that can support your “mom” role and your “job” role if needed. Ask yourself, “What can possibly go wrong?” It will, so plan accordingly.
- Prioritize Tasks
As a new mom, you need to become a master of prioritization. You never know when a phone call about a feverish child will interrupt your work plans for the day and result in missing a deadline. Know your high priority tasks and consistently tackle them first.
- Create Deadlines For Everything
Your To-Do list may have tasks and assignments that don’t have due dates. You can manage your To-Do list more effectively by adding a deadline for everything on it.
- Share Bad News Quickly
Don’t wait until the last minute to share bad news. Too often we wait until a deadline is upon us before talking about a problem, or asking for help. Communication is always important. Your boss and coworkers will appreciate a heads up and be better able to help, when they aren’t trying to put out a fire you created by not communicating.
Time has a way of fading memories, but I remember how hectic motherhood is, and how brutal the back-to-work transition can be on new working moms. Caring for my great niece while her moms got some much needed away time, I experienced first-hand how exhausting just feeding, changing, singing off key, and engaging in goofy behavior for a few hours can be. Yes, I did it years ago, but just thinking about adding a work schedule to the mix is overwhelming. You will feel challenged and overwhelmed, but by planning your return to work, developing new habits, and being mindful of others, you can eliminate some of the stress that accompanies it. As for me, I need to work on a few things before I volunteer to watch the precious peanut again, namely learning some new songs. I am so over The Five Little Ducks and The Wheels on the Bus.
Do you have any suggestions for new moms re-entering the workforce? Do you know a woman currently seeking job placement, and having difficulty because she’s a new mom? Did you have an experience with talent recruitment or HR that got it totally wrong for maternity leave? Do you have any tips or advice for new moms trying to find the right job? Share helpful hints, what you liked, didn’t like, and what you would like to see done in the future in the comments below. We look forward to hearing from you, and be sure to connect with us on Social Media!