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4 helpful tips for moms returning to work

It's no secret that having a baby is hard work. And for working mothers, maternal duties need to fit into the framework of their careers. While maternity leave offers moms some time to get things in order, it often feels like it's over in the blink of an eye - one minute, you're changing diapers, and the next you're researching the latest business trends. The transition from new motherhood back to work can be a shock to the system, but these four tips can help simplify the process. 

1. Plan ahead 
Pregnancy might seem like it's all about planning, but taking care of the logistics ahead of time will make life much easier once your baby comes into the world. Most of you prep time is likely devoted to baby-proofing your house and choosing the right first name for your bundle of joy, but it's vital that you set some time aside to focus on preparing for your eventual return to the office. First, make sure you understand your workplace's maternity leave policy, as they differ between companies. Speak to a human resources professional if you have any concerns about time, pay or other features of the policy. 

If you're allowed flexibility in planning your maternity leave, U.S. News & World Report advised always taking a minimum of six weeks off. The source explained that returning to the job within a month of giving birth doesn't give you enough time to recover physically, bond with the baby and adjust to a new routine and lifestyle. 

"Map out what you'd like your return to look like."

The news source also recommended mapping out what you'd like your return to the office to look like. For example, you may want to start telecommuting more often, or you may need to work outside the traditional 9-to-5 professional framework. Perhaps you'd even like to rejoin your organization in a different capacity that would be more conducive to your requirements as a new mother. Set up a meeting with your manager midway through your pregnancy to discuss how your return will go.

2. Secure reliable childcare 
Unfortunately you can't bring baby to the office every day, so you need to iron out childcare plans you feel comfortable with. In fact, a recent ProOpinion poll revealed that nearly 50 percent of people believe that securing reliable childcare is the most helpful thing a mother can do for herself when she's planning to return to work. Depending on your budget and resources, you have a few options in this department.

Many working mothers leave their babies with friends or relatives who can watch them during the day. While you'd rather have your baby with you or your partner from 9 to 5, you'll still feel extremely comfortable knowing your little one is in the capable hands of a parent, sibling or close friend. Idealist Mom noted that sending your baby to a daycare near your work or house is another good option. Of course, you'll have to shop around carefully to find a daycare you feel comfortable with that's also in your price range. It's a good idea to speak with other women who've made this decision before, as they can likely offer firsthand insight into what works and what doesn't. 

Plan as much as possible during your pregnancy for a smoother transition post-maternity leave.Plan as much as possible during your pregnancy for a smoother transition post-maternity leave.

3. Stay organized 
Handling a new baby and a full-time career means you're overseeing a lot of moving parts. To prevent things from getting too hectic, you need to focus on staying organized, both physically and mentally. Idealist Mom recommended stocking up on essentials before your maternity leave ends. If you're breastfeeding, consider getting a pump, a nice pump bag and extra nursing pads to keep at your desk. You may also want to update your workspace with baby pictures and congratulatory cards so you can see them throughout your workday. 

As you transition into your new routine, you'll inevitably find it difficult to manage household chores on top of everything else. Idealist Mom suggested simplifying meals by cooking a few big dishes on Saturday or Sunday, dividing them into smaller portions and freezing them. That way, you'll only have to pop lunch and dinner into the microwave when hunger strikes. 

You may also want to practice your new work schedule a few times before maternity leave is over. Set your alarm, go through the motions of getting ready and commute to the office one day. Not only will this remind your body and mind what it's like to live on a 9-to-5 schedule, but it will give you an opportunity to see what you need to fix about your morning routine now that you have a baby. What worked pre-maternity leave might be totally wrong for your new lifestyle. 

4. Ease back into professional life 
While you'll be physically present at work once maternity leave ends, it might take you a while to get there mentally and emotionally. Especially within the first few days, your brain may be focused on family instead of work.

"The first day back is going to be very difficult, whether you're out for six weeks or 16, and no matter how prepared you are,"Jeanne Conry, physician with The Permanente Medical Group in Roseville, California, and past president of the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists , told U.S. News & World Report. 

Most likely, your colleagues will be aware that you'll need some extra time to get completely back into the swing of things, but there may be some people in your office who won't realize how trying the transition can be. Communicate clearly with your team, and let them know that you're still trying to get organized and settle into your new role as a mother. If you feel overwhelmed at work, don't be afraid to discuss your concerns with your manager. Allowing work to pile up while you get a handle on your personal life will only cause you more stress, so be sure to address office issues as they arise. 

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