By Jennifer Farrell
Returning to work while you have an infant/toddler baby is most often described by moms as stressful, difficult, emotional and exhausting. How could it not be? Suddenly you're facing new challenges, having new experiences, taking on new responsibilities (above the already staggering ones you maintain as a parent). Returning to the work force is the time when you begin to formally assert your independence from the family unit, dole our responsibilities and give up some (but not all) of your control. Sound scary? It doesn't have to be. When you are prepared it can be exhilarating and exciting. Follow my plan for returning to work and you will slide back into the workforce with confidence and grace.
One Month before Returning to Work
- In conjunction with your employer and partner, choose your start date;
- After interviewing schools or daycare centers, choose the environment that works best for your infant or toddler;
- Make an appointment at your favorite salon for a week before your start date;
- Start thinking about house hold responsibilities, who will take on what and imagine how it will work (this will help you visualize potential problems and brainstorm functional solutions; a mom'ified version of risk management);and,
- Purchase a Mom Agenda Kitchen Folio  or Calendar  to track family schedules and appointments.
Two weeks before Returning to Work
Meet with your employer outside the office. Bring your Mom Agenda and a good pen (I recommend the new Sharpie Pen , its fantastic!). Determine back to work specifics such as:
- Hours of operations;
- Expected overtime;
- Meetings that might impact end of day pick-up at daycare; and,
- Vacation and Sick Day allowances.
If re-entering the same company
- Turn Over or New Employees (especially if they are yours);
- Pay Periods;
- Benefits (specifically how to add your child or spouse if not already added); and,
- Pension Plans.
Meet with your caregiver. Bring your child. This is an information gathering visit lasting about an hour.
- Bring your routine pre-printed in a legible font;
- Special instructions;
- Emergency numbers;
- Contracts to sign (if any); and,
- Discuss daily, weekly, or monthly rate. Pay Schedule. Receipts.
The Week before Returning to Work
Armed with the information provided by your employers and caregiver, hammer out a schedule with responsibilities for you and your partner including:
- Who will pack the diaper bag the night before?
- What time you will each get up in the morning?
- Who will have the shower and bathroom first?
- Who will get the baby up, dressed, fed and ready?
- Who will be responsible for baby drop off and pick up?
- Will the person picking up also make dinner for the family at the end of the day?
- Who will be responsible for baths and bedtime? (It is a good idea to dole out these end of day duties fairly. The person cooking and serving dinner should not also be responsible for giving baths and putting to bed. If you share these duties equally then each parent spends quality time with the baby and each parent gets some well deserved down time at the end of the day.)
Take the answers to these questions, assign responsibility, map it out on paper and stick it on the fridge or calendar. It doesn't matter where you put the routine as long as the family can see it every day for quick reference. Do a "dry run". Map your driving route. Remember that when you take this route in the morning, it will be during a high traffic timeframe. Brainstorm an alternate route using Google Maps. Spend half of your dry-run day with your daycare provider and your child.
Ensure you are at the daycare for when lunch is served and for nap time. Keep an open dialogue throughout the day posing questions as they come up, taking notes, and answering inquiries. Help your child become adjusted by introducing the other children (if possible) and spending time explaining to your child why you are there, what is going to happen and how they will be affected. If at all possible, leave your child after lunch for an hour to see how they adapt while you are gone.
Try not to feel guilty for speeding away to the mall with glee. Spend some time pampering yourself. Looking and feeling your best is going to give you the confidence you need to re-enter the workforce with panache. At your favorite store, find something new in your favorite color for the first week back. Enjoy the salon appointment you made a few weeks ago. Ask for a deep condition and a scalp massage. Feel your tension melt away. Check in with your employer to make sure nothing has changed in the weeks since you last met. This five minute courtesy call will be appreciated as it shows you are forward thinking about returning to work.
The Day before Returning to Work
- Call your caregiver to touch base. Discuss any changes to the schedule (if any).
- Call or email your employer to touch base and confirm morning arrival.
- Run over the next-day schedule with your partner, talk about everything, discuss potential pit-falls and strategize how to overcome problems.
- Enjoy your last day at home with your little one. Do something special to make the occasion, like a trip to your favorite museum, a mommy group play-date or a dip in the pool together.
- Have a bath after your baby has gone to bed. Enjoy a glass of wine and a good book or magazine. This will calm you.
- Lay out your clothes for the next day; choose your shoes, bag and accessories.
- Set your alarm 5 minutes before you need to get up.
- Go to bed early. Try not to worry. Remember, you are an organized super mom who has handled more pressing matters than this. You haven't forgotten anything, now drift off to sleep...
The First Day at Work
Your first day back at work should be stress-free and enjoyable. Instead of nervous anxiety, you will be filled with excited anticipation. You have covered all your bases, made a plan with your partner and discussed the changes with your child. You are coiffed, styled, wearing your new clothes and armed with your Mom Agenda. You have dropped your child off with minimal tears (for both of you) and are confident that you are doing the right thing for your family. You have already done the hard work, now to reap the benefits!
Jennifer Farrell lives in Ottawa, Canada and is mom to a one year old boy. She is a freelance writer and a business development specialist in the information technology industry. She is an avid blogger on Tales from Our Crib , a Mom Logic Network Affiliate. She is the editor for Mommy Matter, a writer for Type-A Mom and contributes to Mommy Track’d.