Going back to work after baby
As printed in BAMBI Magazine, April 26, 2020
Heading back to work after maternity leave can bring a mixed bag of emotions and a new set of challenges. Take this advice from a mother who has gone back to work and make your own transition to being a working mom smoother.
By Sheena Flannery
It’s easier said than done, but taking care of yourself is an important part of being a happy working mum.
So you finally got the hang of this motherhood thing, and all of a sudden your maternity leave is over and you have to show up in the office and pretend you have it all together for eight hours a day.
Some would like to ditch their job and be a stay at home mum for life, for others, going back to work is a blessing. Whichever one you are, leaving baby at home with a nanny or at daycare is daunting. Starting a new routine and finding a new rhythm is scary.
Whether you are excited or devastated to go back to work, this article will help you feel more prepared for some of the practicalities.
Your newfound working mum status will have you juggling multiple schedules: work meetings, deadlines, play-dates, lunches, presentations, shopping lists, date night, alone time and and and… Making your schedule work will take up a lot of your time. The mental load is real and it is hard to manage the logistics of a family while you are juggling a job as well.
What can help:
- Make lists, write things down, create a to-do list if needed
- Build a schedule, write it down and hang it up on the fridge if needed
- Delegate to other members of your household
- Ask for help – other mums and colleagues have been in the same situation before and might have some good tips
Pro tip: don’t forget to schedule some me-time into your calendar. It’s easier said than done, but taking care of yourself is an important part of being a happy working mum.
What to expect from your employer
The labour law in Thailand does not foresee any special treatment for mums who rejoin the workforce after maternity leave. Unlike the United States or other countries, there is also no legal requirement to allow employees extra time to pump during working hours. However, many employers in Thailand are understanding and flexible and will allow you to pump during work hours, as long as it does not interfere with your productivity.
Some other things to consider
Could you work from home one day a week? Go home during lunch to feed baby? It’s best if you have these conversations with your employer before you go on maternity leave or before you return to work.
Pro tip: To ease the transition, start your first week on a Wednesday or Thursday so you have a weekend coming up after just a couple of days.
Pumping at work is probably one of the most daunting elements of going back to work.
While there is an endless amount of gear and gadgets, there are really only few things you absolutely need:
- A good pump: If you are going to be pumping long-term in the office, you need a double electric pump. Spectra or Medela are popular choices. There are new generation wearable pumps like the Elvie and Willow which are true game-changers for pumping mums. They have some quirks and are very pricey (also not available in Thailand, so you will have to have someone bring them over from the UK or US for you).
- Manual hand-pump: Have one on hand and keep it in the office in case your pump breaks or you forget something.
- A nursing cover: Yes, we’ve spent months liberating our boobs and ourselves and breastfeeding in public at every chance, and here I’m recommending to use those hideous things. These covers are actually extremely practical to help cover-up in the office while you’re sticking your bottles or pump into your bra in your glass door office/meeting room.
- Cooling bag with ice pack: A simple insulated cooling bag with an ice pack for the journey home with your pumped milk will do.
- The Center of Disease Control (CDC) recommends that you wash your parts in hot soapy water and air dry after each use. You can sterilise the parts once a day in the evening.
Pro-tip: Have a spare set of parts for your pump in your office drawer. You never know when something will break or when you will forget a vital part of your pump at home.
You should pump when the baby eats. So if at home your baby would eat at 10am, 1pm and 4pm, you need to pump at those times while you are away. Every time baby has a bottle of milk, you need to be pumping to replenish that bottle. Set a meeting in your work calendar and make sure it’s clear you are busy at those times and cannot attend other meetings.
Pro tip: Watch some baby videos while you are pumping, they help with the letdown!
If you hired a nanny, make sure she starts a couple of weeks before you return to work. This gives your baby and the nanny enough time to get to know each other. The nanny can learn the schedule and understand what you like and what you want done and what not.
If you decide on daycare, then you should proceed the same way and let your baby spend some time in daycare and get them used to staying there gradually.
Pro tip: Ask your nanny or daycare to share some photos with you during the day so you see what baby is up to.
This one deserves its own article and I will not try to do it justice in this short note. Yet, I will say that trying to carve out some me-time is critical to your happiness. While that might seem impossible in the beginning, try with small chunks of just a few minutes first.
Pro tip: Try to be present when you are at work, and present when you are at home.
Returning to work in COVID-19 times:
With Coronavirus still at our doorstep at the time of writing, we don’t know what returning to work will look like once we are on the other side of this pandemic. You might not be going to an office and could possibly be working from home. No matter where you will be asked to do your job from, the ground rules don’t change:
- Set a schedule and stick to it. Include lunch and coffee breaks so you get enough time to rest
- Set your pump or feeding schedule in your calendar, book the time slot so no one else can book you for those times
- Create an office space where you can concentrate and are not disturbed
- Enjoy those extra snuggles in your (scheduled) breaks