Lansinoh Moms' Club

Five Tips For Returning From Maternity Leave During COVID-19

Mom with baby using laptop

The COVID-19 pandemic has completely upended work-life balance for parents. With many schools and daycare centers still closed and parents faced with decisions about keeping children home for the time being, there is a lot to work through. At the same time, many office jobs have transitioned to full-time work from home (with no end in sight).

But what if you’re becoming a working parent for the first time during the pandemic? Read on for tips on how to make the already-difficult transition back to work from maternity leave in such an unusual and challenging time—in a way that still works for your family.

1. Think about household tasks. Caring for a newborn full time and working full time is no easy task. Throw in taking care of a house that is more lived-in than usual, and it’s a recipe for overwhelm and burnout. If you’re sharing tasks with a partner, have conversations (yes, conversations, plural) about how to best divvy up everything that needs to be done. If you are both working from home, divide up tasks that can be shared (making bottles, changing diapers, doing laundry and dishes), taking into account any time you spend breastfeeding or other tasks that truly only you can do. You also may need to reevaluate your own expectations about what “needs” to get done.

2. Set work boundaries and stick to them. If you are splitting the workday with a partner, be very clear with your colleagues and clients about when you are available and when you aren’t. Block your calendar and consider putting a note in your email signature or an out-of-office auto-response on during that time so clients and co-workers get the reminder. “Carve out some designated time in your day when you are truly only supposed to be working,” says Lori Mihalich-Levin, author of Back to Work after Baby: How to Plan and Navigate a Mindful Return from Maternity Leave. “Your partner isn’t allowed to wander in with the baby during that designated work time. And yes, you can wear noise canceling headphones.” But also carve out dedicated time out for your baby, she says. “Feeling like we’re meant to be in two places at the exact same time is the greatest source of guilt, and time-blocking with clear boundaries helps alleviate that internal struggle.”

3. Be proactive in reaching out to your colleagues and work friends. Mihalich-Levin advises women to ask their supervisors, direct reports, and project team members two questions: “What did I miss? and How can I help now?” to avoid having to waste time digging through an email backlog. Let your colleagues catch you up and get you to work right away on what’s most productive. Bonus if you can have these conversations over video chat, so that you reconnect face-to-face as well.

4. Block time on your calendar. Even if baby is home with you, you can use that time to pump, nurse, or eat. Use the time to give structure to your day, and set the expectation now that that time is blocked so you’re prepared for the return to the office. Consider also blocking focused work time; virtual meetings are taking up more and more of the workday as teams try to stay connected, but the work still has to get done at some point, and your time is limited.

5. Remember, this isn’t forever. While many things are uncertain right now, it can feel overwhelming to focus on the big picture. Yes, eventually your baby will grow out of this newborn phase, and yes, probably, you will return to working in the office in some capacity. But in the meantime, counsels Mihalich-Levin, “Focus only on today. Draw your time horizon way in and figure out how you’re going to get through tomorrow. Only tomorrow. …That will be enough.”

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