Ahhhhh…. Maternity Leave. I can remember being nine months pregnant, ready to pop, and filled with pure excitement to be at home with my baby for twelve weeks. Twelve weeks of pure joy.
Little did I know what those weeks at home with a new baby would really be like. They are filled with anxiety, sleepless nights, countless feedings, changing diapers, and endless supplies of coffee. But even more difficult than taking care of a newborn baby, and that no one warns you about, is the absolute terror you feel the night before your maternity leave is over.
It is a difficult transition, going back to the working life of a teacher, with even more responsibilities – I mean you literally have a whole other human life to take care of, in addition to the thirty or so lives you are responsible for educating. It’s a tough balance. As a result, I’ve tried to compile a list of tips that helped me get through the transition from being at home with my baby to going back to teaching full time, feel free to add to my list:
1. Have confidence in your child care.
First, and most important, be 100% sure you are leaving your baby with someone you trust. Those first days back I was an emotional wreck. The only peace of mind I had was that my baby was with her grandma. I was totally confident in my mother’s ability to take care of her, and sometimes even though she was better with her than I was. I know not everybody has the luxury of having a family member to care for their children, and that’s why it’s important to research your options. Look into daycare centers and nannies carefully. Pay attention to details like the cleanliness of facilities, baby to teacher ratios, accreditations, etc. Once you’re back at work, it will take a lot of stress off of you if you have confidence in the care you have chosen for your baby.
2. Join a working parent group.
A lot of times just being able to vent with people who understand your frustrations can be so healing. These groups are also great because park district programs and non-working parent groups plan activities at 10:00 am on Tuesdays, which is not exactly convenient for working parents. If you can find a supportive network of parents who also work, you can set up play dates on the evenings and weekends, and get some tips from other parents who are also going through the difficult balance of working and parenting.
3. When you are teaching, talk about your kids.
I love sharing stories about my kids with my students. I bring in pictures and videos, and if I can incorporate something my daughter did or said into a lesson, I do it. My students love hearing about my kids, and it feels good to bring in that part of my life into the classroom. Show them off!
4. Start back slowly.
I remember after I had my first kid, I took my twelve weeks off and came back to work two weeks before spring break. It was a really great time to come back because I could look forward to spring break as my short-term goal. When I got back from spring break, I felt okay because we only had a few more months until summer. Not everybody has this luxury, but it helped to look forward to breaks. When you first come back, take it slow. If you can, come back on a day in the middle of the week, so the weekend is closer. It may take some time to get back into the 12-hour work day, and that’s okay. Remember, if something doesn’t get done during your contractual hours, then there is always tomorrow.
5. Remember that family comes first.
Before I had children, I rarely used my sick days. Now, if my daughter has a cough or cold or is just feeling miserable, I keep her home with me. It doesn’t happen a lot, but when it does happen – its okay. Do not feel guilty about staying home with your kids when they need you. This sounds obvious, but it is a hard lesson to learn, especially if you love what you do.
The first few days back are the most difficult. Find support from your coworkers who have been through it, and remember, as with most stages of parenting, this too shall pass and before you know it you’ll be planning for baby number two!