How to Prepare for Returning to Work After Parental Leave

woman holding infant during remote work video call

Welcoming a baby into the world comes with a lot of changes. Some may feel easier to navigate than others, including returning to work. Whether you are intending to return to work full time or part time, going back to your professional life after having a baby can be a big adjustment. By preparing ahead, you can reduce stress and anxiety you might have and focus on both your work and your family.

Here are some important things to consider as you get ready to return to work.

Talk to your partner

Finding a balance between work and family life can be challenging for all parents, but it’s especially important for new parents. In the weeks before you plan to return to work, find space and time to have an open conversation with your partner about returning to work. Discuss how you are feeling, how to manage a new schedule, and what it means for your responsibilities at home and childcare. Work together to set realistic expectations for your new day-to-day. One topic to consider is how can you plan ahead for unexpected doctor appointments? Or childcare emergencies?  

You won’t be able to plan for everything. Find ways to stay connected during this transition.  Continue to check in with each other and take it day by day.  

Talk to your boss and HR department

While you are on leave, speak to your boss and/or HR department about your return date and how you might manage expectations if you manage a team.  

Discuss your new schedule, and if there is any flexibility, particularly if you work in a remote or hybrid position. Consider travel time if you have a new commute. If you will be pumping during the workday, find out where you can do so comfortably.      

It’s also important to know what resources are available to you. Some organizations have return to work programs, may offer employee resource groups designed for new parents, and have designated rooms for pumping. Be sure to discuss your benefits and any policies with your boss and HR team.  

Practice your new routine

If you can, try to practice your new routine at least a week before you are set to return to work. Whether your baby is going to childcare, or you might have someone coming to the home, plan a trial day so everyone can get used to the new routine. If you are working from home, organize your workspace. If you are planning for a commute, consider a practice run, especially if you have a childcare stop along the way.  

Consider what you might wear (especially if you are pumping). Pack your bags ahead of time and carve out a few minutes of reflection as you adjust to this new normal.   

Lean on your village

This can be a big adjustment, especially if you are a first-time parent. It’s important to remember you aren’t alone and many parents have been through the same experience. Find ways to stay connected with your friends and family. Lean on your support network. Schedule a date with a friend, reach out to a colleague, join your organization’s employee resource groups, or tap into parenting groups in your area. Other parents can offer perspective and advice throughout this experience.     

Give yourself grace

Remember this is a major life milestone and it is important to give yourself some grace. Many new parents experience a range of emotions and that is totally normal. It’s okay to feel sad, happy, guilty, and anxious all at the same time. It might change from day to day too. You won’t be able to do everything you did before you had a baby, so find balance where you can. Remember to be honest with yourself about your needs and take care of yourself first.