Congratulations, new mom! Whether you are returning to work after your first child or your last, you’ve made a decision that many mothers struggle with: stay home with the kids or go back to work? In the cleared world, maternity leave is often non-existent or extremely short at best, so how do you throw yourself back into the working world when you’re pretty sure you haven’t had enough time to throw yourself together? It’s certainly not easy, but there are a few steps you can take to make the transition as painless as possible:

1. find great childcare.

Who is going to care for your child while you are working? There are many options – child care centers, state-certified in-home day care facilities, nannies, nanny shares and family caregivers are a few. Researching your options, asking the right questions, interviewing caregivers, seeing how your child responds to potential caregivers and deciding which option is best for you and your child will allow you to return to work with the confidence that comes with knowing your child is in the BEST care while you are away.

2. Don’t lose it.

You’re likely to return to work before your emotions have time to process the many directions in which you will be pulled as a woman with more than one full time job. At work you’ll have to show that you are no less capable of completing your tasks while at home you’ll wonder how you ever thought you didn’t have time for something before becoming a parent. Building a network of fellow moms, especially fellow working moms, can be a life saver and offer you a support structure that you won’t find at work or at home.

3. Have a plan.

And a back-up plan. Once you return to work, you’ll probably see an increase in your productivity. There’s that old adage that says, “If you want something done, ask a busy person.” While you are busy being productive, it will be wise to always have a back-up plan for when those unplanned calls from your caregiver reach you. If you have to suddenly leave to tend to a sick child, or take an unexpected day of leave because your caregiver has caught an illness or has had an emergency in the family, you’ll want to have a plan in place. Tight deadline? Meet it as early as you can. Big presentation? Make sure your audience can be flexible or trust a colleague to carry on in your absence.

4. Manage expectations.

It is wise to do this regularly regardless of your situation, but returning from maternity leave is great opportunity to sit with your boss and have a discussion about what is expected of you and what role you play in your team. Make it known the contributions you want to make. You made an important decision to go back to work- make it worth your while. Show your boss and your team that you are committed, reenergized and ready for whatever challenges come your way.

5. Determine where your career will take you.

It doesn’t have to be anywhere, if that is ok with you. Now that you are on the career-mom versus the stay-at-home-mom track, take time to really think about where your career will go from here. You undoubtedly will have personal obligations to consider from here forward, so determine what YOU want out of your career before someone else makes that decision for you. The work from home job that you once dreaded for fear of becoming an ‘unknown’ within your company may suddenly become ideal for your situation. The job transfer that would have wreaked havoc on your social life may now present a better cost of living scenario for your new family. Whatever it may be, you’ll see your career from a different perspective. Remember, the future of that career belongs to you.

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