Returning From Parental Leave as Your Best Self

The day you’ve been dreading has finally arrived. Even if you’re jonesing to go back to work, returning from parental leave is a huge transition. It doesn’t matter whether you are a new mother or father, or whether you are a birth or an adoptive parent. The adjustment can be tough. Not only are you leaving your child for the first time, but you’re introducing the new-parent version of yourself to the professional version. These two personalities need to meet, shake hands and figure out how to work together. Just as you had to adapt to life with a baby, you’ll now need to adjust to being a working parent.

The truth is, returning from parental leave is difficult. Here are a few tips for easing your way into being a working parent.

Be Patient With Yourself

Your mind has been focused on one thing and one thing only: your child. Now you’ll have to shift that focus to make time for work, as well. Yes, you know your job, but returning from parental leave and finding a new normal takes some time. Tasks that you may have completed quickly before may take longer. You might feel your concentration is suffering (you’re missing your baby, after all!), but if you’re patient with yourself, everything will even out over time.

Understand That You’ve Changed

You won’t be the same employee you were before having a baby, and that’s OK. You haven’t lost anything. You’ve gained and grown. You may not be the first person in the door in the morning and the one to lock up at night anymore, but your time management skills are probably the best they’ve ever been.

Ask for Help

Your coworkers are happy to have you back. If you need a little assistance while you adjust, let your peers and supervisor know and don’t struggle silently. If no one knows how to help, or that you even need it, they won’t offer any! You’re likely going to be harder on yourself than anyone else in your office. You’re probably doing an excellent job navigating this new territory, so give yourself the credit you deserve and reach out when you need to.

Actively Seek Joy

When you’re sleep-deprived and the entire world around you feels different from how it was just months before, find moments of joy in the small things that uplift you. This can be a compliment from a coworker, a midday indulgent snack, a weekend nap or even running errands alone. The happier you are, the better parent and coworker you’ll be.

Embrace Adult Conversation

It’s often difficult to admit how starved you are for adult conversation when you’re on parental leave. When you get back to work, revel in the conversations, whether they be water-cooler small talk or discussions about big picture strategies.

Strategize and Organize

Are you worried about finances now that your baby requires childcare? Returning from parental leave is a great time to take a look at your employee benefits. The birth or adoption of a child is considered a qualifying event, which means you can update your health insurance and beneficiaries and look into a dependent care Flexible Spending Account to help cover the cost of day care.

Returning to work after taking parental leave can be an adjustment, but by embracing the ways you’ve changed, being kind to yourself, asking for help when you need it and seeking out small moments of joy and adult conversation, you’ll be in a great position to be your best self at work — and at home.

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