4 Survival Strategies
6. Be proactive. If you want to continue breastfeeding after you return to work, find out in advance where you can pump, and plan when you'll do it. Talk to your boss and let her know that you'll be taking scheduled breaks to do this. Bear in mind that you may not always be able to stick to the schedule you devise. "Make sure you wear breast pads," advises Stephanie Dedeau. This could spare you the embarrassment (and dry cleaning bill) of leaking when you can't pump on time.
7. Make time for yourself. How can you possibly manage to do your work, take care of your baby, and still have some personal time? It's not easy, especially in the first months back on the job. But you need to recharge. Have your husband watch the baby while you go to the gym or out for a cup of coffee. Or better yet, meet a friend who is also a working mom; talking to other women who are in the same boat will help you feel less alone.
Also, make your commute time count. During her 45-minute subway ride to work, Anne Gunn reads, does the New York Times crossword puzzle, and sometimes calls a friend on her cell phone. "It makes me feel like a person -- like I can have just a part of my life back," she says.
8. Stay connected. Once her maternity leave was over, Stephanie Dedeau admits that she felt left out of her daughter's day. "I talked about it with my husband," who works part-time and is their baby's primary caregiver. "Now he calls me a couple of times a day just to let me know how things are going. Even if I'm not at my desk, my husband and baby leave me messages."
As your baby gets older, you can even talk directly to him. "Every day, my son Randy gets on the phone with me when he returns from preschool," says Robin Bluman. "I tell him, 'When Mommy's not with you, I'm always in your head and in your heart.'" Randy also commands a big presence in her office, albeit in picture form. "I always have pictures of Randy in my office," says Robin. "When I get stressed at work, I look at them and think, This is what I'm doing it for -- my family."
9. Realize this is temporary. Your baby's a keeper, but the chaos and heartbreak won't be. As just about any working mom will tell you, the first month is the most challenging. "It sounds a little sad, but you get used to being away from your kid," says Julie Bernstein, a communications director in Washington, D.C. You also learn that you don't have to be with your child every minute for him to feel loved and to have a great day. Once you get into a groove, you can take pride in being the multifaceted woman you are -- a hardworking professional and a loving, engaged parent.
Lauren Picker is a writer in New York City and the mother of two.
Originally published in American Baby magazine.