Just as you're getting used to being home with your baby and your work life feels like a distant memory, you realize that your maternity leave is coming to an end. The thought of waking up at 6 a.m. and racing off to a job after being up all night with a crying baby seems impossible. And then there's the guilt: How can you spend so much time away from your infant?
No matter how long and hard you've thought about your decision to return to work, and how sure you are that it's the right choice, you need to be prepared for mixed emotions. "You might feel guilty about leaving your baby in someone else's care -- or you might feel guilty about being eager to go back to your old life," says Karol Ladd, coauthor of The Frazzled Factor: Relief for Working Moms. Although you'll inevitably encounter a few bumps along the way, these five tips will make heading back to work a little less stressful.Practice Your New Routine
It's bound to take a while to learn to balance your new roles -- and you'll do so more quickly if your daily routine is efficient and well organized. The best way to make sure your new schedule will work? Do a couple of practice runs the week before you're due back at the office. If possible, arrange for your child care to start a week or so early so that you can try out your routine -- and get used to parting with your baby. Make sure you set your alarm extra early your first week back to give yourself time to work out any kinks in your schedule. And don't forget to come up with a good backup plan for days when your baby (or your babysitter) is sick.Get as Much Rest as You Can
One of the biggest complaints of working moms is sheer exhaustion -- and when you're overtired it's much easier to fall to pieces. Your own sleep needs should take priority over doing another load of laundry or cleaning up the kitchen. And have your husband pitch in whenever possible. Because you'll be getting up so early, you should aim to get to bed earlier too. Sticking to a 9 p.m. bedtime helped Heather Hill, of DeWitt, Michigan, get enough rest before her son Connor was sleeping through the night. "I woke up for the 2 a.m. feeding, and by that time, I'd had about five hours of sleep with a few more hours still ahead," says the mother of Sean, 6 years, and Connor, 10 months.