Last week was my first “week” back after a year “vacation” caring for my second tiny human. Granted a three-day week, I’m so grateful for the gentle reintroduction to the working world (3 day weeks; oh the hardship); it was a really great start.
I thought I’d share a few tips to help other mommas and poppas returning to work after parental leave:
- Ask for a graduated return. Whether that’s fewer days per week or shorter days or more breaks in the day, ask for it. You’ll be amazed at what you’re employer may be willing to do. And if they say no, maybe it gives you the space to consider if this is the employer for you. Oh, and make sure you maintain those boundaries. If you have to leave at 4 PM, leave. Work hard. Leave when you need to.
- Plan and freeze your meals. Make some delicious one-pot meals (e.g. butter chicken, soup, curry, etc.) and freeze those puppies. Take out container in morning. Re-heat at night. Don’t be Bobby Flay this week or month; just chill your butt and enjoy the crock or insta pot that is your new and forever friend.
- Be lazy with kid meals. Keep it simple. Don’t do lavish meals for the bambinos (they won’t eat it anyways…). Have freezer ready or easy-to-prep meals in the fridge. Here are my usual suspects: toast, grilled cheese, cheesy pasta, carrot sticks, eggs, toast, fish sticks (gasp…don’t even pretend you don’t do freezer foods), waffles, chicken nuggets (not homemade), smoothies, cereal, oh, and toast (yes, I’ve said it three times). Can we please stop food-shaming ourselves? Sometimes we are our own worst enemies when it comes to feeding our kids.
- Get your sexy on. Put your PJs on as soon as you enter your house. Don’t delay – get those work clothes off and let the elastic band / stretch zone take over.
- Lay on the ground & play with your kids. Don’t do anything other than lay on the ground when you get home and listen to the microwave heat up your food.
- Don’t be a superhero. Minimize your plans. Keep weeknights and weekends simple for the next month or so. Try not to overextend as you find your new balance.
- Don’t just sit at your desk. Take time in your workday for a 10-20 minute activity break. I try to walk to work as much as possible and man, does it start the day off right. Find time to get your blood pumping during the workday (or you could have sex at night if you’re not too tired…but you might need sleep…at least for the first week).
- Sleep in separate rooms. If your partner snores or generally drives you nuts at night and you don’t get a good sleep, just sleep in separate rooms and join the club. Who cares what people think – hint, don’t tell them. Sleep is life and you need your mother f***ing life force in full swing with work and family.
- Get up early. My children wake me at the a** crack of dawn (4:30-5:00 AM usually) which gives me a TON of time in the morning for extra snuggles, coffee, showering, prepping and generally lazing about. I don’t recommend that hour, but I do recommend giving yourself more time in the morning for snuggles and an incredibly relaxed egress from your house (it’s so worth it).
- Channel your inner air traffic controller. Make a plan with your partner for the day. Who’s doing drop-off? Who’s doing pick-up? When do you need alone time? When can you hang out together? My husband are really working on carving out intentional time for us, while ensuring we enjoy time to ourselves. It’s hard as hell. Let’s be honest about how hard it is to a) make the plan, b) stick to it and c) be kind to each other in its execution.
I’m sure next week I’ll be writing about something dramatic about how my well laid plans have gone down the tube. Yet, for now, I want to share a few straightforward and honest tips that have helped our family through week one.
What are some of the strategies you’ve employed to help transitions? How have you helped your family to thrive? I’d love to learn more and share your ideas.