7 Tips for Returning To Work After Parental Leave

By Indeed Editorial Team

Updated June 7, 2022 | Published December 12, 2019

Updated June 7, 2022

Published December 12, 2019

Related: Job Cast: Job Search Tips for Parents and Caregivers Returning to the Workforce

Tune in for this virtual workshop to learn how to lean into your caregiving with pride and present yourself as the leader that you are in order to continue your career.

Returning to work after parental leave ends can be both a gift and a challenge. Many new parents grapple with a number of emotions as they try to find the balance between work life and home life with a new child. All of these complicated feelings and responsibilities can make the transition seem overwhelming but it doesn’t have to be. 

In this article, we’ll discuss practical strategies for making your transition back to work easier after parental leave.

Advice for going back to work after parental leave

If you’ve been on family leave and are preparing to return to work, the idea of working may come with a number of complicated emotions as you begin to navigate all the things you have to do in advance of your return. 

After all, the primary focus of many new parents is to create an environment where the new baby can thrive by providing nutrition, hygiene and other needs. It can be a challenge to release those responsibilities to another caretaker and return to work where you’re expected to operate efficiently and have all the skills needed for the job to be as fresh as the day you left.

Finding the balance between caring for your infant and going back to work after parental leave doesn’t have to be overwhelming. Here are some suggestions for returning to work that may make your journey a little easier:

1. Make formal plans to return

Among the stressors of returning to work is acknowledging that your morning and evening routines will be new and different than the ones you had before you left for family leave. Life with a new baby sometimes requires a myriad of logistical planning that includes not just waking up and attending to your needs, but taking care of the baby’s needs while simultaneously preparing yourself for the workday.

Related: 8 Steps for Reentering the Workforce After a Long Absence

You can eliminate this stressor by planning out the details of your new routine in advance. Here are things to consider:

  • What does morning and evening child care require? For example, if you plan to take your baby to a day care facility that takes 20 minutes to get to, you should account for that time in your morning commute.

  • What things need to be done before you leave? This could be anything from feeding your infant to packing a day care diaper bag and making sure you include an extra pair of clothes and plenty of diapers. All of these things take time and creating a morning schedule can help take off some of the pressure of going back to work after parental leave.

  • How will dinners be handled during the week? If you’re normally the one responsible for preparing dinner for the rest of your family, it may be time to recruit the help of another family member. Other options include meal-planning and having a weekly pizza or take-out night to eliminate some of the stress.

  • Where and when will you pump? If you’re a mother who plans on breastfeeding through your return to work, try reaching out to your employer to ensure they have a designated pumping area set up for your before you return.

Addressing some of these otherwise open-ended questions can be reassuring and empowering for a new parent returning to the workplace.

Related: The Best Excuses To Leave Work Early

2. Reconnect with your office and introduce your baby

In advance of returning to work, it’s a good idea to reconnect with the office and give them a chance to meet the new addition to your family. You can reconnect in a number of ways:

  • Email: Ask a manager to send an email to the team, including a photo of you with your baby, and whatever information you want to include to introduce your child and prepare for a warm welcome.

  • Video chat: On a smaller scale, you can video chat with your manager or a small group of select employees to get them acquainted with your baby.

  • In-person: Finally, if possible, consider bringing your baby into the office for a few minutes on a workday. Reach out to your manager and see if it’s okay for you both to drop in for a few minutes before you return to get reacquainted with the office.

Performing these actions introduces your coworkers to a new part of your life and reminds everyone you’ll be returning to your position soon.

Related: The Best Ways To Get Along With Coworkers (With 10 Tips)

3. Anticipate your child care needs and do a trial run

Child care is one of the more difficult challenges for those returning to work. New parents have to consider a number of factors like quality, cost, schedule and whether or not they’re looking to use a day care facility, home day care or to leave their child in the care of a family member or friend.

Whatever you choose, schedule a trial run. That is a full day of day care for your infant before you actually have to return to work. This way you get the initial anxiety of dropping off your baby out of the way before your first day back at work, and you can ensure that the child care you’ve chosen makes both practical and logistical sense.

Also, consider using that “free day” to indulge in self-care.

Related: 37 Child Care Interview Questions (With Example Answers)

4. Return gradually or work from home

If your work offers flexible options to return to work in the office gradually or to work from home, that’s something to consider. 

Some jobs that are largely digital can be done remotely. They may offer opportunities for you to come back part-time, at first, with increasing responsibility as you get back into the regular work routine. Other jobs might have the infrastructure to allow you to become a fully remote employee.

If that’s something you’re interested in, think about talking to your manager. To prepare for this conversation, research the benefits of remote work and offer to start by working remotely in small bursts while on parental leave until you’re ready to return fully in a remote capacity.

Read More: Q&A: What Is Telecommuting?

5. Find support from other working parents

Sometimes between caring for your family and being an effective employee, finding support can feel like a real challenge because it becomes hard to relate to people who aren’t going through the same kinds of things that you are. When this occurs, it may be time to expand your network by reaching out to other working parents. There are a number of ways to do this successfully.

One way is to ask other working parents in your office if they’d like to start a “working parents” group that meets for lunch (if something like this doesn’t already exist in your workplace). Another option is to use online resources like social media and group finder websites to see if other parents in your area might also be looking for support. Your local resources like hospitals, doctor’s offices and non-profits may also have information on support groups that cater to working parents.

Related: 29 Family-Friendly Positions for Working Parents

6. Set aside a check-in break

A behavior that can help ease the transition period after returning is setting aside a specific time each day to take a break and check in with your child’s caretaker. Some day care facilities will even text you pictures of your child throughout your workday. Talk with your child’s care provider and see what options are available for you.

7. Mentally prepare with these strategies for positive thinking

Being mentally prepared for going back to work after parental leave is a difficult challenge, but parents can get through it by making a few tweaks to thoughts and behaviors. First, once back at your desk, it’s natural to have moments where you think, “I have to quit.”

For many working parents, leaving their job is not an option, however. Work through those moments by listing the benefits of your job (and don’t forget to include your pay as a major pro).

Create another list of what you bring to the workplace that’s distinct and unique. This will help you to realize your own value at work. Understand that you’re going through a transition period in life, and these feelings will lessen with time. Consider celebrating all small work milestones. This can include sending your first proposal after returning or creating a new marketing campaign idea.

Another tactic for dispelling negative thoughts about working is to look at returning to your career path as an opportunity rather than a problem. As a parent, you’ve begun to develop a new set of skills that will surely help you in the workplace. These soft skills include organization, planning, multi-tasking and dedication to service, to name a few. Going back to work offers you the opportunity to display your new skills in your old role.

Remember to be kind to yourself during this process. Parenting and working are both rewarding challenges that require a lot from you. Being gentle with yourself when the demands get tough is an excellent way to change your mindset.

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