Going Back to Work After Baby: Get the Job. Ditch the Guilt!
By Lambeth Hochwald
If you’re a new mom who is going back to work, we’re here for you. Read on as we walk you through some job-hunting strategies, how to smooth the transition once you’ve landed a new job and how to deal with ever-present new mom guilt.
Consider All Your Work Experience
If you’ve been out of the workforce for a while, you may not realize what skills you’ll be bringing to the table. Your first step: Make a list of 20 things you’re good at. “Think about all the experience you’ve accumulated since you’ve been home as well as the work you were doing before you had your baby,” suggests Stacia Pierce, a life coach in Orlando, Fla.
Don’t Undersell Yourself
Just because you’re a working mom doesn’t make you less valuable of an employee or less capable of handling all your responsibilities. In your cover letter, emphasize your strengths and your past accomplishments. “Working mothers are known for their capacity for work, ability to prioritize, productivity and their ability to improve team dynamics,” says Liana Downey, executive director of Liana Downey & Associates, a company that offers strategic advice to large governments and nonprofits — and a mother of two.
Prep for Your Interview
Once you’ve landed an interview, start prepping — even if you’re exhausted from those late-night feedings. “During your interview, you want to convey that you’re ready to return to work and that you’re excited to get back into the workforce,” says Pierce. To really impress, always take a few minutes to research the person you’re meeting with. “It’s so easy to Google the person beforehand,” says Pierce. “Look at her social media page to see what she’s working on or what she cares about and see if you can add that to the conversation.”
Map out Your Back-to-Work Strategy
Whether you’ve just accepted a job offer or you’re nearing the end of your maternity leave, it’s time to iron out all the details of your now-complicated schedule. “If it’s at all possible, target your start date for four to eight weeks in the future so that you can line up childcare and figure out breast pumping or formula issues,” suggests Lauren Napolitano, a licensed psychologist in Bryn Mawr, Pennsylvania. If you’re pumping, see if your workplace has a mother’s lounge or another quiet room that you can use regularly.
Try Some Test Runs
Even if you’re looking forward to being back in the office, mom guilt is inevitable. To help ease the transition, chat with as many other mothers as you can. “These moms are a great source of information and can tell you how they managed their guilt and anxiety about going back to work,” says Napolitano. Slowly practice spending time away from your baby to get used to your new arrangement. “Try a day out first,” suggests Napolitano. “This full day — or a few half days — can help your baby to transition to this arrangement, and it will ultimately help you to adjust to the idea of leaving your baby in the care of others.”
Focus on Polishing
Before that big first day, do a little image enhancement. “In the days leading up to your first day, prepare your outfit, adding an accessory or fresh blouse that makes you feel good about yourself,” says Pierce. “When you wear something new and fresh, it makes you walk taller and feel different. That energy gets across to a new employer.” Just check for spit-up on that new shirt collar before you head out the door.
Lambeth Hochwald is an editor and writer from New York. Her work has appeared in such publications and websites as Woman’s Day, Ladies’ Home Journal, Organic Spa and entrepreneur.com. She is also an adjunct professor of journalism at New York University.