There’s no book to prepare you for all of the things you’ll have to figure out when returning from maternity leave. Here are five things that will help you regain your work sense of self and then some.

1. Take it easy on yourself

In every way, you need to be kind to yourself. More so than you ever have. The way you’ve seen most people reference this period of time in their life on social media or in passing conversation is likely nowhere close to the reality. Don’t hold your reality up to someone else’s edited picture.

Give yourself time to adjust to your new day-to-day in the context of your job, your relationship and as a parent, because you’ll feel it in different ways for each.

2. Advocate for yourself

One of the hardest things can be asking for what you need to make your new normal work. Talk to your boss and try to come to an agreement that would work both for your family and for the company.

3. It’s okay to be selfish sometimes

Aim to find a way to keep some of your interests in the mix in your limited free time. Your interests bring value to both your career and your family. This likely won’t be an immediate priority anymore, but it’s something worth addressing in time.

4. Admitting that you’re struggling isn’t a sign of weakness 

It takes extreme strength to be honest with yourself. Every case is somewhat different, of course.

Navigating how to re-acclimate yourself into the workplace, redefining your personal sense of self, working on accepting your body image post-baby, or losing that minute-by-minute access to your child’s milestones. It is a lot at once. These struggles are totally fine.

Beyond fine, they are completely normal.

5. Don’t do it alone 

You should have your own form of a support network. Learn to say yes (to help, when offered) and no (to invites, when they become too much).

You can do this. No one has it fully figured out for that first day back at work (or even those first three months) and, in time, you’ll have this under control, too. Promise.

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