Going back to work after maternity leave is bittersweet at best. At worst, it’s a total emotional and logistical trainwreck. For me, twice, it was a little bit of everything, all at once, in ill-fitting work clothes on not enough sleep.
But in my experience, the anticipation was far worse than the reality. Ticking down the days of maternity leave was dreadful. Looking at the calendar made me feel ill. But once I was going through the motions to get us all out the door that first day back, I realized there was only one way to go: into my office.
I didn’t cry when I dropped either of my kids off at daycare for the first time. Maybe I’m a callous monster, but I didn’t even feel that sad. And if I’m being totally honest, I very rarely miss them when I’m at work.
Part of it’s because I love my job and the people I work with. But more of it is because I have confidence in the care my kids get when I’m away. That makes it easy for me to give 100% of my attention to work when I’m there.
I’m no pro, but here are the things that make it so much easier for me to drop off a preschooler and an infant every morning:
- I did my homework on daycare centers. I used Parent Aware’s resources and checklists to make it easy.
- We did a couple test runs – short trial days for the babes, who of course did fine, which made me feel better for the real event. It also helped us practice loading everything up and performing the miracle that is getting everyone into the car in the morning.
- I do the old get-as-much-as-possible-done-the-night-before thing, packing everything up and having it ready to rock. I’ve found having multiple sets of things is so helpful. For example, double the bottles means some can dry while others are staged up in the diaper bag.
- We picked a daycare in a great location: on the way to work, but still close to home for those days I’m working from home or a different location (or forget something, oops!).
- We know what kind of updates we get and how. I know some people like to know when their kids nap and eat and poop down to the minute. Knowledge is power! Except for me, it’s a one-way ticket to worry-ville, so I prefer to get a thorough rundown at the end of the day (unless of course there’s an emergency). Our daycare mostly uses an app to communicate, and it’s easy for me to send and receive messages from my kids’ teachers during the day as needed. (Like if I forget to send extra pants and my baby comes home wearing just his snowsuit. Not that that’s ever happened.)
- It just feels good. I know my kids are comfortable, safe and well cared-for – by people who in all honesty know a lot more about taking care of kids than I do! They know them, they love them and they’re a very important part of our village.
And a bonus tip: It took me until kid No. 2 to figure this out, but you know what? It’s OK to take your baby to daycare even when you’re not working. I repeat: IT’S OK TO TAKE YOUR BABY TO DAYCARE EVEN WHEN YOU’RE NOT WORKING. Do something awesome for yourself, take a nap, enjoy the silence of your home. Or just do something you need to do so you can free up that time for later. Taking care of mama is taking care of your kids.
I’ve been back to work a few months. For better and worse, my maternity leave is already a distant, really fuzzy memory. Our mornings are messy and chaotic and a total feat of patience and determination. I’d be lying if I said I don’t give a deep sigh of relief some mornings when I get back in my car after dropoff. But when I walk into daycare after a busy workday and my preschooler presses a sticky art project in my hand and my baby squeals and gives me a toothy grin, I know we’re all doing it right.
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For 50 years, KinderCare teachers have been creating safe, encouraging environments where kids can learn, grow and build confidence for life. At KinderCare, hardworking families are family—regardless of needs, backgrounds, and experiences.