I picked my daughter up from her first day of daycare after returning to work from maternity leave. I walked in the door and the caregivers asked me how long she had been rolling over. “Rolling over?!” I responded with a blank stare. Apparently, she rolled over two minutes before I walked in the door. I was shocked. She was a week short of turning three months. We hadn’t seen this at home yet. I was disappointed we missed it.
Twelve weeks of maternity leave seemed like a long time when we left the hospital, but it quickly dwindled down to eight weeks, then four, then two. We were finally in the groove during our last month, but there were moments I was plagued with thoughts of the stressors I might encounter once I returned to work and had to send my daughter to daycare. One would think 84 days of bonding was more than enough, but I hated the idea of being away from her the entire day.
Instead of letting these negative thoughts take over our last few weeks of maternity leave, I decided to view this stage as a new journey for us. To put myself at ease about the process, I started preparing three weeks before I went back to work.
Here are three steps that made our transition a smooth one:
1. An orientation
In my opinion, this was the most significant step, as it allowed us to discuss expectations with the childcare provider and get a better understanding of the daycare environment. My husband and I arrived with all the required documentation along with a list of questions. In a one-on-one orientation, our provider was extremely thorough explaining key points like the infant to caregiver ratio, and routines for feedings, diaper changes, naps, and playtime. We had the opportunity to introduce our daughter to the caregivers in the infant room and explain some of her preferences and tendencies. It was a breath of fresh air and the meeting put both my husband and I at ease.
2. A dry run
I realized I would be more comfortable back at work if I didn’t have those initial feelings of separation anxiety, so the week before I was actually expected back in the office, my daughter and I did two “dry runs.” The first was a half-day and the second was a full day. We woke up and started the days at the time we would need to get ready during the work week, allowing enough time for diaper blowouts, meltdowns, or any mishaps new moms are familiar with on the way out the door. I dropped her off at daycare and used this time to go to my office and get a jumpstart on my workload. The dry runs were successful because 1.) Trial and error during those two days resulted in less chaos when it was time for the real deal the next week 2.) As a breastfeeding mama, this was an opportunity for me to establish a good pumping routine 3.) The caregivers got to know my daughter before her first full week at daycare.
3. Time to reset
Maternity leave was marked by challenges, successes, and many “firsts.” Throughout the last month, getting out of the house became our norm. Errands, shopping, baby and mommy yoga—we were unstoppable. I decided we would intentionally spend our last day of maternity leave at home with nothing on the schedule. It was a quiet day full of snuggles. It was a great time to relax before our week started. I held her close and thought a lot about how much we had both grown over those twelve weeks together.
Several weeks into our new routine, I realized being back at work and starting her in daycare was a big win for both of us. She’s been exposed to new experiences and I adjusted to my role as a working mom. Rather than dwelling on what it seems like I might be missing, I focus on how, in such a short time, she’s accomplished so many milestones in a new environment. Most importantly, with this experience, I’m reminded how resilient we both are. When I drop her off in the morning and she gazes at me with that baby grin, I know it is affirmation,
“We’re doing good mommy. We’ve got this.”
What were some of your favorite milestones in your babies’ first months? What was your biggest “win” when you had to start a new routine with your baby?
This was a guest post written by Bri Johnson. Bri is an active duty military mother and spouse, and a native of Clarksville, TN. She holds a BA in Public Relations. As a yoga instructor-in-training nearing completion of the RYT-200 program, she plans to deliver expertise in fitness and mindfulness to new and expectant mothers. You can stay connected with Bri on Facebook in the meantime.