I can't help counting days when I'm on maternity leave. I start the moment the baby arrives, because it seems like infinity is not enough time to spend with this new, precious child. My baby girl is 3-weeks old now and I'm still in the "denial" stage -- I don't want to believe I'll ever have to go back to work. I'm assuming my hormones will calm down a little bit in the next week or so, and I'll get my perspective back. Working isn't a bad thing. I managed it during my first child's babyhood and toddlerhood, and I'll manage it again this time.
However, there's a certain amount of mental prep work to do. I think every mom, no matter how well adjusted and career-minded, experiences a measure of anxiety when it's time to leave baby and go back to her "regular" life. We can't discount these feelings, even though we tend to do that in our corporate mindset. We can't pretend we're the same as we ever were. Our lives have changed immeasurably -- and not just because we've been wearing yoga pants and a burp cloth for three months.
So, go ahead and count down the days. I've been consulting my calendar often; a reminder that this special time at home is limited. You know what? It has really helped me appreciate the long days at home, clock ticking slowly as baby nurses every two hours, because I know they will soon be over. This little bit of gratitude goes a long way to ease my heart.
Use your support system. Call your girlfriends, your mom, your sisters, and don't be ashamed to tell them how you feel about returning to work. A good listener will let you cry a little, if you're blue about the prospect. She will also understand and support you if you're ready to get back to adult conversation and power lunches.
Obviously, get to know your child's care providers. I am comfortable this second time around, because I love and trust the daycare center my son attends. In fact, I'm anxious to spend time with the "Infant 1" classroom teachers again -- they were such a great help to me when I was a new mom, giving me tips and easing my mind when I had questions. If you can visit the site before your child's first day there, I highly recommend it. Sit in the classroom for an hour, with your baby, and see how it feels. Make friends. Then, when it's really time to leave her there, you'll have a picture in your mind of exactly where she is and what she might be doing.
When my son was 12 weeks old, I took a picture and named it "ourlastday.jpg." It made me a bit sad at the time -- I even tried to capture "bittersweet" on camera -- but the memory also holds with it the promise that we made it through the transition. And we'll do it again this time.
There are, of course, practical considerations when returning to work. For more information, try these great articles: Return to Work Nursing, Max Your Maternity Leave, Mayo Clinic Tips for Working Mothers, and