How to get your sh*t together and return to work after parental leave

The time has come. You’re headed back to work. Maybe it’s been weeks, maybe it’s been months. Maybe you’re so ready to get back to the office you’ve been doing test runs in your mind for weeks, or perhaps you’re avoiding it with every ounce of denial you can muster. No matter how you’re feeling, we’ve got you covered. Below are tried and tested tips from fellow parents in the trenches.


  1. Get your child-care situation on lock: In your final week or so before heading back to work start ramping-up your child-care. If it’s at all possible, avoid your first day back also being your baby’s first day of childcare. Otherwise, you risk both being late and walking into the office with tear stained cheeks, likely not the entrance you’ve been imagining. Whether you’re going with daycare or home-based care, our advice is the same: start your childcare the week before you go back to work. Give yourself the extra time to do a test run of your new morning routine, check all those boring tasks off your list and take care of anything else you can while your child is being cared for and your not yet at a desk. Our panel of parents was clear and consistent: whatever you do with those extra days of childcare, you will be glad you had them.

  2. On Wednesdays We Wear Pink: The devil may wear Prada, but that’s not an option for all of us. Whether your post baby work wardrobe is something you’re stressed about or something you haven’t yet thought about, we strongly encourage you to take at least one nap time to try on some outfits. Keep what fits and donate, recycle or sell the rest. Facing a closet full of clothes and finding nothing to wear is not how your first day/weeks should start. If you need to fill some gaps in your wardrobe, now is the time. If you’ll be pumping at work make sure you have tops or dresses that are going to allow easy access - wrap tops, v-necks, and button downs work great here. Word to the wise: no matter how cute it is, a top or dress you have to lift up around your neck is not going to make you happy - we know, we’ve been there.

  3. Channel The Home Edit: For the uninitiated, we’re telling you to organize, organize and then organize some more. Is this fun? Not unless you’re my mother-in-law. But we will put money on the fact that you will be grateful for it later on. Diapers? Get those set-up on auto delivery. Food? Make a plan - freeze it, subscribe to it, whatever you need to do to make sure you’re getting something nurturing at the end of the day. Baby clothes? A few target containers and labels can go a long way. I was even told to get my Christmas and birthday shopping done for the next year while on leave, those of us who are not naturally inclined to organize can only be pushed so far, so I’ll leave that one to your sound judgement. Above all, to the extent possible, prepare in advance to avoid the inevitable gong show later (yes it will happen but maybe we can make it suck less).

  4. Pumping that liquid gold: If you plan to pump when you return to work, get that set-up ahead of time. Are you going hands-free? Do you have a lot of extra equipment you need to organize and bring into work? Where will you store it? Unsure of the situation for pumping at your office? Don’t be shy about checking with your manager or HR about this ahead of time. Your employer is legally required to provide you a space that is not a bathroom to pump, so you should not hesitate to clarify where that will be. We recommend getting a set of extra supplies packed now so you can easily grab it on your way out the door and store it at your desk.

  5. Hump Day: As for your actual first day back, if you can, pick a Wednesday. Why jump off a cliff into a full week if you can avoid it? Even if you’re looking forward to being back at work, it’s going to be a big shift  - emotionally, mentally, and physically. Give yourself a break and make that first week a short one. And if you start digging into your calendar before you hit your desk, definitely block off pumping time. It’ll help smooth that transition if you’ve already got it blocked on your calendar.


Bonus tip: Don’t try and catch up on every detail you missed while you were out, it’ll waste time and overwhelm you. We’ve found it’s much more efficient to schedule 1:1 meetings with your key stakeholders during your first few weeks back instead. Trust that they can catch you up on the need to knows.


Good luck out there! You’re going to be great. When in doubt, remember, you’re walking back in there armed with a plethora of new leadership skills that you’ve developed as a parent.


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liz@kunikco.com

liz@kunikco.com

Liz is mom to a baby boy and cofounder of Kunik.

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