Making the post-maternity leave transition back to work go smoothly

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METRO — The average length of maternity leave varies depending on geography, but the vast majority of new mothers take time away from work upon giving birth. Maternity leave affords women the opportunity to connect with and provide for their babies, while hopefully giving new mothers some time to recover from childbirth as well.

When maternity leave ends, the transition back to work can be difficult. New mothers often struggle when the time comes to leave their babies at daycare, with a nanny or with a relative. Adding to that emotional difficulty, women also face the task of diving back into their careers and all the responsibilities that come with those careers. While returning to work after maternity leave can be difficult, the following tips might help women make the transition go more smoothly.

Give yourself a grace period. Even if you’re accustomed to going full bore at the office, the first days or even weeks after returning from maternity leave will be anything but ordinary. Give yourself a grace period upon returning to work, gradually easing back in rather than expecting to dive right in with both feet on your first day back. Not taking on too much too quickly can help you adjust to your new reality and give you time to cope with any emotions you might be feeling about leaving your child with a caregiver.

Arrange to work remotely one or two days per week. Another way to reduce the likelihood of being overwhelmed upon returning from maternity leave is to attempt to work remotely one or two days per week. Speak with your employer about making such an arrangement permanent or temporary, explaining how even working from home just a single day per week might help you calm your nerves about dropping a child off with a caregiver. Thanks to the cost savings and advancements in technology, many employers are now more amenable to allowing staffers to work remotely. But new moms won’t know their employers’ point of view on working from home unless they ask.

Take the full leave. A 2013 study published online in the Journal of Health Politics, Policy and Law found a direct link between the length of maternity leave and the risk of postpartum depression. Researchers followed more than 800 women in their first year after giving birth and found that women at six weeks, 12 weeks and six months of maternity leave had lower postpartum depression scores than their peers who returned to work. Postpartum depression can produce a host of unwanted symptoms, including a lack of interest in daily tasks and too little sleep, each of which can affect a mothers’ performance at work. By taking the leave afforded to them by their employers and/or local laws, women may reduce their risk for postpartum depression, which can make their transitions back to work that much easier.

Take breaks during the day. Frequent, short breaks during the workday can benefit all employees, but especially new mothers returning to work after maternity leave. Returning to work can feel overwhelming, and routine breaks provide mothers with chances to catch their breath. Studies have indicated that such breaks also can reenergize workers, an especially useful benefit for new mothers who are likely not getting as much sleep as they were accustomed to prior to giving birth.

Returning from maternity leave can be hard on new mothers, but there are ways to make the transition go smoothly.