Having recently returned to my full-time position in advertising after four months at home with my baby, I have a whole new appreciation for the everyday juggling acts performed by working mothers; for their brave faces and unflappable demeanors; and for their ability to keep it together, even if it’s only the appearance of keeping it together.
As they say, having a kid changes everything. These coping strategies will help you keep cool, calm, and professional when you head back to the office.
1. Premeditate your wardrobe.
Remember being a schoolgirl and planning your outfits the night before? There’s something to it. When you wake up knowing what you’re going to wear, you can avoid those annoying 15 minutes of trying on a million different cardigans, earrings, and shoes. Simplify your uniform and plan ahead. While you’re at it, organize everything you need for the next day, including pumping gear and snacks to keep your energy up.
2. Make pumping comfortable.
While planning those outfits, make sure they’re easy-on, easy-off. If you’re going to be stripping down to pump a few times a day, cardigans, button-downs, nursing bras, and camisoles are the way to go. Invest in a hands-free pumping bra, and download a few podcasts to keep you entertained while you pump.
3. Build bumpers into your commute.
Think commuting is balls now? It’s even more maddening when you’re rushing home to breastfeed your 4-month-old or heading to work for a presentation when you haven’t had time to put on lipstick — or even brush your teeth. Extra time and small comforts will minimize the frenzy. Set your clock ahead to get out the door five minutes sooner. Pare down what you carry in your bag so you don’t waste precious time digging through it to find your MetroCard. Take a break from your Louboutins — you’ll move faster in flats.
4. Remain alert.
Unfortunately, there will be days when you could go to a Dawn of the Dead casting call. Dealing with exhaustion at work starts at home. Go to bed early. If that’s not an option, or if your little one is still up multiple times throughout the night, rely on the usual tricks throughout the day: brisk walks, lots of water, and occasional chocolate treats.
5. Gush with discretion.
Some days, you’ll want to shove your iPhone in colleagues’ faces to show them how adorable your child is. There’s nothing wrong with being a proud mama, but this behavior is endearing to about one in every 64 colleagues. Share photos and anecdotes only with your closest work confidantes — or when asked by others.
6. Assert yourself.
Or as Sheryl would say, “lean in.” Take on responsibility. Speak up. Lead the charge in meetings. When your inner voice says you don’t have the energy, think about your child and how proud he or she will be to have a confident, vocal, kickass mother. You’ll be amazed by how much you can accomplish once you get into the groove.