I was lucky to have a year of maternity leave following the birth of my first daughter and went back to work last November. The first months are a blur and then it just flies by! Just like women try and make the most of those precious weeks of maternity leave before the baby arrives, it's worth trying to maximize the last few weeks off before going back to work. I enjoyed the last two weeks immensely as I had them to myself. Here are my 10 tips on what to do during the final countdown before the whole childcare/commute/work circus begins!
1. If possible, start your childcare arrangements BEFORE you go back to work, (and don't underestimate how much time it can take to find the right nursery, childminder, nanny etc., I put my name down on nursery waiting lists when I was 3 months pregnant) so you can ease yourselves in. My daughter started full time at nursery 2 weeks before I went back and those weeks were bliss. Furthermore it meant she was more settled when I finally started work again (less trauma/stress all round!), she was screaming on the first day and it made it so much easier than I just went home and drank tea rather than go back to my desk. You won't get real alone time for a long long time again so make the most of it!
2. Try on your old work clothes, as after a baby it's likely some stuff is not going to fit anymore (and you simply might just be bored with your old clothes!) and plan what you are going to wear for the first week. Then treat yourself to a few nice new things, it will make you feel more confident and you deserve it!
3. Work out an evening meal menu for the first two weeks back. Trust me, you'll be tired, maybe emotional and the last thing you'll want to do after pickup and bed time is think of what to cook! I use a food delivery service now and it has changed my life.
4. If you have access, log on to your work email and delete, delete, delete! Despite having been removed from many distribution lists, I had accumulated TONS of emails over the year I was off. This also means you can do something else than delete emails on your first day back, like chat with adults and drink hot tea.
5. Meet friends for lunch because that is about to go out of the window!
6. Get your hair cut/dyed, this can make you feel more confident when you're back in the working world and it's a nice treat.
7. Sort through baby clothes, toys and other "stuff" and put it on ebay, donate to charity etc. You really won't have the time or motivation for such tasks once you're back at work.
8. If you can, go to a spa or for afternoon tea or the cinema or just do something lovely during the day ALONE! I cannot stress enough the concept of having time off from work when your child is taken care of, it will become super rare so end of maternity leave combined with childcare is really a genius idea, you can thank me later.
9. Spend a day at home doing nothing as that's basically not going to happen again for 18 years.
10. Find a working mum friend or "mentor", I'm lucky to be surrounded at work by some great other working mums who are very supportive and understanding. Nobody else will get why you're in tears because the nursery have called to say your baby is sick and you're about to go away on your first overnight business trip abroad. Ladies, you know who you are and you are the best.