As a new parent, or even as a well seasoned one, you may face some challenges as you prepare to return to work after maternity or paternity leave. Not to worry: the transition is possible, and may be easier to balance than you think! As a new mother and practicing SLP, I’ve gathered some helpful tips and resources to aid the transition from SLP family leave back to the workplace.
Before You Leave:
Know what kind of maternity leave your company offers. Reach out to your boss or human resources department to get information about what is covered, and for how long. The Department of Labor’s website has helpful information about what you are legally entitled to receive under Family and Medical Leave.
If your workplace does not offer compensation, check with your state’s Department of Labor to see if you qualify for Temporary Disability Insurance (TDI) or Family Leave Insurance (FLI). These programs provide employees some compensation for pregnancy or taking time off to bond with a newborn.
Secure your childcare. Will your baby be cared for by a family member, babysitter, or nanny? Will they be going to daycare? Make sure you go over your personal childcare schedule with your family and your employer before you go back.
- Tip: Grandma watching your newborn? Have her start coming over a couple of times a week before you go back to work to learn your and your baby’s routine and have baby become familiarized with their daytime caretaker. Baby going to daycare? Many facilities provide photo or text updates throughout the day. You’ll be less stressed at work knowing that your baby is in good hands.
Tie up all the loose ends. Call or email current clients and tell them you will be on leave, and provide a return date if you can. Discuss with them how their therapy will continue in your absence. Their transition of care will depend on your particular work setting. Try to connect your patients with the SLP who will take over your caseload while you are away so that the transition is easier on you, the patient, their families, and your fellow SLP!
Make sure all of your therapy and progress notes are up to date, and that all outstanding reports are finalized. Make a list of dates for when certain paperwork will be due to leave with your rehab office coordinator or office manager.
Organize your therapy materials!
- Tip: Be sure to write your name on anything that is yours and yours alone - you want it to still be there when you get back!
Leave a letter to your coworkers with a list of your clients and helpful tips for the clinician who will be covering your caseload. For example, list preferred games, materials, or topics of interest that your client enjoys. This will help the covering clinician feel comfortable and confident while you are out.
Create an out-of-office email. Make sure to leave an alternative email or phone number for people to contact while you are out.
During Your Leave:
Take time to give in to “nesting” syndrome. Give yourself at least 2 weeks before your due date if you can to finish setting up your baby’s room, pamper yourself, get as much sleep as possible, and spend time with your family and friends before the baby arrives!
Sleep whenever you can on leave and after your baby makes their debut. Especially on weekends when your baby naps or you can spend a little time with your partner or family member!
Chores and other household obligations can wait. Your work emails and clients are fine and will be there when you get back. Promise. Enjoy every moment with your newborn.
Accept help! You will be exhausted, overwhelmed, and, what is sleep again? Take this time to accept help from family and friends so that you can have a chance to recover physically and mentally.
Back in the Game:
Keep lines of communication open. Go over your work schedule, finances, and back-to work plan with your partner and family.
Connect with your boss, office manager, or human resource representative. Discuss any changes that may have occurred during your absence and to have a quick review of your schedule. You may be going back full time with the same hours, or perhaps you are changing your hours based on your family’s new needs. Make sure to discuss these in advance and take notes so that all of your talking points are in writing for future reference.
Ease back in. Ask if you can go back and not have clients the first day, or to be given a restricted schedule just so you can review notes, organize yourself.
Be prepared for the first day back. Prep your breakfast, lunch, and outfit the night before so you can get up and run out of the house on time!
- Tip: Feed your baby in your pjs and change after your baby is done eating!
Prevent burnout. Accept any offers for help. It’s not a cop out!
Eat filling, protein filled, nutrient-dense meals. This is especially important when you’re out of the house (you may not have a lot of time once you are back home)!
Never underestimate the power of a 30-minute power nap in your office or car.
Many parents feel a sense of guilt when going back to work. You’re not abandoning your baby, you are working hard to support your baby while simultaneously changing the lives of others. It is dually gratifying and reflects just how awesome our profession is! This is only natural, and only shows that you are a conscientious parent. (If you're excited to get back to work, that's equally wonderful — don't feel guilty about not feeling guilty!)
Stay active outside of your new responsibilities. Getting out of the house, socializing with colleagues, and diving back into the career you love actually helps boost your energy levels and can improve your mood.
There are many resources available to you as new parents. These are some favorites that have been helpful in our family:
- What To Expect When You’re Expecting
- Baby Bargains
- Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child
- The Bump, also available as an app
- The Wonder Weeks App
Balance will take time and patience, so make sure to do what works best for you and your family. You will be tired, you will have good days and not so good ones, but you’ve got this!
Are you a new parent? What things have made your transition back to work easier?