As if raising a tiny human wasn't hard enough, as a working mother, you now also have to figure out how to combine your career with motherhood, a role that has a ton of new responsibilities and tasks that you've likely never tackled before. Your new position also requires quick decision-making skills, and break time is limited. But it is possible to get through the first year of being a new mom without freaking out.
We collected a bevy of suggestions from other moms that will help you get your sea legs as you prepare to head back to work:
1. Plan blocks of time — in small increments
One of the best tools you have for combatting the chaos of combining a new baby and your work schedule is dividing the day into manageable chunks. Start this practice when you are still on maternity leave to get the hang of it. By engaging in "micro-tasks," such as a 10-minute chunk of exercise time or accomplishing a small goal like updating your blog while the baby is napping, you'll develop a better sense of how to create a routine that can help keep you sane.
Tiffany Nyklickova, mom to three kids between the ages of two and seven, did this by reading a couple of pages each time she sat down to nurse. Eventually, she read three hefty books that way, and now that her kids are a little older, she fits in snippets of reading time in her kitchen while waiting for the coffee to brew and the meals to cook. "For me, it's been a way to get little bits of myself back," Nyklickova says. This technique will also work well when trying to figure out a morning routine that allows you to get both you and your baby ready for the day.
2. Allow yourself small doses of self-care each day
Burnout is a real thing, and as the saying goes, you can't pour from an empty cup. Take some time for yourself, no matter how impossible that may seem. Suzanne Brown, author of "The Mompowerment Guide to Work-life Balance: Insights from Working Moms on Balancing Career and Family," and mom to two boys, does this by checking in with herself at the beginning and end of the day.
"I take stock of how I'm feeling as I wake up, right after my alarm goes off. It allows me to make mental shifts so that I can set myself up for success for the day," Brown explains. "Before bed, I write in my gratitude journal, which helps me find a way to focus on the day's positive moments." Another option: reading. Six minutes of reading can slow down your heart rate and contribute to your overall health, making it a great way to wind down before bed.
3. Remember that everything is temporary
Though the hours might drag, kids are often in and out of phases faster than it takes for parents to adjust their routines. So, if things are tough, just know that nothing's forever. Sleep patterns change, tantrum triggers aren't permanent, and picky eating isn't forever. "You will get through every situation," says Holly Nordenberg, a parenting coach who navigated the first five years of motherhood while working at a Fortune 500 company. One of her best tricks: leaving herself positive and inspirational sticky notes around the house and office when things get challenging.
4. Accept your limits
It's true: Women can do everything. Only not all at once. While you might be used to knocking it out of the park at work and maintaining a busy personal life, the transition to motherhood can be a hard time to keep up the same momentum. For Sarah Roberts, founder of Snugglebug.com (a website dedicated to helping new mothers) and mom to a toddler, the struggle to be an attentive mother and a dutiful employee was overwhelming.
"You just can't do it all," Roberts says. Her remedy? Simply refusing to feel bad if she needs time away from the computer to go for a walk with her kid — and the permission to miss a few important moments now and again without feeling like a rotten mother. "Accepting all that releases me a little from all the stress."
5. Use all the newfangled conveniences
Technology might very well have infiltrated every aspect of our lives, but now is the time to embrace it. Consider using some of its innovations to make your life easier during a tumultuous time. Use Instacart to shop for groceries from home and set up same-day delivery (that often arrives in just two hours). Or source your meats and seafood from Butcher Box, which offers a selection of grass-fed beef, free-range organic chicken, and wild-caught seafood. More into a plant-based diet? Try out a meal kit like Purple Carrot for plant-based options or Blue Apron (which also offers wine delivery. Whoot!) to help get dinner on the table a few nights a week, or even breakfast and smoothie delivery for easy to grab snacks from Splendid Spoon or Daily Harvest. If figuring out what to feed your baby is causing you stress, consider trying Little Spoon, a delivery service for freshly blended baby foods and toddler meals. Best of all, you can now get all the coffee you need delivered monthly right to your door.
6. Connect with other moms
Know who understands exactly what you're experiencing? Other moms, that's who. This is why it's essential to seek out and bond with other women who are in the same phase you're in. Find a place to connect, check out the bulletin board at your local community center or library, and do a targeted location search on Facebook or MeetUp.com. If there's a park nearby, keep an eye out for stroller fitness classes that might meet there, and ask your local yoga studio if they offer Baby & Me yoga classes.
7. Naptime = work time
Not foolproof, but sometimes work can be accomplished while the baby naps, even if it's just planning and organizing. So as tempting as it can be just to chillax while the baby sleeps, if you're the type of mom who likes to stay on top of things, it's a great time to make progress. Of course, it's also the perfect moment to fit in an online yoga class or take a nap yourself.
8. Divide and conquer
Sometimes the only way to cross the finish line is to pass the baton to your partner. In other words, take turns shouldering the toughest parenting and household tasks so that each of you has the time and presence of mind to also focus on work when necessary.
That's how Elizabeth Middleman and her husband, both of whom hold high-level positions in their fields, are getting through the first year with their son. "We support each other," explains Middleman. "We stagger meetings as best we can, and take turns dealing with diapers and naps. It's a true team effort."
9. Make a plan — and then make a Plan B
Arranging child care is often not a one-and-done situation, which is why many moms interview and vet a few different babysitters, so they have more than one to call in a pinch. Of course, you can always ask other moms for referrals, but no one likes to have their sitter poached, so be transparent with both your friend and the sitter when you describe the level of commitment you're seeking.
10. Get comfortable with accepting help
We know it's hard. But being able to ask for and accept help is key to survival. "Figure out early on whom you can call on for help big and small — a partner, your sister, a friend or neighbor, a babysitter — and then do it!" says Chicago-based Alexandra Fung, mom to four kids and founder of Upparent.com, a parent-to-parent recommendation site. "Even something as simple as allowing a friend to pick up groceries for you once a week or sharing carpooling duties if you happen to have older kids means you will have that much more time to care for yourself and your family, and those minutes go a long way toward helping you feel like you can handle whatever else may come your way."