You spent nine months debating names, growing out of your clothes, getting kicked in the kidneys and waiting for the moment your precious baby would finally arrive, healthy and perfect.
Those first few months are a whirlwind for most new moms, a tug-of-war between joy and complete exhaustion. But soon enough, for many moms, this time of just you and the baby has come to its end -- it's time to go back to work.
How do you go from dirty diapers to Excel spreadsheets? HowStuffWorks has the five things you need to know about going from Baby and Me to Me and the Boss.
Happy Moms are Good Moms
It's hard enough being a new mom without feeling like your parenting abilities are being judged, but you'll find that a lot of people you don't even know have opinions about how you should raise your child. The fuss over moms returning to the workplace is decades-long and shows no signs of slowing down.
The decision to go back to work after having a baby is easy for some moms and agonizing for others. Some women don't have a choice but to go back to work, while others desire a return to their professional life. The first step to adjusting is to accept your decision and be happy with it. If you're lucky, you're returning to doing something you love and may have missed on the days when it seems you don't do anything but change diapers. If you've got a job that pays the bills, then that's one less financial worry.
Either way, remember that you're doing what's best for you and your family. Having a child in daycare doesn't make you a bad mom. Just think of what your son or daughter has to look up to -- a strong, smart mother with skills and talents of her own.
Shoulda Been an Air Traffic Controller
The thing that might drive you craziest about going to work as a new mom is purely the logistics of the thing. Sometimes it may feel like both you and your partner need to be in about five different places at the same time. Whether you're working full- or part-time, reconciling your professional schedule with your childcare needs probably seems like a full-time job of its own.
What's the secret? It's simple, but true: communication. If you're in a relationship, you need to sit down with your partner and talk about what you can handle doing and what you can't. If you have family members or a nanny or babysitter helping you, you need to communicate what your expectations are. And, lastly, you need to talk to your boss about your schedule, too.
Some other tricks of the trade from moms in the know? Get a giant calendar you can write all over and devise a system of organization that works for you. Remember: You can't be everywhere at once -- it's OK to delegate.
They Don't Call it a Transition for Nothing
Going from full-time mommying back to work might be a big shock at first. You have months of missed events and changes in policy to catch up on. There may be new faces to get used to -- and some who are no longer there. In general, you're bound to feel a bit out of the loop, afraid that you've missed some opportunities or even that you've lost some of your skills in your time away.
The key to keeping your sanity is giving yourself a break. Think of your time back as a trial period -- give yourself 90 days to feel back on track. No one (including you) should expect you to be back 100 percent on your first day. You need to get back in the groove first. Not to mention, it can be really, really hard to leave your baby in someone else's hands, even if you're excited about going back to work.
If you can, have your first day back fall on a Wednesday or Thursday, so you're not there the whole week. Another good idea if your child is going to be in daycare is to have him or her start half-days before you go back work. That way, you and your child will both be used to the idea and you can have a little extra time to prep for your return.
Everything in Its Place
It's often said that men are better at compartmentalizing than women -- you're going to have to learn a lesson from the boys when you're a working mom.
When you're at work, be fully at work. Once that trial period you set for yourself is over, you can't spend your days with your mind half-worrying about the babysitter, or you're not going to be effective. Likewise, when you're home with your child, you don't want to be BlackBerrying the whole time.
It's tough, and it's not always possible -- if you're working on deadline or your child is sick, allowances can be made. But it's a good lesson to learn for anyone in our hectic lives -- when you come home, you're at home. If you have work you need to finish, wait until the kid's asleep and enjoy the hours you have with him or her. And when you're at work, no one expects you to ignore the fact that you have a new baby, but you will be expected to focus.
It's All About People
When you have a baby, it's not just you in the world anymore, or you and your husband -- it's you, your partner, both your families, the babysitter, the daycare workers, the parents from the daycare -- see where we're going with this? All of these people can help you in your daily life, so don't try to be supermom and do everything yourself. Ask for help when you need it, even if it's just for a load of laundry.
Network with other working moms at your place of business or in your industry. They might have tips and tricks you've never even thought of, from potty training to getting a baby to sleep through the night -- and information about the best pediatrician in town.
And lastly, if you're part of a couple, don't neglect that part of your life. When you're tired and stressed, you might just laugh at the idea of romance, but that doesn't have to mean a big night out on the town. Just take 30 minutes out of your day to sit down with your partner over tea and a glass of wine and look each other in the eyes and connect. Like we said before, a happy mom is a good mom -- and a baby with happy parents is a happy baby.