When I set out to find a way to help mamas in this period of transition, growing into a new life with baby while also returning to work, I debated what to call this project. What was I hoping new mamas would learn? How to have a “successful return”? A “peaceful return”? An “authentic return”? Build a community of women all going through this at the same time? Yes, yes, yes, and yes. But the path to all of these, I believe, is to return to work mindfully. I wanted new mamas to have a “mindful return”.
If you consult Wikipedia, you’ll see “mindfulness” defined as “the intentional, accepting and non-judgmental focus of one’s attention on the emotions, thoughts and sensations occurring in the present moment.” I’ve also seen it defined as recognizing the small acts of our daily lives. And paying attention to our thoughts and feelings without judging them.
All of which I’ll sum up as simply: BE present. Be here. Be here NOW.
Being mindful in this space of returning to work has two steps, I think. The first is thoughtfully planning the heck out of a number of baby- and work-related things, so you can bring more of your attention away from the future and into the present. For me, this involves things like lists on the fridge of meals for everyone for the next day. Carefully researching and selecting a daycare provider. Intentionally finding communities of new moms. And writing out a morning brain-dump task list at work, so I can get the swirling to-dos out of my head and onto paper.
And then the second step is actually being here now. I’m not talking about spending your days meditating – though I do believe meditation is a useful tool (and spending a few days in silence at the moment sounds like a heavenly experience!) – but I’m talking about being present. REALLY witnessing how your baby’s soft, fine, hair feels when you run your hand over it. SEEING your partner learn how to make your baby giggle. BEING present for your direct report who is talking through a work challenge in your office. EXPLORING new ways to do research or lead a team.
Personally, I get to the second step more easily, if I’ve done the first. If I know dinner is planned and bottles are made, I can delight in those pre-meal squeals of laughter and watch my baby’s surprise as he bumps up and down in the red wagon I’m pulling over some rocks in our back yard. If I know what’s on tap for my week at work (okay, at least in theory, if my kids aren’t sick…), I can truly be present in the meetings I attend and can focus on why I’m sitting there.
So let’s think about returning to work “mindfully.” This space, Mindful Return, is devoted both to the thoughtful planning of all the logistics of returning to work and to navigating this new path you’re on, so you can feel confident, knowledgeable, peaceful, and ready to be truly present to the magnificent family, career, and life you are creating.
Want to be more mindful and present in your return to work after maternity leave? Check out the Mindful Return E-Course here. New sessions start soon.