It's the day you knew was coming: your first day back at the office after maternity leave. You've thought it through, talked it out, rationalized it all, and done the trial run with daycare. Today, you'll kiss that sweet baby on her head and wish her a good day. Then, you'll head to the office. The commute will be long, the elevator will be weird, and the coffee will taste funny.

As you sit down at your desk, you'll think--how is that I'm already back here?

Before dawn, you were up fussing with bottles and labels in the kitchen. You'd laid out your clothes the night before just like you used to do the night before the first day of school. Bags containing diapers, milk, your laptop, your lunch, and maybe even your gym stuff were neatly lined up by the door. Today, you were ready to leave for, if not to go back to, work.

Things will be different today mostly because you're different. Here's a little sneak peek at the ups and downs you might feel.

  • Your tolerance for BS meetings will be down, like, way down. If an agenda isn't provided in advance, you consider not showing up in silent protest of wasted time.
  • Your sensitivity to suffering and injustice will be up. Try to avoid CNN first thing in the morning or risk balling your eyes out and having to reapply your mascara. Important things are going on in the world, but you can't absorb all of them at once. Plan to take your daily news stories in doses.
  • Your standards for professional attire will go down. Transporting a baby anywhere is messy. Unless you cover yourself in plastic wrap (which has the desired wicking effect but will make you sweaty), you'll notice spots of spit up and other organic material everywhere. Grab a baby wipe to make it less visible and get on with your day. Or do a sneaky sniff test later to see if your jacket smells and decide that it does but it's fine.
  • Your productivity will be up. You thought you were productive before? Ha. Working moms are the most productive people in the galaxy. You're a "to-do list" machine who couldn't care less about the latest research on the pitfalls of multitasking. People will comment on how loud you type. You'll check the mute button often to make sure people don't hear your getting work done on conference calls.
  • Your interest in other parents or soon-to-be parents will go up. They become this little safety zone for chatting about development milestones and work-life balance issues. Spend time talking at one another about your own kids without truly listening to one another. These are your new BFFs. You will love them.

I know today will be tough, but you'll get through it. Tomorrow will be easier, and before you know it, you'll be back in the swing of things. Today, I want you to trust yourself and know that, while so much is different, many things remain the same. You take the ups and downs in life as they come and always make sound decisions. Now will be no different. You'll take on each challenge, weigh the options, and make the right choice. You've got this.

And then, just when you think you've got it all figured out, it'll get hard again. Your sweet, sweet baby will be a toddler who will wake up one day and refuse to wear pants.