Things to do your first week back from maternity leave

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(MoneyWatch) For many new moms, the end of maternity leave may be met with mixed emotions -- sadness, stress, guilt and even relief. The first week you're at your desk, however, is crucial to getting back on track at work, even as you get used to the idea of leaving your baby with a caretaker. Here are 4 tips from career experts on how to get focused, fast.

Wear a work wardrobe

Depending on how your body is bouncing back and the length of your leave, you may not fit into your usual pre-baby clothes. Trying to squeeze into too-tight pants won't make you feel like you're on your game, and neither will wearing maternity gear. "If your body is in transition, it may mean a shopping trip the week before your return date," says Jena Abernathy, Vice President of Witt/Kieffer, an executive recruiting firm. Put together a few "go-to" outfits so you're not rushing in the morning -- and worse, late your first week back.

Don't baby talk too long

Work conversations need to take priority over baby talk, says Ariane de Bonvoisin, author of "The First 30 Days: Your Guide to Making Any Change Easier": "As cold as it may sound, do not talk at length about your baby or the birth." People will naturally ask about your leave, so share some photos and stories -- but keep them brief. "Let people know through your conversation and actions that you are back to work, not to have everyone share in your new baby," says Bonvoisin.

Start on a Tuesday

Make your official start date a Tuesday, but take the day before to get things in order, suggests Abernathy: "Take Monday as your day to clean out your inbox and speak with your boss and HR." That way, your first "real" day back, you're ready to hit the ground running. Of course, you could also play catch up the Friday before if Monday makes more sense for your back-to-work date.

Be very visible

Hold a team meeting and ask to be brought up to speed. Get project updates from your co-workers. Let people know you're back via email. And be sure to open your door. "As much as you'd like to hunker down and get to work, people need to see your face to reinforce that you're back," says Abernathy.

This is part 3 of a 5-part series on working motherhood. Read part 1, "Job seekers: 5 signs a workplace is family-friendly," here. Read part 2, "Working Moms: 6 must-dos before maternity leave," here. Check back tomorrow for part 4, "Great advice from famous working moms."

  • Amy Levin-Epstein On Twitter»

    Amy Levin-Epstein is a freelance writer who has been published in dozens of magazines (including Glamour, Self and Redbook), websites (including AOLHealth.com, Babble.com and Details.com) and newspapers (including The New York Post and the Boston Globe). To read more of her writing, visit AmyLevinEpstein.com.

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