Returning to work after maternity leave can be a really challenging time.
You have just been through the biggest roller coaster of your life. Having a baby is so incredibly life changing and there is no way you can prepare for it – sure, everyone tells you about the lack of sleep, the nappies, the tears, the love; but until you’re in the middle of it, you have no idea!
Then, just as you’re starting to see the light again; your child is hopefully sleeping through the night, potentially starting to walk and talk, and generally becoming a big ball of fun (most of the time) – it’s time to go back to work. How did that time go so fast?
I have been lucky that I enjoyed a full 12 months’ maternity leave and returned to work in a slightly different role on a part-time basis. That said, it’s not been without some big challenges.
This is quite nerve racking – leaving your child with someone else to care for when you have been wrapped up in a baby bubble for so long. There are so many options and it’s important that you do what feels right for you and your child – whether it’s in-home care, a nanny, day-care or relatives. Do your research, get recommendations, work out the logistics and then go with your gut! What works for you and your family and sits well with your values is always going to be the best decision.
Dealing with Mum Guilt
Leaving your beautiful child to return to work is very hard. Mum guilt is a very real thing, so it’s important to put it all in perspective. Whenever I felt this way, I had to keep reminding myself that I was putting my son into an incredible day care facility, where everything has been carefully designed to benefit him. He was going to have fun, learn, make friends, eat great food and nap whilst being looked after by professionals who are fully trained and love what they do. Thinking about that helped a lot.
Accepting You and Your Baby Will Get Sick
Germs, germs, germs! I have a winter baby, so my return to work and my son’s introduction to day-care coincided with lots of winter bugs. No matter what time of year you’re doing this though, it’s par for the course that the first couple of months at day-care will bring lots of bugs for developing immune systems. This meant that as a working mum who was just a bit run down, I also caught nearly every bug going. The truth is that you just need to ride this out. Have open and honest communication with your team and manager and know that “this too shall pass”.
Finding a New Identity at Work
Coming back to Beyond Recruitment in a part-time capacity and a slightly different role has meant that my contribution to the team had changed. This is something that took some getting used to. Success now is different to what success once was, however my contribution to personal and team goals is still just as vital. Although it did take time to adjust to this new approach to work, I’m amazed at how much can be achieved in my shortened hours, and I’m enjoying reaching milestones of success.
Six Months On
I’ve been back at work for around six months now and have a great routine going with my son. The drop offs are getting easier (there are often still tears), he genuinely loves day-care, and he has developed so much. When I arrive to pick him up he is usually filthy from all the playing (paint, sand, flour, water - you name it!) and doesn’t want to leave. Seriously – I have to chase him around the playground!
I love being back at work, it’s fantastic to have tangible successes daily and enjoy some time for myself where I am not “just” mum. It doesn’t hurt to be contributing to the family finances either. I think working mums in general are a great addition to businesses; I know my time in the office is limited and I can’t stay late, but that also means my time is used wisely. I thought I was quite efficient before I went on maternity leave but I now get through a huge amount of work in half the time.
Returning to work, like all aspects of being a parent (so far, for me anyway) is daunting, however also like all aspects of being a parent, it keeps getting easier. If you’re preparing to return to work soon here’s a few tips to help you ease back in:
I hope that the above advice has helped you. Remember to be kind to yourself and know that with effort, time, and great support from your loved ones and your work family, you can enjoy the balance of a working mum life and your child will continue to flourish!