You were working. You were pregnant. Your life changed beyond recognition. A year flew by (maybe more, maybe less) now you’re back to where you started – but not quite.
Returning to work after having children can be an anxiety riddled time. Fear, guilt, doubt, feeling overwhelmed, resentment are all common emotions experienced by a lot of mums.
Or maybe your overriding feeling is one of excitement & relief that you finally get to do something for you! Not to dumb down the hard work of billions of employees everyday, but when your daily experience is a screaming toddler clinging to your ankles, the office can seem like a tranquil haven.
Returning to work can be a freeing opportunity to be ‘you’ again. To be called by your actual name rather than (insert name of child’s) mum, can be very liberating.
Whether you’re heading back after maternity leave or returning following a career break (and whatever your feelings surrounding it are) here’s some ideas on how to make returning to work easier…
Prepare the family
If up until now you’ve been available 24/7, things are about to change. Not everyone will naturally cope well with it. Starting to prepare your family as much in advance as possible will aid a smooth transition into the new routine.
Childcare will be a massive consideration. Working this out as far in advance as possible will ensure you have sufficient time to evaluate the best solution for your family. If you are seeking care outside of your extended family, it’s important to have time to interview, visit and become comfortable with the paid childcare you’re opting to use. Starting this childcare a few weeks in advance of your start date will help to settle everyone into the new routine. Knowing both you and your child are happy and settled in the new arrangements, will make for a less fraught first day.
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Communicate with your child (if they are old enough to understand) about what will be happening and what it will mean. Be sure to be positive and ‘sell’ the benefits. Sometimes lots of reassurance that you’ll still be there and love them is all it takes to help them adapt to the change.
You’ll also need to prepare anyone else inside of your household. If you have a partner who has been use to you taking full responsibility for everything domestically, it’s a good time to communicate and work out the re-balance of roles required within the home. Additionally do you need to forward plan your diaries to share out the childcare cover during the school holidays? Make sure everyone is clear on their new roles and build as much time in to iron-out any teething problems.
And let’s not forget any family pets! What will the arrangements be for them whilst you’re out at work? Do you need to employ any pet sitting services?
WORKING from home
If you’re working from home, it can be tricky to adjust family and friends perception that you’re actually back to work now. It’s important to set boundaries with regards to your availability. Yes, you can enjoy the perks and flexibility working from home can bring (not to mention the blissful silence) but you do have to stand firm that work time is not chore time. It helps if you can create an office space within your home so that your family know if you’re there, it means you’re working and not available. It also helps to adjust your mindset too.
Outsourcing & organisation
Coming back to domestic responsibilities… There are a multitude of ways to make life easier when it comes to essential chores. Can you hire a cleaner? Can you switch to online shopping? Can you use an ironing service?
If it’s financially possible for you to use any of these services not only will it remove some pressure from you, it will also free up more quality time to spend with your loved ones after work.
Becoming more organised will also help things run more smoothly. Preparing as much as you can the night before buys you time in the morning to tackle any unexpected hiccups that only children can create! Can you make the packed lunches? Can you pack the baby bag? Can you have the school uniforms ready at the end of the beds? I sometimes stick post-it notes on the front door to remind me of anything additional I need to remember before leaving the house in the morning.
It also helps if you can establish a good bedtime routine. If your child is tucked up safely in bed at a decent time, you’ll have more opportunity to catch-up and still find opportunity for some ultra important down-time!
Make connections with other nursery/school parents
Nearly everywhere has a Facebook page or WhatsApp group in operation. Search social media or speak to other parents about any existing groups for the nursery/school that your child attends – and join it! Or if one isn’t in existence, consider starting one.
If your job makes you miss the school run it’s ultra easy to feel out of the loop. Having access to other parents within these groups will give you a quick and straightforward way to either ask a question or know what’s going on.
Despite your organisational skills, one email from the school stating ‘space alien day tomorrow’ can send you in to a flustered panic. Knowing you have people to ask for clarification or even help is invaluable.
Reconnect with ex-colleagues
As well as making new connections it’s advisable to build upon old ones. We can all sit comfortably in our mum ‘bubbles’ and become oblivious to what’s going on in the world of work. However, a lot can change in the work environment even within a short space of time. It’s understandable to feel like an outsider when returning. Reconnecting with ex-colleagues is one solution to help you settle more quickly. If you’re returning to the same office, it helps to bring you back up to speed and starts to build work relationships again. If you’re going to a new work place, speaking with old colleagues will help to shift your mindset back to work. Think of it as dipping your toe in the water before you fully dive in.
Know your worth
It’s not uncommon to believe in the time you’ve been absent from work, your skills and knowledge have somehow diminished.
When I left my job to have my son, my role was one grade lower than a Director within my department. However, after a career break that spanned around 2 years, rather than applying for a role at the level I had been at, I applied for an entry level position. What exactly did I believe had happened to me within 2 years which warranted my own self-imposed demotion? Yes I was perhaps rusty on the old Excel spreadsheets, but I still had the same level of experience, qualifications and knowledge. And if anything I now had something even more valuable – mum skills! Empathy, patience, problem solving, time management (I could go on); yes we should all be proud of our highly transferrable mum skills.
Don’t underestimate what you still bring to the table even with a break from the world of work.
Remember – you’ll handle it.
Susan Jeffers (author of Feel the fear & do it anyway) offers some great advice to help allay any fears relating to your impending return to work. She explains that often our fears stem from an underlying fear that we won’t be able to handle whatever life throws at us. However, if we can work out a way to develop a trust in our ability to handle whatever comes our way, it helps to allow us to relax and enjoy our current situation. She advises to make the words – I’ll handle it – your constant mantra.
What if I’ve forgotten how to do something at work? – I’ll handle it.
What if the baby doesn’t settle at the nursery? – I’ll handle it.
What if I’ve forgotten it’s space alien day at my child’s school? – I’ll handle it.
Let’s face it, as a parent there isn’t much you haven’t had to handle already. So every time a moment of panic grips you, think, say or write down – I’ll handle it – because you will.
You might also like to read: Overcome feeling overwhelmed
Congratulations on your new role or all the best for returning to work following maternity leave! (Do they even make a card for that occasion?)
Be sure to treat yourself to something to help build the excitement – I always opt for a new notebook & pen! (I love a bit of stationary!) How about you? If you’re not feeling great about returning to work, try to think about all the things you appreciate and are grateful for about your job. Even if it’s that you finally get to enjoy a coffee whilst it’s still hot! Positivity will help to make you more productive and attract better working opportunities to you.
Any other top tips to share? How about letting us know your good news! Just get in touch by leaving a comment in the box below! All the best of luck!