Returning to work after maternity can be difficult, particularly the longer you have taken off. You may not be returning on the same work arrangements or in the same role if you’ve had to accommodate childcare schedules. It’s likely that you might feel wary or concerned that you can’t juggle everything, or even that if you’ve forgotten how to do your job. Even if you feel prepared and are looking forward to it, you may worry that others perception of you are work are altered.
When I returned to work was struck by how many people asked me if I was working part time now. I also realised how difficult it was to try and juggle everything. Things like house work went out of the window. I also realised how few clothes I had that were suitable for work.
So how can you make that transition from maternity to work easier?
Sort out childcare early
Contact your local Family Information Service and see what’s available in your area. They can help you find nurseries, playgroups and child-minders. They can also tell you if you’re eligible for help with childcare costs. I’ve a list of contacts for Family Information Services across Wales to make it easier for you.
Come up with a shortlist of providors and visit them in good time.The one you want may operate a waiting list so doing this a couple of months before you return to work can be helpful.
Consider flexible working
Being able to work from home, reduce my hours and change my start and finish times have been essential in my day job. Without this I wouldn’t be able to work the number of hours I do. Although I struggled to find a pattern that fit I did eventually get into a groove that works for me and the family, including the other caring commitments I sometimes share. Everyone is entitled to apply for flexible working, although it is not guaranteed. I’ve written a post of top tips on applying for flexible working if you want to check it out.
Go shopping for some new work clothes
This might be a necessity as your body shape may have changed a bit. I found that trousers were a no go area at first, but tunics with trousers were much more flattering. I also think that having a “work uniform” helps you feel more confident and separate the areas of your life.
Get a decent work bag
Whether it’s a backpack or a tote, have something that will keep your works bits and bobs like notebooks and pens separate from your regular day bag. Nobody wants to see you whipping out a nappy by accident in the middle of a meeting. I personally love a smart backpack as I can fit my tablet and all my notebooks in.
Keep in touch days
Even on maternity leave you may be able to come into a work for a few days here and there to help your transition back to work. This enables you to catch up on issues affecting your department or complete any training. I didn’t formally did this, although I’m fortunate enough to have a very good relationship with my former line manager so we met up a few times. It’s worth asking your HR department about, although don’t feel pressured to do it if you don’t want to.
Accept there isn’t enough time
I juggle a lot as a working mum, we all do. I fit in all my essentials though and that’s the important thing. You might be a superwoman and have a pristine house that always looks like a show home, but this may not be possible once you’re back in work. Hell, if you manage that with a family and don’t work hats off to you. There are so many hours in the day. Accepting you will have to compromise on things will make it less stressful. I’m still a work in progress on this one but I’ve got a lot better.
Identify the essentials and how often they need doing
When I was pregnant, I was on strict “no housework” rules by my consultant. I was even told not go up the stairs more than three times a day!
I had to identify everything that needed doing within the house and divvy up who did what and how often it needed doing. When I wrote everything down, from emptying the bin to wiping down skirting boards, it came to three sheets of A4. I wrote down everything. I then worked out how often each of these things needed to be done as a minimum. This was the “how long can we Ieave it before we get sick or can’t find stuff” test.
Split everything down into quick things that must be done every day, like emptying the bin or wiping down the kitchen work surface, to weekly activities, like changing the beds. You can even go as far as monthly activities like wiping down the skirting boards. Go a step further if you have a partner or older kids and split who is going to do what. Alternatively, print out a sheet and stick it up in the kitchen, with a list of tasks for the days and weeks, and ask everyone to cross a chore off when they’re doing it. If you’re the one doing the bulk of the work, you need to have a serious conversation!
Learn to say no
This goes for all aspects of your life but you can’t be all things to all people and you can’t be at two places in once. For example, consider if you really need to go to that work meeting at the end of the day, when you’re already in a flap about getting to nursery? Could you delegate that piece of work? Do you really have to meet that friend for a coffee that day, or would another day suit you better? Don’t be afraid of putting your needs first once in a while.
Have something to look forward to
If you are feeling overwhelmed at going back to work, particularly if its full time, it helps if you have something to look forward to. Scheduling a family day out to somewhere fun can be great.
But it doesn’t have to be a family activity. Don’t feel guilty if you want some time on your own to recharge or get practical things like having your hair cut, which in my book counts as pampering because it’s one of the few things I get to do regularly.
Even now I treat myself to a day’s holiday every six weeks or so. It helps me catch up on things and gives me some time to breathe. Even if I don’t take annual holiday, I try to work from home for a full day. I find I’m more productive in my work, but also enjoy being in the house when it’s empty.
Check out my fun life posts for ideas.
Embrace the positive things about going back to work
For a start, you’ll be able to drink a hot cup of tea, and have some adult conversation. For many, it’s also important to feel that they’re financially contributing fully again. For others, just getting back to work and being someone other than mum is amazing. Money, me time and the challenge were all positives I clung to.
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