When I went on maternity leave, I went from a busy office to sitting at home with a small baby and wondering if you can actually die from sleep deprivation. It wasn’t easy.
Maternity leave whizzed past, lots of adventures, not much sleep, I got to know my son and made some great friends.
Spent a lot of time in baby groups and drinking coffee!
I returned to work earlier this year and it is high time to look back at what has worked well and what has not. This poor blog has been sorely neglected!
I realised that being a working mother means you will have competing demands, a big challenge for me has been juggling my own expectations about how I should be doing. I miss the days when I had the luxury of staying late to finish a task and not constantly watch the clock.
Our son still does not sleep and sometimes dragging yourself into work when you are shattered is not always very easy.
Here are some of my top tips to make the return to work after maternity leave a bit easier:
- Talk to your partner, who is going to pick up and who is going to drop off your baby with childcare? Have a schedule and plan it out in advance. We are lucky that we both work part-time and can share the load.
- Consider a staggered return. This really helped me. I did three days for three months, combined with my husband taking shared parental leave. I’ve also used holiday to make sure I have the odd Friday so we can have a bit more time together as a family. Easing myself into work gradually made it far easier.
- Prepare for the unexpected, sometimes things happen. We had some emergency dashes to A&E and sickness bugs. If you have grandparents who can help out great, if not plan how you will handle these situations.
- Work out your boundaries, what are you willing to do. Can you stay late one night a week for an event/later meeting. If you need to leave on time, you should be worried about explaining your working hours.
- Pace yourself, you can’t do everything at once, have a think about what is really important to you and prioritise that.
I asked some working mothers about their top tips and here are what they said:
Do as much as you can the night before, even if you’re shattered. Lunch boxes, nappies restocked, set the coffee machine up, lay out clothes for the next day, meal plan for the week dinners and lunches.
Use part of Sunday to get your weeks clothes etc ready so the days can be as straight forward as poss.
One Mum had a runner rail with both her and her daughter’s clothes on for the week including under wear and a pile of spare clothes to top up the nursery bag. Super organised!
One woman recommended getting up before your baby wakes up, if your baby sleeps well, that could be a great idea.
Look the part
Buy whole new work wardrobe so I felt nice and professional. It helped to at least appear as though I could remember what I was doing!
I know building confidence and competence in ‘making it all work’ takes practice. Talking to other working parents is really helpful to learn tips and tricks about how they manage it.
What do you want from your return to work?
Being tactical in managing your career is important, do you want to be promoted, what is essential to get that next promotion? Exposure and networking may be the most important thing, rather than delivery. What do you need to do to make sure your hard work is noticed.
Be kind to yourself
It will be a wrench for a few weeks/months. Enjoy hot coffee and going to the toilet in peace!
Don’t apologise for part time hours, you took the pay cut.
Plan for the unexpected
Have a childcare emergency backup (grandparents/good friends) as kids immune systems take a bashing when they start nursery.
Share the load
Can you divide up the week between yourself and your other half?
Have a serious discussions with your other half about them taking on more around the house and sharing the labour especially at first when you’re trying to get your head back into work mode and as soon as you’re back home you just want to cuddle your baby and not pick up the Hoover.
Lots of people recommend getting a cleaner even if only at first.
Buy a slow cooker and online shop
Slow cooker and meal prep , weekly online shop, lunch boxes get done the night before, washing in an evening, hang out in the morning when needed, majority of cleaning gets done on a weekend.
Return to work induction
Have a return to work induction. Find out what has changed, what has stayed the same, what the success measures are for the job, meet colleagues to catch up and make your career needs and aspirations clear.
Don’t over schedule your weekends
Last Saturday we did not leave our home, it was bliss. Take some time to relax and not have to rush everywhere. Pace yourself.
Tips from the experts
All roles are different but you can learn strategies and skills for combining parenting with corporate responsibilities, helping you to be more productive, satisfied and efficient in both areas. Here are some tips from coaching organisation, How Do You Do It.
• Talk openly about the issues of being a working mother and share strategies to address those issues
• Build confidence and competence in ‘making it all work’ as well as being more tactical in managing your career
• Frame conversations about flexible working or other forms of agile working so that your organisation and manager can support you and see the business benefits.
Having a supportive manager and employer makes a massive difference.
For further advice on returning to work after maternity leave:
- The Mother of all solutions podcast has top tips about returning to work
- NCT guide to returning to work after maternity leave.
- Huffington Post have a guide to returning from work from 2014.
- Christine Armstrong has written a book, ‘The Mother of All Jobs’ about returning to work, when you have children.
This blog post does not cover what you should do if things go wrong or you need advice.
Here are some organisations (UK based) who could help.
If anyone has any other suggestions, please let me know.