Returning to Work After Maternity Leave
Going back to work after maternity leave is hard. The person you are when you return is not the person you were when you walked out of those office doors for the last time before giving birth. Everything about you - and the way you life looks - has changed. You’ve been “out of the flow” of the office for several months (or sometimes even longer), and your priorities have completely shifted - yet you might feel you’re expected to slot right back in. It’s overwhelming, if not impossible.
But we’re here to reassure you that, although it might not make it any easier, these feelings are completely normal. With the right tools in place, and a lot of grace and self care, your path back to work will feel less bumpy. Here’s our best advice - as a team of parents who have been through it - for returning to work after maternity leave.
Be forgiving of yourself.
This one comes first because it’s the most difficult - in fact, we'll call it the golden rule. As a mum you’ve become accustomed to putting everybody’s needs and feelings ahead of your own, but during this time you’re going to have to give yourself some grace.
Know this: at some time or another you will feel like you are letting your child(ren) down. You will also frequently feel like you’re letting your team down, your partner down, and yourself down. You will often feel all of the above all at once. This is normal and you need to know that what ever mistake you’ve made or detail you’ve forgotten, it isn’t as bad as you think it is.
You will cry on that first day, as will your child. Know that their tears will probably dry up before yours. You might be excited to go back to work, and feel guilty about that. You might be dreading going back to a job you once enjoyed, and feel guilty about that. Guilt is more than likely to come into the equation no matter what your feelings are, and that’s normal too. However you’re feeling - and it might be 25 different things at once - be gentle with yourself, and remember that you’re allowed to feel exactly how you feel.
Consider all your options.
Even if you intended to return to your former work schedule, you may have changed your mind now that your priorities have shifted. Perhaps you'd like to consider returning to work part time at first, and ease yourself back in to allow you to adjust to balancing your new home/work life. Make sure you understand your rights in terms of requesting a more flexible work schedule, and weigh up the costs of childcare versus reducing your hours.
You may find that you're happy to return to the same hours you worked before, and this is fine too! When in doubt keep returning to the golden rule: do what feels right for you without guilt or self-recrimination.
Put together a team you trust.
It really is true that raising children “takes a village”. Unfortunately, many of us don’t have “a village” - so we have to build one. Of course you feel like nobody can love your children as well as you - and you’re right - but you can find a team of people who want the very best for them and are able to give it. And if you know your children are happy and taken care of while you’re not there, you’ll be much more able to focus and give your best at work.
So explore the options that work well for you - perhaps that means employing a full-time nanny to join your family; perhaps it’s a case of visiting different nurseries and deciding which one feels right. Maybe you’re lucky enough to have your children’s grandparents nearby and they want to pitch in, or maybe you join forces with another family to share childcare costs. In many cases, it could be a combination of these that feel most comfortable for you.
Make sure you take the time to build a team you really trust. (At Good People we’re experts at finding you the domestic help and support that will be your perfect fit. Contact Lindy and her team for a consultation.)
Be ruthless about planning your schedule.
There’s no getting around it: returning to work after maternity leave requires a strategy that works for your family and meticulous logistical planning. Putting together your new schedule can feel the most overwhelming of all tasks, but the good news is that once it’s in place, the hardest part is over. Finding the perfect rhythm may take some trial and error at first, so be prepared to make some changes here and there, but having a schedule that is written down and visible to everybody in your family/childcare team is going to be the backbone of your success as you return to work.
Try to do a few practice runs of the new routine before returning to work. This will help to get both you and your child(ren) used to the new schedule and childcare, and make the first few weeks back at work a bit less stressful for everybody.
Have an open conversation with your boss.
Your employer will most likely have a programme of re-entry for you, to help you to find your feet, and even if they don’t they will surely be understanding of your situation. During your first few weeks back, keep the lines of communication open with your boss about how you’re feeling, how you’re coping with the workload, what you’ve missed, and how you imagine your career path going forward.
It’s important that everybody is able to acknowledge the new realities of your life as they relate to your job, and you are entitled to think about and request what you need from the company to enable you to make your situation work best. The more you take control of this conversation early on (although perhaps not on day one!), the easier it will be to set and meet expectations on both sides.
Be present where you are.
Once you have your childcare team and schedule in place, we recommend taking a deep breath and allowing yourself the freedom to be present wherever you are. Of course, this isn’t always possible, and you’ll probably feel like you’re leaving a big part of yourself with your children every single morning - but that feeling does get easier to cope with as time goes by.
If you try to stick to the golden, guilt-free rule, you will soon develop the invaluable skill of being present in the moment, and approach both your work and home life with intentionality and joy. This is the goal, but don’t feel bad on the days it doesn’t happen, as this is life as a working parent!
Be forgiving of yourself.
We say it again, because it’s the most important advice we can give!
Good People is a domestic staffing agency specialising in introducing high quality household assistance. We provide a simple, fast and professional service to recruit trained and vetted staff who match your family values. To discuss what we can do for you, or to join the Good People Club, get in touch today.