An Octopede’s Guide to Easing Back into Work After Maternity Leave
You’ve spent the last 12 months living in your maternity leave bubble. Your days have been filled with playdates, baby swim classes, and coffee mornings. You’ve just hit your stride as a new mum – and are feeling pretty proud of yourself for managing to keep a little human alive and well for a whole year – when all of a sudden it hits you. It’s time to go back to work and shift your attention from teething and sleep training, to KPIs, budgeting and client management.
For most mums, this is a time of mixed emotions. While “going back to normal” is an exciting prospect, many of us wonder, will I remember how to do my job? How will I manage taking care of a baby while working at the same time?
The good news is that going back to work doesn’t have to be a nightmare. In fact, it can be the start of a great new chapter in your life as a newly minted working mum. Here are a few tips to help you along the way:
- Stay connected: Upon your return, you may find yourself in the same office you left a few months ago. But there will almost certainly be new faces you’ve never met, new partners or clients to learn about, and new tools you’ve never used. To help bridge the gap, stay in touch with your workmates. Whether it’s a quick phone call to say hi, stopping by the office to show off your baby, or staying connected via a social tool, keep tabs on people’s comings and goings, company events, and of course, office gossip. Make sure to put some Keep in Touch Days in your diary. Coming into the office for company events, and to plan your return to work will help remind you of how much you love your job – and will make coming back so much easier!
- Plan, plan, plan: The days of not setting an alarm clock and not needing to leave the house at a specific time are over. Eeeek! Planning your new morning routine a few weeks ahead and doing some dry runs can set your mind at ease. Decide, who is in charge of feeding and dressing the baby in the morning? What time do you need to leave the house if you have to fit in a nursery drop? Do you have childcare in place should your child get sick during your first few days at work (because invariably, this is when they will pick up an infection – trust me!)? Putting in place a doable plan will help take some of the pressure off.
- Ease back in: Take going back to work one step at a time. Your first few weeks are a period of transition and no one is expecting you to hit fifth gear straightaway. Speak to your manager a few weeks before you plan to return to give your team the chance to prepare. That way everything – your laptop, initial meetings, etc.- will be set up when you arrive. It’s also a good idea for you and your manager to set up regular reviews during the first month, so you can set up short term objectives, discuss what is working well and raise any potential issues. This will enable you to be professional and proactive, and helps you add value from day one.
- Ask for friendly advice: I am lucky enough to work with many other people who also have kids. They understand about sleepless nights, doing school runs, and managing childcare for sick babies. They also know a lot about doing a fantastic job while all the parenting chaos is going on in the background. As a result, they are an excellent support group, and are giving me helpful advice on finding a balance between work and home – all while sharing hilarious nappy stories that every parent can relate to!
- Take a moment to enjoy being back at work: Sure, you’ll worry about whether or not your child is settling in at nursery. You’ll also have one or more moments of anger when the Tube isn’t running properly and you’re scrambling to manage the morning rush and the afternoon school run. But you’ll also be taking part in adult conversations all day long. You’ll get to go to the loo alone. Best of all, you’ll get to eat your lunch without being interrupted. Bliss!
Once you get back into the swing of things, you will rediscover the old you. Yes, you’ll probably feel more tired than ever before (what else is new?), but you’ll also feel smart, successful, and confident. In the words of a fellow Octopus mum, ‘Nobody cherishes every moment. Some moments are magic. Others are a bit tough. But take it in your stride, don’t set yourself unobtainable expectations and most importantly… Eat cake!’