6 things to consider before going back to work after maternity leave
When you’re hugely pregnant, with swollen ankles and the energy levels of a sloth, the arrival of maternity leave is a blessed relief. A bit of time out, you think. I’ll put my feet up and prepare for labour, and my beautiful new arrival.
Anyone who’s had a baby, though, knows that those last few weeks are far from fun. Maternity leave is more of a necessity than a luxury. You need to slow down, and mentally and physically prepare for that stalk to arrive with your new little monster. At this point, it’s unlikely you’re already fast forwarding to the moments of your return to work…
Both emotionally and practically, there are of course a few hurdles to jump when returning from maternity leave – but don’t worry, your cankles will be far less swollen by then and you’ll be able to leap over those hurdles no problem.
The stereotypes serve to put mums off and lower our confidence on our return to work – but there’s no reason that being a mum shouldn’t make you all the more valuable as an employee. Beyoncé is still slaying…
Whether you’re rushing back to work after a few short weeks or looking at returning to your workplace after twelve lovely months, here are some considerations:
1. Use those Keeping In Touch days
It may seem a waste of valuable time you could be spending with your new baby, but KIT days are hugely valuable. You can claim up to ten during your leave, and they’re an opportunity not to be missed.
When you’re chillaxing on the sofa with your feet up and a lovely green face mask on and cucumber cooling these eyeballs, the prospect of doing a KIT day won’t exactly have you rushing out the door, but hear us out.
KIT days give your workplace the opportunity to mention any updates, so that on that first day back you’re not hit with a sea of unforeseen difficulties. Like having to deal with a surprise visit from that nightmare client, or discovering an important project has been buried under a load of dust. Cheers Simon, thanks for keeping on top of that. Not.
They also keep you at the forefront of your colleagues’ minds – not that they won’t be missing you, obvs – and allow you to mention any specific requirements for your return.
2. There’s no need to worry
There is NO NEED to be anxious about your return to work. Yes, in those first days you may feel you’ve got a mountain to climb to get back to where you were. After all, you’ve been practising very different skills during your leave. Like changing nappies, learning how to survive without sleep and avoiding slipping across the kitchen floor in a puddle of baby sick.
Remember, as well as the mundane mummy tasks, you have been developing usable skills – you’ve almost certainly become a multitasking genius. Sending an email whilst feeding? Cooking dinner whilst consoling a wailing little one? The examples are endless. And you have been finding ways – consciously or not – of helping your baby learn, every single day. These, amongst many others, are crucial skills in the workplace.
3. You’re still the same person
Forget the stereotypes – you haven’t got “mummy brain”. FYI, it doesn’t exist – if you’re forgetful about some things, that’s quite reasonable given you’re likely to be prioritising the needs of a completely reliant tiny human being. Your brain hasn’t withered.
You also won’t “spend all day thinking about your children instead of your work” – if anything, your brain is likely to be focussed on getting your tasks completed efficiently, because you won’t want to be hanging around at the end of the day. Enter superhero new mummy officer worker, and new employee of the month.
Yes, you’ll miss the little tyke, but few realise quite how much a respite from baby poo and Twinkle Twinkle can actually cheer you up. No matter how much all that singing practice has made you genuinely consider giving work up all together and auditioning for the X factor…
4. Stress, stress, stress
Don’t. Just like those first few weeks with a new baby, returning to work is likely to be indescribably hard. And few people will talk about that stress, least of all you. After all, you want your colleagues to see how slick and streamlined your return is, and how professional you are, even if you are sometimes stealing yourself off into the loos for a mid morning sob.
There’s no getting away from that little or large pang of detachment will have you feeling when you leave for work in the morning, but the different tasks and adult conversation are as needed as a breath of fresh air… Hello human civilisation, you were sorely missed.
Don’t be too hard on yourself. You are basically working two jobs. Like a surfing dog balancing on its hind legs, you’re the queen of multitasking. So when you return from maternity leave, just make sure you have a support network, whether it’s a best mate, partner, or relative, who you can offload to, and cry on, at the end of a hard day.
5. Take your time, you’re human
Give yourself time. One article says the average time it takes for you to settle back to work is a massive four months. So don’t fret, you shouldn’t pressure yourself into feeling fine after the first five minutes. As it almost definitely won’t happen that fast.
Give yourself a confidence boost anyway you know how. A fresh haircut and maybe a new outfit or two? And remember, your almost constant referrals to the gorgeous developments of your baby are interesting to work friends, so don’t feel like you’re boring them half to death when little Jonny gets a new tooth or has sprayed you with urine for the third time this week.
As you’re at work for longer, those developments become the prized moments of every morning and evening at home, rather than the major part of your time as they have been during maternity leave.
It will be hard going back to work after maternity leave – but remember, you’ve been doing a really difficult, 24 hour job for weeks or months.
6. Be confident
You can do it, you are capable, and your cheeky little bumble bee will be waiting for you, all the more excited to see you when you scoop them up after your long day at work.
If you’re looking for something to make you feel less worried about all you may have missed out on the world of work, you could always think about taking some elearning courses in your spare time “what spare time?” – it could just be the very thing to get your confidence soaring…
Now go get yourself a new work outfit, put on your favourite pair of shoes, and walk into your office like the absolute Beyoncé you truly are. It’s time to absolutely nail this working mummy thang.