The big come back: returning to work post maternity leave
And just as quickly as it started, you are facing the bitter sweet end of your maternity leave and the prospect of returning to work is looking you dead in the eye saying “come here baby”. For some mothers, this can be a welcomed change and break from baby talk, spill ups, nappy changes and never ending laundry. For others however, it may be the dreaded return they were hoping would never come, bringing bouts of anxiety, guilt and worry.
The majority probably lie somewhere in the middle. You are sad and know you will miss your little one, after all, they have been your most reliably present friend for months on end. BUT inside you are elated (guiltily so) to put on clothes that don’t resemble rags, actually get your hair and make-up done, and commute to a place of employment like most of the population. There is a sense of “ahh…. I feel like my old self again” and the notion of engaging in actual adult conversations, and re-finding yourself is all too exciting.
I flip flopped between the three mental and emotional states above. As I await my pending return to work, I look back over the past few months and how big of an adventure it was, a mixture of extremely difficult moments where I questioned my sanity and ability to raise a functional little human and some of the most treasured moments. A big fat rollercoaster it is indeed! No one can deny that being a stay at home mum is not easy (except those that have never done it) but the pending return to work crops up new worries and challenges because let’s face it, your responsibilities at home do not go away, you simply get the great pleasure of adding another hat on to your already packed head. Enter the phase of a fully-fledged working mum.
As I write this post, I have roughly 3 weeks remaining until I head back to the corporate world and I know too well that I have some big adjustments to make to ensure that 1. My child will be well catered for in my absence and 2. I am mentally, physically and organisationally (is that even the right word to use?) ready for that 9 to 5 life. So here are some of the things to think about before the New Year ushers in my big change:
Sleep training my bed buddy
Right, I’m guilty (sue me). I succumbed (well, I never really tried otherwise) to allowing my son to spend a few nights a week in bed with me and I don’t feel bad about that, in fact, I enjoyed it hehe. I did until I realised he will need to be adequately sleep trained to ensure he gets maximum rest, begins to develop some form of independence and get used to being away from his comfort blanket (me). If you are like me and haven’t got a solid, working routine in place when it comes to bedtime, I suggest you get on to google and find the appropriate training technique that fits you and your child (I will write a post detailing the different training methods out there).
This goes without saying really but it is oh so important. I’m fortunate enough to be granted flexible working by my employer but having the right childcare in place, where you have peace of mind knowing your child is being well looked after, will allow you to settle back into work a lot smoother. Whether a nursery works best for you or you prefer a one on one nanny, or the generosity of close family/friend, we all want to ensure our children are first and foremost safe in our absence and will continue to thrive. When I finally sorted out my childcare plans, I felt a massive weight lifted off my shoulders and I could once again look forward to the pros of returning to work.
Plan, plan, plan
Meals. Chores. Sleep. Leisure. Downtime. Playtime. Granted, I haven’t nailed this one yet but I plan on planning! I’m naturally a control freak and don’t do well in chaos and disorganisation which means planning all the aforementioned things is absolutely key to me. Call it uptight if you may but that’s how I function and is important when having to balance so much. If your job is taxing and demanding, putting some hard plans and a schedule in place to tick all your boxes on the infamous to-do list will come in handy.
We thankfully live in a generation where companies are beginning to understand the need to grant flexible working to employees, particularly mothers returning to work. Speak to your work place about the possibility of letting you slowly phase your way back into a normal working routine (if your role permits this). I have an upcoming post on flexible working which will share more insight based on some amazing conversations I’ve had with the founder of Mumbelievable, Ursula Tavender, an advocate for employee flexible working. This could mean working from home a couple days, compressing your hours or perhaps reducing the days you do. Start the conversation and you never know what you are able to attain.
Take your time
Don’t put too much pressure on yourself to be the ultimate superwoman (echoing the advice of my HR lady). Take each day at a time and slowly get back into the groove of things. You may miss a deadline here or there, you may not be able to attend every single work function or put your hand up to take on extra work that may lead to your promotion. And that’s ok. Whether we admit it or not, our lives have changed and we have to find new ways of being effective at work that do not compromise our ability to be present parents. Working smarter is key.