6 tips for the dreaded return to work after maternity leave

Working mumThe journey of parenthood is full of monumental moments, and for many people that includes a transition back into work.

Whether you’re eager to get back to your career or are dreading the day, it doesn’t have to be as stressful as you imagine. Mum of two Claire Crompton, director at digital marketing agency The Audit Lab, gives her tips for making the process as easy as possible.

Sort logistics early

Nurseries book up fast, as do childminders. Make sure you’ve booked and paid your deposit well in advance. Struggling to find a spot last minute will only make this time more stressful. You want to find someone you feel comfortable leaving your child with, and someone you can trust.

Do you need to organise any meals? Make sure you’ve got enough nappies and wipes ahead of time. Make sure your breast pump (if applicable) is clean and ready to go with you every morning.

Spend some time brainstorming how your mornings and evenings will play out once your new routine is in place. Of course, chances are this will need tweaking as you ease into it, but a basic routine will make you feel much more organised.

Stagger your return

We’d recommend your first day back be midweek. The first week back is going to be exhausting, but starting on a Wednesday or Thursday will help lighten the load. There won’t be as long to go to the weekend and it will act as a trial in the run up to your first full week.

Consider asking for flexible working or returning on a part-time basis, rather than jumping back in at the deep end with a full five days. All UK employers must consider flexible working requests if you have been with the company for more than 26 weeks, so it’s worth a shot.

Some companies also have working from home as one of their perks, so take advantage as that as much as possible. Work with your employer to come up with a plan of how to make it feasible.

Be prepared for some big emotions

You’ve spent the last nine months growing and carrying this small human, and then the next six to nine months looking after them day and night. Of course you’re going to be dealing with some difficult emotions when they time comes for some separation.

We’re not going to lie to you; the first day is probably going to be awful. You’re probably going to spend the whole time staring at the clock and counting down the minutes. You’ll race out of there bang on five o’clock and be home as quick as you can. It’s only natural.

Remember why you’re doing this

When all you want to do is play with your little one or hold them while they nap, remind yourself why you chose to come back to work in the first place. Financial independence, time for yourself, and feeling like someone other than ‘mum’ are all perfectly valid reasons. You’re doing this for you.

Rely on your village

It’s common to feel alone in motherhood, but that’s not the case. Whether it’s your partner, parents or other working mums, you’re going to need some support on this next stage in your journey.

If mum guilt is bad, then working mum guilt is a whole other ball game. Feeling guilty for being away, feeling guilty for not feeling guilty, feeling guilty for saying ‘no’… it can go on.

When these thoughts and feelings start to creep in, talking to others who have been through the same and understand will help massively. Create a WhatsApp group of fellow mums, join a Facebook group, or take advantage of baby classes on your day off. When you need it most, these people will jump in with some positivity and remind you of who you are.

Be patient with yourself

Perhaps the most important one of all. Give yourself time to ease back into the swing of things. For a long time you’ve been in one routine, and now all of a sudden you’re having to change that. Avoid booking big client meetings or important presentations or saying yes to huge projects on your first week back. Take the month if you need it!

Instead, be organised and give yourself time to catch up. Use your calendar to your advantage and block out chunks of time where you need to do reports, emails or certain projects. Spend time with your employees and team to catch up on what’s been going on, it’ll provide a much needed break from sitting at a desk all day!

Above all, please remember that you are not alone. There are so many other working parents out there who have been through the exact same process and will be feeling the same emotions as you. Remember, going back to work is a big thing. So above everything else, validate your feelings and remind yourself that it’s ok to take your time.

Claire CromptonAbout the author

Claire Crompton is the Co Founder and Director of digital marketing agency, The Audit Lab. Claire has a passion for communication, a strong commercial focus and appetite to deliver consistent results for all clients.

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