If the idea of returning to work and trying to juggle your career with children is a bit (or a lot!) daunting, take heart – there is a lot you can do to smooth the transition back to the working world, and to keep your sanity as a working parent.
1) Allow yourself mixed emotions – the end of maternity leave is a huge change, and can induce feelings of panic, anxiety and guilt. Some women hate the thought of leaving their baby – others can’t wait to get their old working identity and routine back. Both often feel guilty, either way! It’s ok to have worries and doubts – and it’s normal. Give yourself time to talk it out – talk to your partner, wider family, friends, your employer. Be honest. Try not to bury your head in the sand and pretend it’s not happening – start talking early, look at all the options (full time? part time? job share? flexi hours?) and give yourself permission to ditch the guilt.
2) Set up your childcare – and start this early, especially if you won’t be relying on family to help. Go and visit different childcare options, ask around, check Ofsted reports, and leave time for finding the right place for your child. Sites such as Childcare.co.uk also provide trusted and reliable support for parents across the country. The relationship you have with your childcare provider is absolutely crucial to you being able to make this work, so take your time in getting it right. Even if a family member will be providing your childcare, consider drawing up a few ground rules in advance – the more you can agree a common approach on things such as food, sleep times, TV and screens and discipline, the easier you will find it to work together once you are back at work.
3) Think about the practicalities – like breastfeeding, for instance. If you intend to do this, talk to your employer about how they can make this easier for you (a clean comfortable place to express milk at work, for instance, or flexible lunch hours). Make sure your childcare option is on board too – can they help by bringing your baby to your workplace? Again, talk to your workplace’s human resources department in advance, rather than leaving it until your first day back – explore your rights, and make your needs clear, so they can prepare for your return.
4) Practice your routine – do some practice runs in the couple of weeks before you are due back. Set the alarm for your new rising time, ask if you can start the childcare a week early to give you – and your child – a time to ‘bed in’ and acclimatise to the new format. If any initial glitches arise, it will give you time to sort them out before you are thrust back into the demands of your job. And set up a few back-up options – what happens if the childminder is sick? What happens if you are delayed at work beyond the agreed pick-up time? Have a couple of emergency ‘willing hands’ on stand-by just to give you peace of mind.
5) Ring-fence some survival time – you are not quite the same person, physically, as you were before you left to have your baby. Your body has been through a lot! You are also contending with sleep disruption and general fatigue. Therefore you may well find it harder to bounce back after a day at work. Plan an earlier bedtime on work days, to get in as much sleep as possible. Divide household tasks and chores between you – and leave the ones that aren’t essential! Make time to meet up with other new mothers who know what you’re going through – they will give you the emotional support you need when your co-workers may not understand, or be willing to make allowances for your new juggling routine. And hang in there – give things a chance. Talk to your boss, and try to fine-tune things rather than give up – it’s in both your interests to find a balance that works for your employer, you and your new family.
About the Author:
Jo Wiltshire is an author and journalist specialising in parenting and family issues. A former celebrity interviewer for The Mail On Sunday, she has written three books on parenting, co-authored several other titles, and is a regular commentator on family topics in the press, online, on radio and on TV. She is currently working with Childcare.co.uk, the service, which helps parents, nannies and childminders to connect.
Jo has two children and believes that every parent is the best expert when it comes to their own children. She aims to support and encourage parents to trust their own instincts, and is working with childcare.co.uk to share the best advice and top tips gathered from real parents on the front line of family life!