Tips for returning to work after having a baby

mum-and-daughter-at-work, returning to work

Having a baby and starting to raise your own family is a really amazing thing but for many women it can be challenging to know how to return to work after maternity leave.

Often, new mothers take this opportunity to explore their options. Perhaps it is time to cut down on the hours you are working, or to find a new career that gives you a better work life balance.

If you’re returning to work after the birth of a child consider these three pieces of advice. First, make sure that your career suits your lifestyle. Before having children it might have been much easier to stay late, or do the occasional task over the weekend. Now, with a young child to care for and spend time with, late nights in the office will be much less appealing. If your current career demands a long commute, you might want to speak with your boss to see if you could do some work from home to compensate for the time spent travelling. Alternatively you might decide to see if part-time work is possible. If you have decided to take a new step on the career ladder, ask the same questions – Is flexible working possible? Can I work four days instead of five? It is important to outline your expectations clearly at the start so that you and your new employer are on the same page.

If you have a partner it will be helpful to agree the shape of family life together; your partner may be able to take paternity leave and/or adapt their work patterns, too, as an increasing number of couples are dividing responsibility for childcare more equally.

When it’s time to go back to work, consider having a few practice days dropping your child off at their childcare, even for short periods, just to help ease you into that first day back, which, let’s face it, will probably be stressful enough!

Balancing your work life with your personal time is always important but after having a child this this will move front of mind. Parents want to inspire their children with their own careers and do something that makes them proud. So think about your skills and interests and see if they align with your career. If you have always been a creative person, for example, but never had the opportunity to explore this passion at work, see what opportunities are available to support you in developing this skill professionally. Some employers might be happy to sponsor you through a course that will help you hone these personal passions and apply them to a professional environment. Others might enable you to explore relevant ‘extra-curricular’ activities in your lunch break, or after work. Self-employment and branching out on your own is also an option; many women set up and run their own businesses alongside looking after children.

Lastly, make sure you have the skills you need to further your current career or that will help you take a new step after having a baby. Even after having a child, career conscious women will have their professional development in mind so think about skills you need to step up, or take a new path on your professional journey. If you decide to reduce the hours you work, or opt for a flexible working pattern, you could find there is more time to study something you love, develop your skills and get ahead. If you feel that you have missed out whilst on maternity leave, seek out coaching from your colleagues to make sure you can get back up to speed straight away.

Starting a family is an incredible journey but as committed, professional women, so are our careers. Make sure that you can balance your new responsibilities in a job you love, which gives you the satisfaction you want and lets you develop. It might mean taking the plunge and changing your role entirely, or it could just take some helpful conversations with your colleagues. Either way, make the most of returning to work whilst making the most of your new family.

Attributed to: Clare Riding, Head of Careers Advisory Service, Open University



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