The statistics show that in our current age, most women return to work after having a baby and regardless of whether it be after 3 months or 4 years it is inevitably met with apprehension, guilt, fear and stress!
Unfortunately for us working mums, returning to work has become so ‘normal’, that the enormity of the whole process has slowly been lost on everyone and we are expected to simply ‘get on with it’ without any support or understanding.
I returned to work recently when my son was 11 months old, and even though I am completely happy with the choice to go back, it didn’t make it any easier. So below are my 5 top tips (to make the whole process easier and less stressful for you and your child.
1. Ease into it – use your ‘keeping in touch days’
If you are wondering what ‘keeping in touch days’ are then you are not alone! I didn’t have a clue what this was until I was on maternity and my sister in law mentioned them to me.
In the UK, if you have been working with your company for at least 26 weeks before taking maternity leave, then you are entitled to work (and be paid for) up to 10 days whilst on maternity. You must mutually agree to this with your employer but should they agree this option is a great way to ease yourself back into work.
Around 5 months into my maternity, I spoke with my employer and we agreed to use these days in the last 3 months leading up to my official return to work. I planned my days out to maximise the time I had and spent them getting slowly back into the swing of things. I set my desk/computer back up, arranged meetings with my team to get me back up to speed and simply refamiliarized myself with the work environment.
I personally found that these days really useful as they allowed me to get my brain back in gear with no pressure, and ensured I was ready and confident when I returned officially.
If this can work in your workplace, consider it as an option. Do not be afraid to ask your employer as many are not even aware of this themselves.
2. Give yourself plenty of time to arrange childcare
Do not leave this to the last minute. It is a big one and knowing you have made the right choice will help calm the anxiety when you have to leave your baby.
I went back and forth for a couple months over whether to have a childminder or put him in nursery before making a final decision. We spoke with a lot of people, visited a number of nurseries and generally exhausted all options, so when decided we knew it was the right choice.
Whatever you decide regarding who cares for you child, is entirely your own and there is no one right answer for all, but it is something that will play on your mind no matter what. So making an educated and thought out choice will make you feel much more reassured.
3. Have a support system
Whilst you have been on maternity your family have not had to worry about the care of your child, so you are going back to work is as much a huge step for them as it is for you. So it is important that you discuss how hard you will all find it so you all have the support you need.
Around the time I started my ‘keeping in touch days’ I became very aware that leaving my son was going to be hard. I found myself crying when I thought of him without me and started questioning whether I should quit altogether. It was at this time I spoke with my husband and told him exactly how I had been feeling. We talked it over and he reassured me I was doing the right thing and promised to keep reassuring throughout the process. You don’t need to do it alone.
4. Considering going back part time or working from home
If you can, this may be a great option. I spoke with my husband and then my bosses and it was agreed for me to go back to work for 4 days a week and so far, it is working well. I have obviously taken a slight decrease in pay, but not paying for childcare and the added benefit of extra time with my boy is all worth it. My 4 days in the office are definitely busier so keep this in mind but if you feel you need more time at home consider a 3 or 4 day week.
Additionally, working from home a few days a week is also a great alternative, even if it is just for a short time to transition back to full time. This is particularly good for any mums still breastfeeding as it allows you to pump in a more relaxed setting and keep your supply up.
5. Focus on the positives of returning to work
The money. The professional advancement. The career progression. The adult conversation. All reasons to be thankful you are going back to work. For me I always knew I couldn’t be a stay a home mum, I love my son and enjoy every second with him, but I would need the brain stimulation that comes for the daily grind at the office. The thrill of deadlines, the pride of successful job well done.
The first few weeks were hard, granted, but I am back in the full swing and happy to be working again. I enjoy my working days, my son is happy and safe and I come home to lots of cuddles and bonding time with my boy.
Being a working mum is boss! You are amazing and doing great things for the future of you and your baby. Focus on the positives, and be grateful to be such an accomplished and successful Mummy!