When maternity leave comes to an end its a very stressful time for parents. When I left work on maternity leave I opted to take 9 months, waiting as long as possible until my due date so I’d have as much time as I could with my baby, then I left fully intending to return soon after Christmas. I hadn’t even dreamt of not going back, I left my cup in my locker, papers in my tray and didn’t return any keys… But things change in a way you can’t really comprehend when you have a baby. Your plans come secondary, and often go out of the window, instead of putting yourself first and morning this new little addition to the family rules the roost. Pre-baby my focus was money, how can I make lots and lots of money to buy nice clothes, cool ‘stuff’, and go on holidays, I worked long hours on a 7 day week pattern including weekends, bank holidays and late nights if it meant I was racking up the overtime.
After having a baby and began contemplating returning to work I soon realised there was more to life than money. I’d invested so much physically and emotionally into my child that I didn’t want to go back to work, and I didn’t really mind that that meant I’d be financially worse off. My little boy HATED nursery, we went through the visits and the longest I could leave him was 7 minutes before I was called to come back to my sobbing child. I already knew this would be the case and thankfully had just waited in the car. It broke my heart. So much so that I couldn’t do it and I was very lucky in that I job I was interested in came up, I was successful at interview and crucially it meant I just work weekend mornings, so still have all week with my boy and he has important daddy time for 14 hours a week.
Not everyone can nor wants to do this, some people simply can’t afford to drop their hours, or they want to return to work for that normality and adult company. One mother I spoke to said how she dreaded going back to work after she’d had her daughter, but in fact it wasn’t that bad and she enjoyed her tea and lunch breaks uninterrupted for once! Whichever one you are here’s my tips for returning to work.
Enjoy your leave from work. This is such a special time make sure you live it to the full, be thankful every Sunday that you don’t have to go to work the next day. Do all the classes you wanted to and can afford, or find free ones to go to. Cherish every day with your baby and avoid counting down the time until it’s over.
Prepare emotionally and mentally. Whilst you don’t want it to impact your time off make sure from time to time to have a think or chat with your partner about your thoughts and feelings. Don’t bottle it up until it blows all out of proportion in your mind. And don’t bury your head in the sand and think it’s ages away I’m not even thinking about it… Because eventually it will come around and you may feel better equipped to deal with it when it’s not such a huge shock and feels like too much to handle. Discuss childcare options early with your partner, and family and friends – we feel much better leaving our children with people or places that have been recommended.
Keep in touch with your workplace. It might seem like the last thing on your mind or that you have time for, and it probably is in the early days but ‘keeping in touch’ days, emails, lunch date with colleagues, taking baby to work are all going to ease your return in the long term. If you intend to return part time or to a different role you’ll need to let work know in good time.
Prepare physically – when you’ve explored different childcare options for your baby and decided which best fits in with you and your family, visit these places early on. Your mind will feel more at ease when you know and are happy with where your child is going. Have a shortlist of nurseries and visit them all until you find the one which ‘feels right’ also remember just because Ofsted thinks it’s Outstanding it doesn’t mean you will! Booking your baby in early is best as it secures their place, the last thing you want is to find out they are full and you have to send your baby to your second choice.
Prepare baby, not only do you need to prepare yourself but don’t forget to prepare your baby too. Naturally your baby may be a little upset being left in a strange environment so you can ease this by avoiding stages when they are at their most clingy, if possible. Try leaving them with other family members or trusted friends as a warm up, whilst you are in the house leading up to longer times when perhaps you leave. Make sure you allow baby enough time to fully integrate themselves to their new surroundings, this may take a few weeks of nursery visits building up in length – ensure you factor this in to allow them all the time they need. You’ll find you’ll feel a lot more at ease when you know your baby is.
Have something to look forward to…when you do return to work it’s nice to have something to look forward to to combat the doom and gloom. A family meal after you’ve survived your first week back perhaps and a holiday booked so you know when your next break is.
Very importantly – don’t beat yourself up! Do what you think is best for your family, and Mums always know best! If that means you want to go back to work full time then that’s fine! It doesn’t mean your a bad mother, it doesn’t mean your aren’t spending enough time with your children, it means you’re providing for your kids whilst balancing your own needs – happy Mum = happy baby.
If you decide to step down from your current role to take on something less demanding (and this is something I beat myself up about a lot!) that’s fine too! It doesn’t mean that you’re a career failure, it doesn’t mean that your kids will be embarrassed of you, it means you are doing a great thing by still working to provide for your family but are sensibly relieving the pressure at work to conserve energy for home!
If you decide that you aren’t going to return to work at all then that’s also fine! It doesn’t mean that you’re lazy and work shy it means you want to devote all your time to your baby – and why shouldn’t you you carried, gave birth and taught them everything they know. Your babies are only small for a short time whereas there’s plenty time to work.
Let’s face it, being a Mum alone and looking after your children is the most demanding, difficult, exhausting & rewarding jobs there is. My days spent at home are much more challenging than those spend at work.
We are all teachers, negotiators, listeners, carers, role models, judges… 24/7 no holidays – no days off – day shift and night shift. And that will always be the case no matter how many hours we spend in the office. So, no matter what stage you are in your maternity leave, relax, read my tips and know things are seldom as bad as you imagine.