Returning to Work After Maternity Leave

Returning to work after maternity leave is a bit like jumping onto the back of a moving bus – it’s exciting but you are sure you’ll trip up on the way in. New mums often feel a rollercoaster of emotions, from real excitement, to guilt and anxiety. But hey, it’s all perfectly normal and most mums go through the exact same feelings.

To make this ride smoother, build a little support squad around you. Chat with other mums who’ve been there, done that. Their stories can be gold mines of advice and comfort. And if things get too overwhelming, a counsellor can be a great outlet voicing your thoughts and worries and figuring out your emotions.

Prepping for the Big Return

Preparation is your best friend when heading back to work. Here are some practical steps to get you started:

  1. Plan Childcare: Secure a reliable childcare setup well in advance. This could be a daycare, a nanny, or a trusted family member. Visit and vet your options to find the perfect fit and if you love somewhere that you think will be popular, do it sooner rather than later so you can get your child’s name on their waitlist.

  1. Communicate with Your Employer: Have a chat with your boss about your return. Lay out your concerns and clarify what’s expected regarding workload, hours, and any accommodations you might need. 
  1. Review Company Policies: Get to know your company’s policies on flexible hours, remote work, and breaks. This knowledge can help you negotiate a work arrangement that suits your new lifestyle if that’s what you want to do
  1. Breastfeeding: If you are still breastfeeding when you return to work after maternity leave. request a private space to express milk (the toilet not acceptable). A fridge to store your milk would be handy too.
Finding That Sweet Work-Life Balance

Balancing work and home life can feel like juggling flaming torches, but here are some strategies to keep everything in the air:

  1. Flexible Work Arrangements: Ask for a flexible schedule. Maybe you can work from home part-time, adjust your hours, or even share your job. Employees have a statutory right to request flexible working, which can only be rejected by an employer if there is a genuine business reason. You can contact ACAS if you need support or guidance.
  1. Set Boundaries: Define your work hours and stick to them. Keep work emails and calls confined to these hours to ensure quality family time.
  1. Prioritise Tasks: Focus on high-priority tasks and delegate when possible. This keeps your workload manageable and stress levels down.

Tackling Guilt and Anxiety

Feeling guilty or anxious? Welcome to the club! Here’s how to handle it:

  1. Self-Compassion: Be kind to yourself. It’s okay to feel conflicted – balancing work and family is a journey, not a sprint.
  1. Quality Time: Make the most of the time you spend with your child and focus on quality over quantity. Meaningful activities can strengthen your bond even if you aren’t around 24/7
  1. Professional Support: Many companies offer Employee Assistance Programs (EAPs) for counselling and support. Don’t hesitate to use these resources if you are struggling with the transition.
 Leaning on Your Support Systems

Don’t be shy about leaning on your support systems:

  1. Family and Friends: Accept help from family and friends, whether it’s babysitting, meal prep, or just lending a listening ear.
  1. Workplace Support Groups: Join or form a support group with other working parents within your organisation. Sharing experiences and advice can create a sense of community and understanding.
  1. Professional Networks: Engage with networks that support working parents. They offer resources, advocacy, and a platform to share your journey.
Practical Tips for the First Week Back

The first week back can often be a the hardest. Here are some tips to ease the transition:

  1. Ease In Gradually: If possible, start with a shorter work week to help you adjust without feeling too overwhelmed.
  1. Organise Ahead: Plan your outfits, meals, and childcare routines in advance to reduce morning stress.
  1. Stay Connected: Keep in touch with your childcare provider to stay updated and reassured about your child’s well-being throughout the day.
  1. Reflect and Adjust: At the end of each day, think about what went well and what didn’t. Use this reflection to tweak your routine and make adjustments if needed.
Looking Ahead

Returning to work after maternity leave is a journey that requires patience, flexibility, and support. By prepping ahead, setting realistic expectations, and leaning on your support systems, you’ll soon find your groove. Remember, it’s a continuous adjustment process, and finding a balance that works for you and your family takes time. Embrace the journey, and don’t hesitate to seek help and support along the way if you need it.