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Going back to work after maternity leave is HARD! You’ve been in a lovely baby bubble for the past year; no alarm clocks, no meetings, no daily commute. And then even though you know it’s coming, it’s like you enter this whole new world. And it’s not the same, you have a child now, you may even have 2 or 3 to juggle. It’s different.

I went back to work after 16 months of maternity leave and holiday together. And I’d had a ball! Not only did I have my little girl, but I’d also set up my own business. And my daughter was my second which made for a much more relaxed maternity leave second time round.

As the day approached I was anxious about how I was going to juggle everything, my kids, work and my business. That was my main worry. Day one was hard. Into London, a long day trying to take everything in. Lots of people had left, my manager had changed (and is changing again and I’ve only been back a week!), everyone had moved on. Of course they had, it’s been over a year!

I’m writing this as I’m in the thick of my return because I want to remember how hard it is. Tomorrow is the start of week 2. I’m feeling anxious and if I’m completely honest close to tears. And I’m not really sure why. I know that I’ll get into the swing of things. I know that I’ll be able to juggle everything, mainly because I’m determined to. But it’s a big change and it feels a bit scary.

And there’s the guilt. You may be feeling guilty for leaving your kids. The guilt I felt was the pressure my job share partner was under and not being able to relieve that pressure straight away. Guilt can be a useless emotion, because all it does is hurt us, no one else. It’s like a tool to hit ourselves with! So try and let go of the guilt, because even if you feel guilty your children won’t know and I’m pretty sure they’ll still be happy.

I’m going to write the second half of this post in a few months, once I’ve settled in so I can reflect back. And I hope by then I really will be in the swing of things. I’m sure there will be lots to juggle still but it’ll be different. Different to that initial shock of returning to work.

It doesn’t take long

A little update, I’ve now been back 4 weeks and with my 2.5 days a week that’s not actually a long time. But things are starting to fall into place. I feel like i know what I’m doing again, which is just a great feeling.

It hasn’t taken long for me this time around because I went back to the same job.  Going back after my son (my first maternity leave) was a different story (and may be I’ll write about that sometime).  It took much longer to settle down as I went back to a new job, new team, new manager and it was the first time I’d experienced it. They also gave me a full-time job to do in 3 days, which just didn’t work.

It’s easy to get overwhelmed and run down during this transition so it’s more important than ever to look after yourself. Here are some of the things to think about if you’re returning to work.

Know what you want and trust yourself

Be clear on what you want even before you go back to work.  Take time to think it through, what’s going to work for you and your family.  And don’t be afraid to ask for what you want.  The hours, the flexibility you need.  Give it careful consideration so you don’t just go back and get swept up in it.  They can only say no but being clear gives you half a chance of getting what you want and need.

Have a plan

I had a plan. I planned out my weeks so I knew what I was doing when. It helped me get organised but it also showed me that I could actually fit in everything I needed to. Sometimes just getting everything down on paper helps.

It’s a change

Know that this is a change for you and your family, and change can be uncomfortable. This is a quote from Hal Elrod from Morning Miracles “every new experience is uncomfortable before it’s comfortable.” And this is so true when you return to work.

Rest

There’s no two ways about it you’ll be tired. It’s a new routine, you’ll be taking on a lot of new information and you’ll be juggling childcare. Now is when you really need to look after yourself. Rest when you can, get early nights to help prevent you from getting run down. Do whatever you need to do to look after yourself.

Eat well

It’s tempting to reach for the comfort food at times like this but it will only make you feel worse. It can impact your energy and whilst it may feel comforting in the short term, in the long run it won’t help you. If you want to feel better use other things; have a bath, get a big cuddle from the kids, get a massage, turn on some uplifting music, have a hug from your partner. The other day when I was feeling particularly unsettled I jumped in the bath with the kids, it was the best medicine.

Stay away from the bottle!

Another trap we can fall into (me included!) is to reach for the wine when you get home from a stressful day. Again it will only make you feel worse and it can impact your sleep too, meaning you could end up even more run down for having a glass or two. Enjoy a glass every now and then but don’t let it become a crutch.

Get some perspective

I remember walking out the office door one night, feeling a bit like I’d lost my confidence at work and I just remember thinking that I needed to give myself a break! I’d only been back 3 weeks. When work’s feeling overwhelming and you feel like a duck out of water it can feel all encompassing. Take a step back and remember that this phase will pass soon. Soon you’ll be back to your normal work self, doing your thing!

Be kind to yourself

Probably the most important. Like I say, give yourself a break and remember you’re a great Mum.  Go easy on yourself through the transition. And make sure you only tell yourself the things you’d say to a good friend. Be really supportive of yourself. You can do it after all!

Let go of being perfect

And last but not least, let go of perfect. It doesn’t matter if the bed isn’t made, if the curtains aren’t open, if the dinner’s not booked (for the adults anyway!), the washing up isn’t done or the house isn’t tidy. It’ll all get done and if it doesn’t, it doesn’t matter either.

Going back to word is hard, so go easy on yourself.

And if you fancy a bit of giggle but also some serious stuff on #flexappeal check out Anna Whitehouse aka Mother Pukka.  Anna’s on a crusade for flexible working for anyone that happens to be a parent, after having to quit her 9-5 job when she had her daughter.

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