Are you thinking of returning to work after maternity leave? Follow our ten tips
While September is traditionally the month of going back to school, for some mums and dads it might also signal their return to work.
Whether your maternity leave has come to an end, you’ve been a stay-at-home parent for a while but have just seen a job you like, or your child starting school means you want to go back out in the workforce, returning to work after a period of being ‘off’ and looking after your child - which is full-time in itself - is a big change for you and your family.
There are many different logistics involved in going back to work for your family, plus a million different emotions for you, from joy to guilt. To make the process as manageable as possible, follow our tips:
Arrange childcare as far in advance as you can: Make sure you have concrete arrangements in place for childcare as soon as you can, be it a nanny, nursery or child minder, or a relative or partner who will be looking after them. Some nurseries, especially popular ones in busy cities, have long waiting lists stretching to over a year, where it’s not unheard of to have to put your child’s name down while you’re still pregnant, especially if you are going back full time.
If your child is going to nursery or a childminder, start the settling in process early, while you’re still at home, as it can take a while for little ones to get used to somewhere new. It will ease the pressure on you if you know they are familiar with the place and process.
Try and have a transition period for you, too: Even returning to a job that you’re familiar with can be a shock, as the workplace may be the same but everything will have changed for you. Use your KIT (keeping in touch) days - you are allowed ten of these, more information is here. Some people also use a few days of holiday for the first few weeks so they are not thrown back into full-time work at once.
Accept that work is going to be different: While you might be motivated and ready to go, work when you have children is different to when you didn’t. You might not be able to make all the social arrangements like drinks after work, and you might not be able to take long lunch hours or spend lots of time chatting if you’re on a tight time deadline to get home for nursery pick-up. Try and accept all of this, and don’t dwell on it.
Work on becoming super organised: Cook in bulk at the weekends so you always have a freezer full of ready-to-eat meals for evenings. Get everything out the night before. Hire a cleaner, if you can, because it means one less responsibility for the adults. Have a family calendar so everyone knows what is happening every day - you can have an online version on your phone that several people can access at once, which also makes it easy to set reminders.
Plan your mornings with military precision: If you have to get children ready for school and nursery and make yourself look presentable, mornings can be a rush. No-one wants to be running around looking for a child's lost sock in their pants two minutes before their train is due. Read our post from TalkMum blogger Jenny about how she prepares everything in advance to help her when leave the house on time for school and work.
Lay out your outfits ahead of time: Every precious minute counts in the mornings when you are trying to get out of the door and get to the office. Sort out your children’s outfits the night before, even down to putting each sock in their shoe. Do the same for you. If it helps, get everything ready on a Sunday night. Put outfits on one coat hanger - even jewellery - and iron them all in one go too.
Learn to say no: You can't work late because everyone else is. You can't take on lots of extra work which will take up the weekend. You’re no longer the employee who will do everything anyone asks just because they don’t fancy doing it themselves. Your priorities have changed, and that’s fine. You can still do your job, but you can also get to nursery on time to pick up your baby.
Accept that you’ll drop some balls: There’s a lot to think about and do all at once when you are managing work and childcare, and it’s likely that you will forget something or get something wrong, especially while you are still getting used to everything. Accept that this will happen, and move on.
Accept that you’ll feel guilty: Mum guilt can be very real, but make sure you remind yourself why you’re doing this and that your child is looked-after and happy. It’s OK to enjoy and like work and want to do it, too - don’t feel guilty about that.
You will be exhausted, but think of the up-sides: Looking after children is tiring, but when you add in a full day of work plus rushing around to childcare and coping with everything else, it will be exhausting, especially at first. Remember, however, that you won’t be exhausted forever. There’s also always an upside so make the most of the change of scene and the adult company. And, best of all, enjoy going to the toilet by yourself and drinking your tea while it’s hot.
What was your best tip from when you returned to work after having children? If you're returning to work and still breastfeeding, make sure you read Charlotte's guide to expressing at work