Returning to work after having a baby can be a daunting experience. You have been off work in a baby bubble for a while and the thought of having to now work can seem impossible. How will I fit in getting ready for work, the commute and actually being in work alongside nappy changes, playing with my baby and all the other things I need to do? I know I definitely had these thoughts! The other day I read an article that said most first time mums don’t want to go back to work after having their babies so I thought it might be useful to share my experience.
Some people see going to work as a way to challenge their brain, the opportunity for a hot drink and a way to have some balance with mum life, which is brilliant. I found that, whilst these things are true, I spent several months worrying about my return. What if Jasper needs me? Will I miss him too much? Will my brain have turned to mush? I have now been back at work for nearly a month and, whilst I would still rather be with my baby, the return hasn’t been as bad as I expected and working is fine but I definitely built it up in my head way more. I worked my first full day this week and I even managed to do it without taking a nap at my desk! But I did video call Jasper half way through the day because I missed him, he waved at me and kissed the phone then carried on playing so it really helped me to see he was happy.
So I thought I would share 7 tips that have helped me and Jasper with the transition in to our new routine:
1. Come up with a working plan that fits in with your family / new role – Before I had Jasper I was pretty sure that I would go back to work after maternity leave early and that I would go back close to full time. As soon as he was born, I knew that I wanted to spend as much time with him as possible and work much less than I originally thought. After coming up with quite an in depth budget, I decided the best thing to do for work/family balance and financial reasons was to return to work for 3 days a week.
2. Stay off as long as you need – This relates quite strongly to the previous point, as I said for me I wanted to spend as much time with him as possible and I felt that I wanted to utilise that I could take an entire year off. Although legally you are allowed to have a year off, this is dependant on whether you are financially able to.
3. Parental leave mentor – My work offer a parental leave mentor scheme which is essentially having someone who has recently been on parental leave support you through your parental leave period. I found this really helpful to realise everyone has the same fears about going back to work and I found it reassuring to hear that returning to work probably wouldn’t be as bad as I was building it up in my head. I don’t think it needs to be as formal as having an actual mentor but speaking to someone that has been through the experience I think is invaluable.
4. Phased return – I think once I had accepted that I was going back to work phasing back in is the thing that has helped me the most. I knew that getting us both up and ready to leave in the mornings would be the hardest part for me so I have done several weeks of just working in the mornings. Jasper is staying with my mum whilst I am at work so a phased return has also been really useful for them to get in to the new routine.
5. Keeping In Touch or KIT days – Employees are allowed to work up to 10 optional days during their maternity leave without your maternity leave having to end. They are sometimes a good way to earn a bit of extra money towards the end of your maternity leave when you might not be getting paid very much or anything at all. I used a couple of mine during the last couple of months before I returned and I found them useful to find out what was going on at work and see that not as much had changed at work as I thought (even my desk was still the same as before I went off).
6. Remember you don’t have to give baby back – I have spoken to other mums about this and because your maternity leave is a defined period of time it almost feels as if you have to give your baby back after it. So this is just a reminder that you don’t and you are still an amazing mum making the best choices for your baby.
7. You will get used to the new routine even if it doesn’t get easier to leave them – I have found that even though I still hate to drop him off and pine for him after I have left, I have started getting used to our new routine, so if you are about to go back to work then I just wanted to let you know that it is possible.
Thanks for reading, Jen x