Just when you’re starting to get used to being at home with your baby, the end of your maternity leave looms towards you. Just the thought of getting up at the crack of dawn, putting on your smart clothes and going to work all day after a night of broken sleep can leave any new mum feeling apprehensive. After all, your job was tough enough when you did used to get a full night’s sleep, right?
Aside of the practicalities of getting yourself to work and managing to function all day long with your current challenges, there is also the inevitable maternal guilt to deal with too. Passing such a young baby off to a childminder, nursery or relative for such a long period may make you feel like the worst mother in the world, but you really shouldn’t beat yourself up. Here are some of the things you need to know about how you can make your return to work after a baby a little bit easier.
Is It The Right Time To Return To Work?
Making the decision to return to work is never easy. Much like having a baby in the first place, there is unlikely to ever be a ‘perfect’ time, but as long as you are 80 percent ready to go back, then it’s probably worth consideration.
Being ready to go back to work means being in a place where you can cope mentally, physically and emotionally with the pressures of working again. You’ll also need to ensure it’s worth it financially, and that the practicalities of managing a baby, a job and childcare arrangements are feasible.
Put The Foundations In Place Early
Getting back into a routine is never going to be easy. Start setting your alarm for the time you’ll need to be up and about for work, and practice getting everyone fed, dressed and ready to go so you have a better understanding of how long it takes. By getting your baby up and active at the right time, they’ll start to adjust to the new routine too.
If you’re planning to leave your baby with a childcare provider, have a few trial runs beforehand to help your baby become comfortable in the new situation. Nothing is going to ruin your first day back quite like having to leave a distraught baby on your way to work.
Most good nurseries will offer you free settling in sessions before you ‘officially’ start. This is a great opportunity for both you and your baby to get used to the nursery environment and staff, making for an easier transition when you do go back to work.
Talk To Your Employer
There are certain things you will need to discuss with your employer, and things that will have an impact on your return to the workplace. Make time to discuss:
Legal issues and obligations: You need to tell your employer at least eight weeks before you intend to return to work. If your previous role is no longer suitable due to incompatible shifts, extensive travel or for other reasons, then your employer is obliged to offer you a similar but more suitable role.
Plan B’s: What’s going to happen if your baby is unwell, or indeed if the person who cares for your baby is unwell? Will you need to take holiday? Can you work from home? Talk to your employer to assess your options before the worst happens.
Breastfeeding: If you’re a breastfeeding mum, you’ll need to express during the day to keep your milk production up and avoid discomfort. Your employer should offer you a quiet, private place where you can do this in peace, and enough time away from your desk to get it done.
Flexible working: If you’re uncomfortable with throwing yourself back into work as it was before, talk to your employer about other options that might be available to you. Working part time, working from home, job sharing or taking on staggered hours can all help you improve your work life balance, and as long as you’ve worked for your employer for at least 26 weeks before you went on maternity leave, you have the right to ask about it.
Hopefully you’ll have kept in close contact with your employer while you’ve been away, and will still feel in tune with the company. If you’re feeling distant, see if you can pop in for a few half days before you officially return, just to get your confidence back up. Keep In Touch (KIT) days allow you to work up to 10 days during your maternity leave without bringing your shared parental leave or pay to an end.
What If You Don’t Want To Go Back To Work?
Choosing not to return to work doesn’t necessarily mean you’ve given up on your career. Plenty of stay at home mums and dads are finding a plethora of opportunity awaits them with their new found freedom and energy. Often is just doesn’t make sense for both parents to be in fulltime employment, and instead stay at home mums, or dads, might be:
- Working part time in a new role, or working from home,
- Setting up their own business or freelancing in their profession,
- Returning to education, either via night school or distance learning,
- Volunteering within their community to support other parents.
Sometimes not going back to work opens as many doors as it closes, so don’t feel down on yourself if you decide returning to work is not for you. However, you may still want to consider making some childcare arrangements. Working from home or studying may sound like something you can do during your baby’s naps but the reality can be very different!
If you have any tips you can share with parents who are about to return to work, please add your advice to the comments below.