The thought of returning to work after having a baby can bring mixed emotions for either new parents or experienced ones. This transition can sometimes bring challenges; for me, it was mostly the "How am I going to manage childcare" "I think I've forgotten how to talk to an adult!" and even "I don't think I can go back to work now that I've got a baby". All these thoughts and more are normal; most parents think along these lines with a few more added worries depending on their circumstances. It can all be overwhelming but trust me when I say that it all gets better, and you'll learn to own it after you've managed to work through the list of things holding you back. I've created this blog because I, too, went back to work after having a baby, and so did most of the women I know (except for a few). We all had in common that we, at some point, were all in the same boat! We felt exactly the same way when we finished our maternity leave and tried to navigate our return back to our desks.
Nowadays, your desk could mean a sofa, a dining table, a home office or a snazzy coffee shop! My point is that no matter where you are returning to, this blog will help ease you into the swing of things.
There is no rush! Take your time, and if you aren't ready, then don't force yourself. Whilst you may have been a full-time or a part-time employee before going on maternity leave, it doesn't necessarily mean that you'll be able to pick up where you left off. Returning to work life after having a baby can be both mentally and physically exhausting!
So here's a word of advice, If you can, try and consider easing this transition back to work by using any accrued holidays! Plan in advance - talk to your work about KIT days so that you can ease your way back without being thrown into the deep end. Consider starting back at work for just 2 or 3 days a week until you feel that you can handle more hours. Also, if you have a partner, friend or family who want to support, take their schedule into account! By doing so, you can plan childcare responsibilities way in advance (It'll take a load off your shoulders).
COMMUNICATE YOUR NEEDS WITH WORK
I can't stress how important it is to have an open relationship with your work; keep in contact even if that means sending them an email once every two months! My word of advice would be not to be afraid and let them in; have an open discussion, and manage expectations early; whether that be about your needs and wants or your mental/physical well-being. It's important to give yourself the benefit of the doubt! You've just had a baby, and your employees should be there to help and support you through this process. So, try and leave the guilt behind and own it!
Make sure that you involve and inform your employer if your plans or situations change. It's very common for parents to cut their maternity leave short if they decide to return to work earlier than planned or extend it if they aren't ready to come back yet. Or even discuss not returning to work-life altogether. Remember the KIT days; they were a lifesaver for me; They allowed me to navigate my way back into work slowly! I worked two days a week for at least two months to have flexibility and manage things on my terms. It helped me with my nerves, and it gave me enough time to catch up with my colleagues and re-introduce myself to the busy work atmosphere.
On another note, There's no hiding that childcare can be a pain! Especially because sometimes it can be unpredictable, which is why it's a good idea to take people up on their offers to babysit, and if that's not an option, look into having a backup plan. Apps like Bubble are great for last-minute babysitters! I always got so worked up when things didn't go to plan; the truth is that it's all a part of the journey, and it took me a while, but I came to terms with the fact that I can't control everything! So, if childcare is likely to be an issue, let your work know so that they can be mindful of your situation and manage expectations beforehand.
WORKING FROM HOME IS A THING NOW!
Working from home can either be a treat or a sweet curse. The times are changing, and for some people who can, they have the opportunity to work from home - If it's something that you're considering, I would advise you to ask your employee! It might not always work in your favour, but it's worth a try.
Working from home is excellent as long as you have no distractions. That includes your baby and sometimes your partner too (if you have one). It's good to set boundaries and sometimes have a flexible mindset for those unexpected days without childcare. It's normal to have your child on a video call (A mama's gotta do what she's gotta do). It took me a while to adjust to it, but once you realise that most people on the call "think your superwoman", it starts to get easier. And if things get too out of hand, use the mute button to reclaim the calm. You always have options, and you should never have to go through a work call whilst juggling a panic attack and a toddler tantrum (talking from experience)! Know that you can always reschedule, and most of the time, the person on the other line will understand and sympathise.
Environment plays a huge role in helping us get into the right headspace, so consider your working space when preparing to return to work. You'll want a workspace that is both comfortable and practical, and a few aesthetic touches never go amiss! Pro-tip, you'll want to get yourself an ergonomic chair to help you with your posture and ease the postpartum healing process. Most of the time, you'll be tempted to lounge around on your sofa or in bed to get your work done (we've all been there), but for the long term, it's a good idea to experiment with a few areas around your house to work out where's best for your "official" office space. It's not always possible, but try to find a separate space from where you eat, sleep, take your breaks and relax in the evening to create a sense of distance between working and relaxing.
HAVE "THAT TALK" WITH YOUR PARTNER
If you have a partner or someone that helps you out, It may be time to have a sit-down talk to understand and re-assess what you both may need from each other during this transitional period. These's always that one parent who does more around the house than the other, that one partner that takes on more responsibilities. Now that the dynamic might change, try implementing a chore chart; dedicate equal responsibilities to maintain a sense of peace within the home. Although it might seem a little corporate, an alignment meeting is a great way to avoid conflicts and openly discuss who will do what moving forward.
You've got to become a tag team! If one man is down, you've got to pull them back up. The act of balancing parenthood along with motherhood and a love-life can be challenging, but as long as you both can work through things, you'll be fine; just remember that communication is always key!
DON'T BE HARD ON YOURSELF
If you live far away from family and don't have a suitable childcare option right now, remember you're being asked to do the impossible. It's unrealistic to set yourself the goal of putting in a full day of work + full-time baby care at the same time. But for many new and experienced parents, this is no longer a matter of choice. It's frustrating - we know. You probably feel like you're not getting enough done, that you're failing at both jobs. But you're not - you're doing the best you can, and it's not your fault if things are slipping. There's just not enough hours in the day right now, and there's not enough support out there for parents either. Don't be afraid to ask for a mental-health break and book in some well deserved holidays! If you're currently working from home and having a tough time, take a look at our recent blog on What You Need To Know About Parental Burnout.
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A MESSAGE FROM SOPHIE
Going back to work is equal parts exciting and heartbreaking. Walk to get lunch with no buggy in tow? Sign me up. Spend all day scrolling through pictures of my baby as a newborn? Yep, that too. With Arthur being born during the last lockdown, I didn't get much of a traditional mat leave, and so the return to work was also a mourning of a different kind. But time away from him, no matter how long or how short, was also empowering - being back in 'work mode' gave me the confidence and energy boost I needed to greet parenting with a full and open heart. It's ok if it's easy, and it's ok if it's hard - just be gentle with yourself, and enjoy the ride.
I hope this helps!
If you have any questions, please get in touch.
Himanshi @ Mamamade