With Mamamade founder Sophie Baron having just come back to Mamamade after having her son, Arthur, we wanted to share some tips for other parents in our community who are about to return to work during the Covid-19.
The thought of returning to work after having a baby can bring about mixed emotions for new parents. The transition from being new parent to a full-time or part-time employee has always brought challenges, but throwing the pandemic into the mix has made this transitional period even harder for new parents navigate.
In a pre-Covid world, returning to work after maternity leave (despite challenges) usually brought the added bonus of socialising with coworkers in the office, and having a break from being stuck at home with your baby. For some parents, returning to work meant a much-needed dose of normality and a better structure to their day.
But for those whose pregnancy, birth and maternity leave has probably been very different from what they expected, returning to work during the pandemic is no exception.
Here we've shared our advice for parents who are navigating the return to their desks (or sofas, dining tables and home offices) after having a baby.
Whilst you may have been a full-time employee before going on maternity leave, returning to full-time after a period of not working can be both mentally and physically exhausting.
If you can, consider easing this transition by using any accrued holiday to ease your way back into the office, starting with 2 or 3 days a week if needed and gradually building up. If you have a partner, it’s a good idea to take their schedule into consideration so you can plan childcare responsibilities in advance.
Set boundaries with work
Have open and early discussions with your boss about expectations for your first few weeks back at work, especially if childcare is likely to be an issue due to lockdown. Keeping the dialogue open and setting and managing expectations early will help alleviate any anxieties you may have about returning to work, and will help your boss to plan ahead for your return.
It’s also a good idea to inform them if your plans or situations change. It’s very common for parents to cut their maternity leave short if they decide they want to return to work earlier than planned, or extending it if they aren’t ready to come back yet. Arranging a monthly email or phone call check-in to discuss your plans can be a good idea to keep the communication channels open.
Use your catchups to also discuss what your first few weeks back at work may look like. You may find the best use of your time in the first few weeks is catching up with colleagues and clients, or sitting in on virtual meetings to gradually build a better sense of what’s happening in the business and with your colleagues right now.
If working from home, set up your workspace
Your colleagues who have been WFH for the best part of a year now may have nailed their home-office space setup, but this probably wasn’t something you thought about while preparing to have your baby!
Environment plays a huge role in helping us get into the right headspace for working, so it’s really important to 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!
Experiment with a few areas around your house to work out where’s best for you. It’s not always possible, but try to find a space that is separate from where you eat, sleep, take your breaks and relax in the evening to create a sense of distance between working and relaxing.
Renegotiate your home life
If you have a partner on your parenting adventure, then it’s important to understand how you are going to help support each other during this transition period. Now is a good time to sit down together and re-assess all of the daily tasks to come up with a daily schedule.
It’s likely that the parent who was at home on maternity leave took on more home-related responsibilities which they’ll no longer be able to complete while working. To avoid conflicts, openly discuss who will do what moving forward and create a schedule.
You may find it works if one of you works in the morning while the other looks after your baby and you switch in the afternoon (before both trying to work at night while the baby is asleep...😴). If this isn’t possible, then consider creating a feeding schedule so you can divide feeds between you both if baby is bottle-fed.
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 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 just aren’t enough hours in the day right now, and there’s not enough support out there for new parents either.
If you’re managing WFH and childcare right now, take a look at our recent blog on What You Need To Know About Parental Burnout.
Mamamade are here to help
We are driven by our purpose of breaking the stigma around asking for parenting help, by providing organic, plant-based and flash-frozen meals for babies.
We also provide our subscribers with full access to personal nutrition coaches and baby experts for tailored advice, as well as welcoming them to our growing community on Facebook, ensuring a full suite of personalised support for parents.