Today I am excited to have Melissa, a momma in London, sharing her thoughts as she prepares to return to work after the birth of her son, Rafferty. She's rounded up seven tips that have helped her in the transition from maternity leave back to the corporate world.
Each time we hit a new milestone in Rafferty's first few months, and after the sound of joy and cameras flashing had died down, I was always struck with what felt like a grey cloud, bobbing over me and raining with the realization that each milestone meant I was getting one step closer to the end of my maternity leave, and ultimately my return to work.
I’d put these feelings to the back of my mind. Telling myself to live in the moment and worry about work in the New Year, because the New Year seemed so far away. But then it came and went and my return to work felt like more than an elephant in the room, it was a herd of elephants in the room.
While I did miss parts of my job, I felt conflicted. I loved the idea of being part of the hustle and bustle of city life again, but I also loved waking up to beautifully drawn out breakfasts with my little man, introducing him to an eclectic music collection while we shared laughter and toast, and picking a different adventure to embark on together each week.
So began a war of two sides in my own head. And depending on my mood, depended on which side I routed for that day. Sometimes I wanted to be the independent career-minded mum who was going to juggle everything like some kind of super hero, and other days I just wanted to stay at home and have quality time with my baby without feeling guilty. So I wondered, could I somehow balance both?
As communications with work began, I decided to take control of the situation and I wanted to share what’s made the whole experience easier for me.
1. Make A List
Start by writing a list of things that are a must-have for your return to work. Split this list into things you 100% won’t budge on and things that you could compromise on. I found this really useful in kicking off talks with HR and it became the blue print for discussions to find a solution that suited everyone. It also taught me not to be afraid to ask for what you really want.
2. Keep In Touch
Find out what’s available at work to make the transition as easy as possible. As my anxiety at not being at work for nearly a year kicked in I decided it would be beneficial to use my first Keeping In Touch (KIT) day*. This initially felt daunting but once I arrived I was filled with the buzz and excitement at being in a working environment again. I was reminded that this was something I was really good at. I’ve continued to use my KIT days (a total of ten) once a month to ease myself back in.
*Keeping In Touch days are optional paid workdays an employee can work during their maternity leave in the UK.
3. Be Realistic
Be realistic with how you’re prepared to split your time. I need to know that I can leave at a set time each day, without the stress or guilt that I’m leaving people in the lurch. I don’t want to stretch myself too thin, so this has meant taking a step back in some of my responsibilities at work.
4. Consider Childcare
Start thinking about childcare options. As soon as I’d found an amazing nursery that Rafferty was happy in (we did a number of visits), I instantly felt more at ease with the prospect of returning to work because I knew he’d be in safe hands. I’m going to slowly settle him into nursery in the weeks leading up to my start date, and this will take the pressure off a number of things; he’s likely to catch a bug or two when he first starts, he might need some mummy reassurance, and I’m only down the road if I have to go and pick him up.
5. Talk It Out
Remember they’ll be other parents at work that have been through the same thing. Pick their brains to see how they found a balance but remember to take all advice with a pinch of salt. During one of my KIT days I bumped into an old colleague who was eager to let me know, in quite an opinionated manner, why she couldn’t be a stay-at-home mum. Going back to work is a topic you’ll find everyone has an opinion on, but what’s important is making it work for you and your family.
6. Spice Up Your Wardrobe
Indulge in some retail therapy. One of the highlights of going back to work means that for a few days a week, you won’t be used as a human tissue to wipe anything on… Well, I say that, but I’m sure Rafferty will do his best to wipe his sticky face or hands on me before I leave in the morning. Either way, the prospect of getting to buy something new to wear is a lovely one.
7. Be Prepared
There are bound to be some first-day-nerves so make the day as easy as possible. Plan your outfit and pack your bag the night before, leave your little ones things out for the morning, and work out the best journey to work to give yourself enough time to get in and settled.
I’m due to start back at work in April. I’m going to be working four days, with one of those days from home. In reality I don’t know if this will work or not. I’m not sure if commuting, working, and being a mum will be the right thing. But I’m willing to give it a jolly good go.
Melissa is a senior creative in London and mum of Rafferty. You can find her @i_love_copy melissabennett.co.uk and Instagram @mimiandraff