Returning to work. How do those words make you feel? Excited? Nervous? Sad? Exhilarated? Perhaps a combination of all four, plus several others beside. If it’s set in stone and you know your return date, then you’ve likely arranged all the practicalities. Or are you one of thousands of Mums undecided on what best suits you and your family.
Depending on how long it is since you last worked regularly, here are some other considerations to help ease the transition back to work:
If you are somebody who has no choice but to return to work, then try to think in terms of the next 12 months, rather than your entire working life, especially if the thought of returning fills you with dread. Identifying the first steps and focussing on short time scales can help minimise feeling overwhelmed.
Striking the balance between work and family life is not easy.
Have you ever met anyone who believes they have managed to achieve this perfectly? We haven’t. Anticipate that you will feel you are under delivering on both areas of your life. You won’t actually be under-delivering of course, but when you have been used to over-delivering on every aspect of your life, it can feel like it. Give yourself a break. Work life will not be the same as it used to be. You are now doing two jobs and unless you clone yourself, something has to give. Adjust your expectations and accept that sometimes ‘good’ is ‘good enough’. All you can do is your best. Your new life as a working mum won’t be perfect: It’s okay to just muddle through.
It’s going to take a while to get your confidence back.
While you are getting back into the swing of things and catching up with developments at work, you will also be riding an emotional roller coaster. Leaving your baby will feel weird. Be patient, ride the waves of emotions and give yourself a break.
Divvy up tasks at home.
Unfortunately research shows that working mums are still largely responsible for the vast majority of parenting and household chores. If you can get your partner on board and agree an allocation of specific tasks to each of you prior to returning to work, you’ll at least have opened the lines of communication and set some expectations that can be built on.
Give some thought to getting some systems in place.
For example, who is going to be at home for the day when your child is ill? It comes as a bit of a shock how frequently there’s a nasty bug doing the rounds in a childcare setting. Plan ahead tasks for your lunch hour. Now that you are a working mum, every minute counts. Forget relaxing on the sofa at the end of a long day at work. Those days are gone, at least for the time-being! The more you can take an organised approach to your life, the less stressed you will feel.
Not everybody at work is a parent.
Anticipate that you might have to deal with unsupportive colleagues or an unsympathetic boss. This can be really tricky but you need to at least try to see things from their point of view. Your baby is happily the centre of your universe, not everyone else’s. That said, there are rules that employers must adhere to. If you feel you are being treated unfairly, seek advice from HR or externally from an employment lawyer. You can find some good ones in our directory. And then there’s the other type of unsupportive colleague. The ‘Well, I never left my children when they were little” type of colleague. There’s not many issues as contentious as the ‘working’ vs ‘stay at home’ mum and everybody has an opinion on it. Well, that’s fine. They are entitled to their opinion and if they do feel compelled to voice it, you are just as entitled to ignore it. Trust that you are doing what’s best for your family and focus on that.