Five tips to help you return to work after maternity leave

Thinking about returning to work after maternity leave? Read five tips to help make the decision – and the transition back to work – easier for you and your baby.

Deciding whether or not to return to work after having a baby can be an uncertain time. For some mothers, the decision is a no-brainer, especially if the escalating costs of childcare don’t justify working. But other women may need or even want to go back to work once maternity leave ends.

If you do decide to return to work, you may have days when you wonder if you’ve made the right decision – but don’t worry, this is completely normal! In time you’ll soon start to feel more like ‘you’ again.

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Five tips to help you return to work after maternity leave

To help make the transition back to work after maternity leave easier for you, here are five tips.

1) Make the decision for YOU

You’ll need to take into account a number of factors when deciding whether or not to return to work. But while weighing up your options, make sure you set aside the financial factors for a moment and consider what it is that you want to do.

Some people would love nothing more than to be a stay at home mum, but feel that they have to contribute financially. If you want to stay at home consider whether there is another way to make an income.

On the other hand, you may be eager to get back to work, but are plagued by guilt about leaving your child. But try not to worry. If you’re happy and fulfilled you’ll be a better mother, with more emotional resources to draw on. Research shows that a mother’s return to work has a bigger impact on us than on our baby, too.

Working also meets many of our basic emotional needs, and can help prevent depression in mothers. So if your career is important to you, and you feel alive when you’re out there doing your thing, then go for it!

2) Start as you mean to go on

As new mothers, it’s understandable to want to do everything for our newborn baby ourselves. But this is neither healthy nor practical – there will come a time when you will have to place their care in the hands of someone else if you return to work.

And if you neither of you are used to this, it can make that transition harder on you both.

So, right from the start, allow your partner to get actively involved in caring for your child – this means feeding, changing, putting them down and night feeds. And take time out, even if it is just a cup of coffee with friends.

Allow friends and family to feed your baby sometimes too, so that they will be used to taking their bottle from others. (If you’re planning to go back to work but are breastfeeding, try expressing some feeds and letting others give them their bottle.)

A baby who is well settled in their community is one who will thrive in childcare.

3) Plan and prepare

You may not be Superwoman, but you can be a Super Planning Woman.

Planning and preparation are key to success when you are juggling being a new mother with your career. Here are some suggestions you may find helpful:

  • If possible, pick a start date that gives you a short first week.
  • Arrange childcare well in advance of your start date.
  • Begin your new schedule the week before you go back to work.
  • Drop your baby off at their new time, having got yourself office ready and their bag packed for the day, so that both of you have had a lead-in time.
  • Pre-cook your meals so that you don’t have to slave over the hob/oven for an hour in the evening.
  • If you’re breastfeeding, try feeding more frequently in shorter bursts before and after work.
  • Bring everything you need to pump to work with you. Arrange with your boss to use a spare, private office at intervals throughout the day, agreeing to use this as lunch time, if necessary.

4) Be present

This is probably the hardest of these tips to implement, but it is also possibly the most beneficial advice. Concentrate on where you are and the task at hand in any given moment.

So when you’re at work, instead of fixating on how your baby might be doing, try to focus on what you’re doing. When you take a break, call and check on your baby so that you’re free to concentrate when you return to your desk.

Then, when you’re at home, be present with your family. Take time to play with your child and to engage with your partner. Family time is very important at this stage so don’t relinquish it to finish work that you brought home.

5) Give yourself time

It will take time to accustom yourself to your new identity as mother and worker. And how we identify ourselves is hugely important for our sense of place in the world.

You may find that you constantly feel as though you should be doing something else as you get used to the new demands on your time. But you are only one person, and you cannot possibly tackle everything.

Talk to people close to you and share how you’re feeling. The chances are, those who already have children will relate to your experience. As they say, a problem shared is a problem halved. You are not in this alone, so don’t try to do it alone.

This new period in your life may well feel trying at times. You may feel exhausted, emotional at times, and possibly a failure on some days.

But you’re not a failure. Just do your best and ask for help when you need it. And remember, these days, months and years will pass. It won’t feel this hard for long.

Need more advice on returning to work after maternity leave?

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Mary Frenson is a marketing assistant at Checkdirector.co.uk, a new source of information on UK companies. Mary is always happy to share her marketing ideas and thoughts on business issues.