Return to work with confidence

However much you love your job, the prospect of going back to work after maternity leave can fill many new mums with dread. Life coach Claire Bradford gives tips on how you can manage the transition and feel more confident about kick-starting your career again.

According to a recent study, many women lose confidence about going back to work when their baby reaches 11 months old. Around this time, they begin to doubt the chances of their own success, and fear that they will not be taken seriously in their former industry upon their return.

If you find yourself in this situation, you will probably be familiar with the lurching feeling of gloom as your return date gets closer and you watch your baby teetering on the brink of toddlerdom.

Whilst the transition is always going to be a challenge, it doesn’t need to painful if it’s managed carefully. We’ve got some tips to get you started on the journey to being a contented working mum.

Research your childcare options thoroughly

Whether your partner will be staying at home with your child or you choose a nanny, childminder or nursery, it’s important that you feel happy that your child will be safe and nurtured. You’ve spent the past year bringing up your baby, and leaving him or her with someone else will inevitably be a wrench, but if you have given yourself plenty of time to find the best solution, it will be much easier to manage.

Get back into a working hours schedule

Although the chances are that your sleep is still being disturbed regularly, try setting an alarm and following your own new routine, rather than being dictated to by your child’s sleep patterns. This will give you more of a sense of being in control.

Get back in the loop

Make contact with old colleagues or people in your industry to find out the latest developments (and gossip!), read related journals and websites or contribute to forums: all of these will help to ease you back into your working life. Don’t overwhelm yourself though – start small and build it up as you feel comfortable.

Review your wardrobe

It can feel like a waste to invest in new clothes when you still have a little weight to lose or the baby’s being sick on your shoulder on a daily basis. However, an injection of some new life into your wardrobe can spark a huge surge in confidence. Book a session with a stylist to find out the best colours and shapes for you, or pop into a large department store such as Debenhams – many of them have personal shoppers who will help you find clothes that will make you feel fabulous, and the service is usually free. Dress up a notch or two more than you normally would and notice the difference that it makes both in your self-esteem and the way others react to you.

Have clear expectations of your return

You probably won’t waltz back into the office and be able to work a full week at your usual brilliance straight away. But have faith that you will get there eventually. For now, allow yourself to take baby steps back to being your old work self – identify what these are, and recognise and celebrate each milestone you reach. Enlist the help of an understanding boss, colleague or mentor who can help you through the change, and prime your partner, friends and family to be extra supportive during the first few weeks and months. Be gentle with yourself and aim to be positive, not perfect.

Value your new skills

Recognise all of the new skills you have learned during your child’s first year and be aware that these often will transfer into the workplace too. You have been on a steep learning curve over the last few months, and this will have forged some strong neural pathways in your brain, which can only be good news for your employer.

Consider enrolling on a relevant course

Now could be the perfect time to hone your skills in a particular area, whether it’s becoming fluent in a language or learning how to build websites. Getting confident in a specialised area not only can give you more to offer at work, but will also boost your general confidence.

Plan a holiday

The return to work can feel very daunting in its seeming endlessness, so try scheduling a holiday a few months in. This will give you something to look forward to as well as marking your first, manageable ‘chunk’ of time back on the job.

Get some help

You don’t have to do this alone. Hiring a coach or mentor can help to make the transition back to work much smoother. Shop around to find someone who suits you and your needs.

By Claire Bradford of Straightforward Coaching