Returning to work after maternity leave? Here are six tips to help you

Getting ready to return to work after maternity leave? Here are six tips to help you from Abbie Coleman, editor of MMB Magazine.

  • “I can not believe you’re not returning to such an amazing job, are you sure you want to stay at home, it seems such a waste.”
  • “You will be looking to do what’s right for your family now, putting your career on the back burner is the right thing to do.”
  • “You should count yourself lucky they took you back on those hours.”
  • “I can not believe you spend so much time away from those little babies.”

Believe it or not, I have spoken to returning mothers who have had those comments said to them daily. Returning to work is like having a baby everyone has an opinion on how you should do it and they are not afraid to voice it.

Returning to work after maternity leave can hold a range of emotions from excitement to heading back through to dread at the thought of leaving your baby before you are ready.

Having spoken to so many maternity returners as part of my work and from our surveys to readers stories and experiences, one thing I can say is that while there may be some common themes, not every woman feels the same way about her return and you shouldn’t expect them too.

Returning to work after maternity leave? Here are six tips to help you

We recently ran a survey of over 1,000 maternity returners on their thoughts, feelings and support they were offered upon return. As you can imagine they were not the great results that you would hope for, and there still seems to be a long way to go on support for maternity returners.

So we want to give you our top tips to help you navigate your return from the most common feelings our readers told us they felt.

1) Know what you want

Know what is important to you, not what everyone is telling you, you should do. Take some time out to sit down and look at your personal and career priorities, have these changed has the way you feel changed? Are you returning to a role and company your happy with, do you want more flexibility?

Do you want to ensure your back on track with looking at your next promotion? Once your goals are clear you know you are on the track to success as your working towards something that works for you.

Tip: Re-look at your five-year career plan has it changed, have you changed, map it back out without goals your never going to see how far you have come. If you are lucky enough to have access to funds to pay for credible coaching this could be a good time to talk with someone.

Tip: If you are with a partner speak with them you may find they would love to share parental leave or take a more flexible role to be at home with their child too.

2) Know how you can achieve this

So, you have worked out your priorities now how do you achieve them? If you are returning to work ensuring that you have the right childcare is essential if your heading back full time and your role includes long hours, then maybe a traditional nursery wouldn’t be suitable, and a childminder or nanny would be a better cost-effective childcare solution.

Or maybe you wish to cut back your hours initially in which case work out your finances on what you need to be bringing in the website the salary calculator can be an excellent way to quickly work out your salary, daily monthly yearly when pro rata. Once you know what is important to you and what you need to achieve this, you now need to speak with work.

Tip: Work out your childcare options, finance options to support your career choices before you go in to speak with your employer, so you don’t end up saying yes to something that simply won’t work and your employer has something to work with.

3) Talking to work

The key to this apart from a great employer is to remember you have your ideal plan but that this is a starting point to work with your employer to find a solution that fits you both so flexibility is key both ways.

Remember that this plan is fluid and a work in progress and what may suit you with a six-month-old may not still work for you with a four-year-old. If you are looking to request flexible working read this article to ensure you’re well prepared.

4) Build your network

Once your back you may find some of your networks have moved on or indeed you need to reconnect and rebuild your network.

Not only can this help you in business, but it also connects you to what has happened and is happening in the current marketplace. Once you have a great network that you put into as much as you take out from you will find this is your wealth of information and contacts and resource.

Tip: LinkedIn is a great way to connect with people dropping a personal message can gain great response. In fact, I found more people rallied round and supported me once I had had my child as they had been through it themselves and knew how tough it could be.

5) Be kind to yourself

You may be feeling at your most vulnerable right now and self-doubt may start to creep along with that feeling that nothing seems to be going right. How can you do this? How can this work?

It’s important to be kind to yourself, and remember your achievements and your capability pre return while you’re undergoing this transformation. These feelings will pass once you find your feet and a schedule that works for you.

Reports have suggested it can take up to nine months for a returner to feel settled back into their company. Don’t beat yourself up, give yourself a break you’re probably doing a lot better than you give your self-credit for. And remember you were highly capable before and are highly capable now, its just that feeling that is all a bit different. If you need some support or want to chat with others join our MMB Returners Facebook Group to chat and connect with others.

6) Ask for support

Don’t be afraid to ask for support at home and at work. You have worked through what you want and need for your career plan, don’t be afraid to do the same with your family let them know how they can support you in achieving what you want to achieve.

Tip: Maybe ask for a mentor internally or externally to help keep you on track and push you to achieve, it can be a great asset for any working woman.

And finally, if it isn’t working

Maybe you have returned and deep down something for you has changed. You don’t feel as fulfilled, You’re not as passionate about what you’re doing as you were before; your career passion has changed or your current employer or role just isn’t working. Maybe you have decided that you actually need more time at home than you expected.

Don’t be afraid to take a step back and really assess what makes you happy and fulfilled, as no matter what career or employer you’re with or in if your career ambitions and plans have not aligned no place will feel like the right place.

I have spoken with the most career-focussed women who, after children, wish to take more time out for work than they expected to, and I have spoken with women who have returned to work with more drive than they ever felt before. Don’t force yourself to go down a route that isn’t you due to others expectations. The only feeling that is right is your feeling so make sure your working to achieve what’s right for you, do this and you will achieve success both at work and at home.

Tip: If you do find after returning to work that your employer is being uncooperative, read this article to find out your rights.

Need more help returning to work after maternity leave?

You can read more helpful advice in these articles:

MMB is the working mother’s magazine. 

Photo by Raychan