Returning to work after maternity leave
Remember the days when, after a long summer, it’s finally time to go back to school.
The new uniform. The new pencil case. The new pens and pencils and the feeling of hope and excitement for the year ahead. But then there was that feeling deep in the pit of your stomach of dread and worry. The end of summer. The worry of who you would be sitting next to and who you would be playing with at lunch time. Going back to school was always bittersweet. I felt the same when I started university, the same when I started my first day in my first year of teaching and now, I feel the same way returning to work after maternity leave.
I have been lucky enough to have been able to take a year of maternity leave. A whole year away from teaching other people’s children and a whole year to focus on myself and the new addition to our family; our daughter. But now the time has arrived where I am returning back to teaching after the best year of my life.
For some the end of maternity leave is a sad time. The official letter confirming your return to work is enough to prompt a flood of tears. The overwhelming questions are often ‘How am I meant to leave my baby?’ and ‘How am I meant to juggle the stresses of working with the demand of motherhood?’ For others it’s something to look forward to and for most it’s a bit of both. I would most definitely say that I am the former. The thought of returning to work and leaving my girl is heart wrenching. So, in aim to prepare myself for the return to work I did some research and have found the following points to help make the maternity leave to work transition that little bit smoother – I hope!
1 – Don’t expect too much from yourself
Any amount of time away from work is always going to impact how you work when you return. Give yourself some time to settle back into the swing of things. Familiarise yourself with any changes that have been put in place and cut yourself some slack as I’m sure that most employers will not expect you to jump straight back into work mode straight away. This said, it is always worth having a sit down and setting yourself some realistic goals with your boss. This way there is little room for crossed wires. I have made sure that I am up to date with any important emails and information and I have booked in a keeping in touch (KIT) day a few weeks before my official return date.
2 – Buy some new clothes that make you feel good.
I will definitely be doing this! Allow yourself to feel good and give yourself that confidence boost that we all need when returning back to work after a long break. Remember how exciting it was to have that brand new pencil case and notepad at the start of the school year – well this is how I plan on my new clothes making me feel on my first day back!
3. Arrange a keeping in touch day or lunch with your boss/ work colleagues
Try and arrange a meet up with a good work friend outside of the workplace. Arrange it for a few weeks prior to your return to work. This will allow you to catch up with any work changes/gossip and make you feel like your back in the work chat loop. I’ve tried to make sure that I have kept in contact with work friends and asked them about how work is going.
4. Lose the mum guilt.
Being a working mum does not make you a bad mum. As long as your child feels safe and loved and is looked after they will be fine. Take the time to make the best decisions for you if you need to arrange childcare and make sure that the time you spend together is quality time for all of you. The chances are that you will miss them more than they miss you. I know that leaving my little girl will be hard but I have told myself that I am going to make sure that all the work things are done at work and that the time I spend at home is for family time. There has to be a balance and for me family time is a time that I will be keeping separate from work stuff.
5. Finally, be kind to yourself
I read that on average it takes 4 months to settle back into work from maternity leave. So be kind to yourself and cut yourself some slack. Things will get better and you will be back in a routine in no time. I’ve tried to get a good routine going already so that it doesn’t come as such a shock when I’m back in the full swing of things at work. As mothers we are our own harshest critics and sometimes, we need to remember that we need to cut ourselves some slack.
Whether you have returned to work already, are returning to work shortly or have just started your maternity leave – remember we can only do our best and that’s all that matters. So keep a positive mind and good luck with whatever stage of the journey you are at.