Author – Claire, Coffee and Consulting
Top Tips for Life After Maternity Leave
Are you about to return to work from maternity leave? Or perhaps you’re currently scheduling those Keep In Touch days and the return date is getting nearer and nearer? Perhaps you’re excited… but perhaps, like many others, the feeling of returning to work leaves you a little sick. This post is focused all around how to get you ready for the end of your maternity leave, as well as how to cope successfully once you’re back to work.
Know that your feelings are normal
Maternity leave is only temporary for so many. Firstly, you’re allowed to have that feeling of panic, dread, nausea, or even, conflicted. Equally, not everyone can afford to give up work and stay home with the baby, and in that case, you can often feel resentment towards your job or personal circumstances.
The point of this blog is to explore and discuss how you can prepare yourself before and after you return to work so that you eventually feel that this huge change is a positive one.
Accept & embrace change
Returning to work after maternity leave is a massive change. You’re getting ready to switch from spending 24/7 all day every day with your little one to having someone else care for them whilst you’re busy trying to be a fully functioning adult again! It’s a very big change, and to be honest, one that takes a while to fully get used to.
My biggest piece of advice though is to remember that we all feel this way. You can see that in some of the great books I recommend from Amazon. Each one helped me mentally prepare myself for the mum guilt and panic leading up to my return to work from maternity leave.
It’s normal. Your baby will be fine. You will be fine. Before long you’ll forget you ever felt this way and it’ll all become part of your new routine.
Think of the positives
One way to get through this initial strange feeling is to dwell on the positives. You’ll be able to enjoy a hot cup of coffee or tea again. You’ll get to speak to other adults about things outside of parenting. You get to be you again – not just ‘Mumma’.
We all know the saying ‘absence makes the heart grow fonder’? Well it’s definitely true in this case too. You will miss your little one like crazy and find yourself distracted at first. But as time goes you, you will eventually feel ever more grateful when you do finish work and go home to see your family – it’ll make your downtime and family time feel more like quality time.
Practice the post-maternity routine
Ahead of time make sure you are waking up early enough to get yourself ready and functioning before packing up the little one ready to go to nursery/childcare. Do a trial run – make sure there is no traffic you don’t know about on the way to work. Always factor in an additional 15 minutes to physically drop off your little one, settle them in and then get back to the car ready to drive to work.
Dress the part
Buy a new outfit. It’s likely your old outfits won’t fit… either too small or too big depending on how much you’ve been running around after the little one. Either way, even if the old outfits do fit, treat yourself and buy something that makes you feel professional. It’s highly likely you’ve been running around and living in stretchy clothing for the past 9 months… it’s time to rediscover tailored clothing!
Embrace the new you
This was the hardest one for me to accept and embrace. This is all about accepting the fact that your brain will work in a different way. For me, as a marketing consultant and project manager, my biggest challenge was realising that sleep deprivation meant I needed to re-learn my skill. I needed to know how to cope and function to ensure that no one thought I was under performing since returning to work.
The truth was that since having a baby, I was more distracted, more forgetful and cared less about meeting deadlines. Don’t get me wrong, I still performed… but my baby now came first.
So over time, I learnt how to adapt and ensure I didn’t show the effects of my lack of sleep and post-baby memory loss. Do whatever works for you, but for me, I started:
- Writing down EVERYTHING.
- Task Lists, To-do Lists, all kinds of lists – organise yourself
- Don’t start your day until you have a clear list of priorities
- Don’t start your next task after a meeting until you’ve summarised any actions that you’re responsible for
- Your calendar is your new best friend – utilise it and make sure you make the most of the notifications function
- Force yourself to summarise every meeting or important conversation out loud – repetition will make sure you remember the important points.
Since doing these few simple (albeit admin intensive) tasks, in time I received a promotion. What I actually discovered is that working parents are actually pretty awesome. We may dwell on the negatives: the feeling that we’re not doing as good a job, or we don’t stay as late in the office. But the truth is, we get SO much more done in a shorter space of time. And for a manager, that’s efficiency gold!
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