Going back to work after maternity leave – how to adjust

Going back to work

Going back to work after maternity leave – just the words alone can throw up all sorts of emotions and anxieties. How will you cope? How will your baby cope without you? Can you really do this? When will the feelings of guilt end? It’s absolutely normal and natural to feel a whirlwind of worries when it comes to returning to work after maternity leave. While going back to work after maternity leave feels like the most monumental leap you can think of as a new mum, the good news is there are certain things you can do to make the transition easier.

Today I have Coaching and Mentoring Specialist Julie Leach to share some strategies. I think you’ll agree she is THE perfect person to do this having had two children, taken a career break from the city, returned to corporate life on a part time basis and now running two businesses of her own! So let us begin….

Going back to work after maternity leave can be an emotional time. How can mums prepare for how they are going to feel emotionally and mentally?

I think it’s important not to put yourself under too much pressure, to take it slowly and not to expect too much of yourself.  It can be an emotional time as regardless of who is providing you with child care, there can be an emotional tug to stay at home. Then also perhaps some guilt that you shouldn’t be going back to work and it should be you providing the child care.  Be confident in the decisions that you have made around your return to work, listen to any advice you are given. But ultimately do what feels right for you and your family and trust your instincts.

What are some of the most common feelings and concerns mums have about going back to work?

Mine was guilt!  It wasn’t going to be me picking the children up every day anymore. I wouldn’t be able to volunteer for school trips and yes, I’d miss various assemblies and invitations to go into the classroom.  However……several years on, my children aren’t deeply scarred by the events I missed. They understand that I work, that I love what I do and sometimes there have to be compromises.  As my children grow and as a family we move through the various phases and challenges. My favourite phrase that I return to repeatedly is ‘it’s all about balance’.  I don’t have to attend every school event, but as long as I attend some, it’s OK!

Other feelings may be around your concern over the ability others may have to care for your child.  Regardless of the option you have chosen, all the people will be professionals but do your research and listen to your intuitive reaction when you visit places and meet the carers.

It seems so common that mums forget just how much they have to offer when going back to work. How can they reclaim that?

I think this is about self-confidence and belief.  Sometimes a period away from work, especially one as life changing as becoming a mum, can leave you wondering if you really did that job before maternity leave!  I believe the answer is absolutely yes!  Focus on all the positives and the achievements in your career before maternity leave. believe that there is every reason that you can do it all again. 

I went about four years without using the Microsoft Office suite of products while I was on my career break.  When I went back to work I was stunned at how much I remembered. It was as if all this knowledge had been locked away in a part of my brain and just left alone because I didn’t need it. Once back at a PC it literally came flooding back….I was amazed!

If you plan on returning to your previous company/role immediately after maternity leave, use the Keeping In Touch (KIT) days stay in touch with what is going on.

What should mums be doing in the last few weeks of maternity leave to prepare?

Enjoy the time together but don’t look on at as a negative ‘count down’.  Try looking at it as the next mini chapter together.  Having children is full of these mini chapters where things change frequently. Childcare when you return to work, preschool, infant school, junior school and now for me at the moment it’s the move to secondary school.  Each is different but brings new logistical and emotional changes.

If you are returning to your previous company maybe you could meet up with some of your colleagues to find out what’s currently happening at work.  Talk to your line manager to get a sense of what they are dealing with at the moment and what’s going on so you are partially prepared. 

And what about in the first few weeks of going back to work?

I don’t like to be negative but prepare for illness!  Most families I find experience a bout of illness when a new child care setting is introduced.  Just a few coughs and colds but it can add levels of complication to what might already be a difficult time.

Don’t be too hard on yourself and just get used to the new routine that you’ll be experiencing.   It might mean a slightly later bedtime than you would like, or a change to how much time you spend with a partner but remain confident in your choices and all will settle down.

The final thing to say here is think about the expectation level you want to set around your working hours.  In my experience most working mums work their hours and then dash out of the door to collect the children!  If this is you, that’s absolutely fine. However if you have the ability to stay longer and it works for you then go with it.  I suppose I’m trying to say don’t over commit early on just to prove you can still do the job……

What are your five top tips for mums going back to work?

  • Choose childcare that comes recommended and listen to your instinct at the same time.
  • Work though the logistics with whoever else is involved to make sure it works…..don’t just hope it will all piece together
  • Don’t allow yourself to feel judged by others.  Every family situation is different and everyone needs solutions that suit their situation.  There is no right or wrong about returning to work…..
  • Believe in yourself and see this as a new exciting chapter
  • Buy yourself a new outfit!

So if you’re a mum going back to work, I really hope these words have bolstered your confidence for your return. As Julie says, it’s important not to put too much pressure on yourself. So be kind to yourself but also remember, you are amazing, and you can do this!

Are you a mum going back to work? Or perhaps you have recently returned to work? Do share in a comment below.

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About Julie Leach

Having brought up two children, Julie is now using her core skills and knowledge to the benefit of others and is working as a freelance Learning, Development and Coaching specialist. Her experience, knowledge and passion to help people and teams to develop and work efficiently has allowed her to quickly build a portfolio of clients who entrust her with regular repeat assignments. Previously in her career her roles have included HR Consultancy, Business Management, Learning & Development, Internal Communications, Cultural Change and Event Management. Find out more about how she can help you at Julie Leach Associates.

7 comments

  1. I know how hard it is but I honestly loved it. I felt like me and a Mum and it made my time as Mum even more special to me.

    But only we know if it’s time to go back, we shouldn’t feel we have to race back or go back to our original role.

    Great advice x

  2. Great advice. I was surprised at how daunting it was returning to work and yes all those emotions were there – guilt, fear, doubt, self-confidence issues. Feels like I never was away now and everything feels normal but initially it was actually quite terrifying!!

  3. Great advice! I was scared of going back to work and how I’d handle it but surprisingly I enjoyed getting back a piece of my old life and i feel like the little break from “mummy life” helps me be a better mum x

  4. Sounds like we have a mixed bag of experiences here – so interesting to see the difference in everyone’s back to work journey x

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