You’ve made the decision. Everyone’s on board (in principle) and you’re returning to work after being a stay-at-home mum – back to the work you love. You love your family, too, that goes without saying, but perhaps you need more intellectual stimulus and/or it’s a financial decision, too. The challenges you must overcome when returning to work after being a stay-at-home mum will vary according to the age of your child/children. Here are 5 tips to help smooth your path back to professional life without causing upheaval in your family.
(NB. This article is primarily about women returning to work in a professional or organisational environment)
5 tips for returning to work after being a stay-at-home mum
1 Prepare for work mentally
You know you can make a success of going back to work. Believe in yourself. But planning and preparation will be invaluable to avoid misunderstandings and avoidable hiccups. Take time to find out what has been happening while you were on leave and reconnect with your boss and your co-workers. If possible, jump on a few calls to get up to speed before your start date. This will be very much appreciated by all and will ease you back in.
If you are starting a new job after your time out, preparation is key. Try to meet your boss and team beforehand, definitely in the office, but if possible, also in an informal setting, perhaps over lunch or coffee or drinks. This will help break the ice faster.
Begin to see yourself back in your professional role. Check your business tools, laptop, phone, etc., and your wardrobe. After a few months or years as a stay-at-home mum you might need a couple of new items to re-discover your professional look.
2 Negotiate the practical side
Be open and honest with your firm and your boss about your situation and negotiate your work plan to include time in office, out of office, and an amount of flexibility. Employers are also on a learning curve about hybrid working, so you can make the most of that. Depending on the type of work you do, you can encourage a sense of “work club” in your firm, where the team meet in the office for brainstorming and strategy and for meetings with clients and stakeholders but where routine work can safely be done at home. Ask about childcare facilities at work if you need to take a child in with you (e.g. nursing facilities, playroom, child-minding).
3 Plan your childcare
Planning childcare means two things: first it means preparing all the people involved for the change in their life, and second doing the practical planning.
First and foremost, of course, you must prepare your child or children for the change in their life. Spend a lot of time with them, together with your partner, and, again, depending on the age-group, explain what is going to happen and to some extent, why. Children don’t like surprises. They will respond better to calm explanations in advance, giving them an opportunity to ask questions.
It is important that your partner and any other close relatives with whom the child interacts (even on a not so regular basis), such as grandparents, and even close friends demonstrate a supportive attitude to the forthcoming change. Children pick up dissenting feelings very quickly.
On the practical side, try to ensure as much continuity as possible in childcare. It’s ideal if granny or grandpa can always be there, for example, on Tuesday and Friday afternoons, because these then become fixed points in the child’s week that she looks forward to. And childminders or creche staff should ideally be the same all the time. Of course, the main thing is to have dependable, responsible childcare in place.
4 Get support
Do not try to do everything yourself. This is one of the biggest traps you can fall into because it will lead to frustration and burn-out.
Make a list of everything you have been doing as a stay-at-home mum. Then take a red pen and circle the items you won’t have time or energy to do when you are back at (paid) work. Then make a note of who could take over these tasks – even if you have to pay someone to do them. For example, you don’t need to bake the cupcakes for the party yourself – get a friend who loves baking to do it and pay her/him for the ingredients and their time. You don’t need to do all the cleaning/ironing/shopping yourself. Use some of your earnings to make your life manageable.
5 Let it go!
Accept that sometimes there will be a wobble. The child carer will call in sick just as you are getting ready to leave the house for a meeting (and you’re already late!). Accept that you will have to deal with crises. If you can, have a back-up plan as a safety net for possible problem situations. But the main thing is to stay calm. Sometimes you will miss a meeting (yes, even an important one); but you can find out what happened at the meeting, and then submit your input, feedback, proposal, whatever is needed. No-one is indispensable. Dump the guilt. Let it go!
Author: Susan Doering
Susan Doering’s Smart Career Moves For Smart Women: How To Succeed In Career Transitions demystifies the unwritten rules of making a successful career transition.