Oh baby! Returning to work after maternity leave
(Posted on 08/01/24)
Last year we were pleased to welcome back our content manager, Kathryn Walsh, following the end of her maternity leave in October 2023. Here, she shares her thoughts and tips for fellow mums returning to work:
Having a baby is utterly amazing and simply life changing in so many incredible ways, and when you first have your precious newborn, your maternity leave can seem endless.
Amongst enjoying being constantly with your baby and seeing them grow, flourish and develop so much during those precious months, the time can just fly by, and all too soon your maternity leave is coming to an end.
Suddenly the thought of returning to work and being away from your little bundle of joy can feel pretty daunting.
Whether your return to work is imminent, or still a little way off, here are some considerations to help you prepare for this big step.
Plenty of time
Keep considering how long you’d like to stay on your maternity leave. You might have had an initial plan as to how long you were thinking of taking, but it’s ok to change your mind about when you want to return to work, whether that’s sooner or later than first planned.
Regardless of when you decide to return to work, you must give at least eight weeks’ notice to your employer or company through its HR department, and confirm this in writing.
Making it work
It’s important to consider what your return to work will look like. You might be returning on the same contracted hours from before your maternity leave, or you might decide to change your working days and ask for flexible or part-time working.
If this is the case, organise a meeting to discuss these options so that you and your employer can come to an arrangement which works for everyone.
Keep in touch
Whether you’re working from home or will be returning to an in-person role, keeping in touch with your team during your maternity leave can also help you stay and feel connected for when the time comes to return to work.
You might be able to arrange a ‘Keep in Touch’ (KIT) day or two, so you can either come in or have a Zoom or Teams call and catchup with the team, or have a team meal or a coffee with your work friends. Even if it’s just being part of a group WhatsApp chat, staying in touch can help you feel less isolated and out of the loop on things, helping to make your transition back in easier if you feel welcomed and supported upon your return.
You don’t necessarily have to talk about work, and it can just be a chance to catchup with their goings-on and feel re-engaged with them. They might be dying to know about how your little one is doing, and what mum doesn’t want to miss an opportunity to talk about their baby? (I certainly do!)
If things change quickly in your industry or role, it might give you peace of mind just to read up on the latest goings on and changes so you don’t feel so out of your depth on your return. This can be easier said than done when looking after a baby and time to yourself is limited, especially if your baby doesn’t sleep much during the day (like mine!).
Or through keeping in touch with your colleagues, you can find out what’s new and what’s not at work, so the prospect of returning doesn’t feel quite so overwhelming.
It’s only natural that you will be feeling apprehensive about returning to work. Suddenly you’ll be away from your baby for whole days at a time, and even if you love your job or career, it’s going to be an emotional time for you.
Allow yourself to feel everything. You might be feeling sad about returning to work, and you might be feeling a bit guilty about your decision, or you might be feeling a bit excited and therefore guilty for that too. You are not wrong in returning to work, or for feeling pleased about returning.
Just think of all those lovely hot cups of tea you’ll be able to enjoy all day at work (emphasis on hot!), an hour’s lunch break just to yourself, adult conversation, no food splats on your clothes (apart from your own), solitary toilet trips without a little one trailing loo roll everywhere like an Andrex puppy, and a full day without having to listen to CoComelon!
These might be small consolations, but these little wins can help to make you feel a bit more positive about returning to work. Leaving baby will still be difficult, and although it does get a bit easier, it will always be a wrench. But it will not diminish the love and bond between you and your baby.
Count going to work instead as some important ‘me time’, where you get to just be you for the day and not just Mummy. It will also make the quality time you have with your baby all the more special too.
Creating a plan in advance will help make that all important first day back in work that much smoother. From factoring in getting yourself and your baby ready in the morning, your commute time, preparing any food and snacks, and most importantly to arranging who will be looking after your baby while you’re at work, such as a family member.
You could even have a trial run before your return to work date, so you can work out the logistics and make time for extra allowances. You’ll feel better when a plan is in place and will give you peace of mind that your baby will be fine.
If your baby will be in nursery when you’re in work, it’s also a good idea to arrange for baby to start there before you return to work. This will be an emotional time for you without having to factor in returning to work on the same day too, and it’ll help your baby feel comfortable being apart from you for the day too.
You are not alone
Whether you’ll be returning to work for one day or five days a week, this will be a big transition, and it can feel quite overwhelming. It’s so important to have a supportive network around you, so do rely on the help and advice of other mums who have returned to work. They will know exactly how you’re feeling, and your friends, family and work friends will be essential in offering this emotional support.
Remember to be kind to yourself, you are doing the right thing for you and your baby, and at the end of each working day you can just look forward to all of those extra special squishy cuddles when you’re home with baby again.