Catherine Rodie Blagg, writer, blogger and mother of two, provides words of wisdom on easing yourself back into your career after welcoming a new member into your family.
Whether you are a senior executive or a junior administrator, returning to work after parental or maternity leave can be a daunting prospect.
In fact, even though you are returning to the same workplace, it can feel as if you are starting a new job altogether.
How and where do you begin when you’ve just experienced a whole new life transition? Here is a simple guide you can follow to help you smoothly make your transition back to the world of work.
First, get clear about what you want
Before you even think about stepping foot back in the workplace, get clear about what you want from your employer. Read 8 steps to a better work-life balance.
Since the introduction of The Fair Work Act, employers are obliged to provide flexible working options for parents. This could mean working part time, working at home or arranging your work hours around your other commitments for example – starting and finishing earlier.
Make sure you have considered all of your options. Work places are much more flexible than they used to be. For example, job-sharing schemes allow two people to work flexibly while maintaining the position of one person.
When you have thought through your ideal working arrangements, make an appointment to meet with your employer to discuss them. Both of you will have lots to consider, but this process is much easier when you begin with a clear picture of what you are looking for.
Getting back into the swing of it
Make sure you give yourself plenty of time to adjust to your new routine. Having a baby can throw even the most organised household into utter chaos.
You can mitigate this by preparing as much as you can the night before. For example, make sure that you have your workbag packed, your clothes picked out and you know where the car keys are!
Likewise, make sure you have organised everything you need for your little one.
It might also be a good idea to practice your morning routine so you can see what works well and what doesn’t work at all. For example, if you need to drive your little one to daycare before you can start the journey to work, it would be helpful to know exactly how long the drive to the daycare centre is.
Look after yourself
Returning to work, even if it is to a job that you love, is going to be a big adjustment. On top of this, some mums might feel anxious about leaving their baby. There is a lot going on and it is easy to become overwhelmed. Try and focus on one day at a time, and remember to relax, de-stress and de-focus whenever you need to.
It is a good idea to take extra care of yourself during this adjustment phase. This means eating well, getting plenty of sleep (which can be difficult if your baby doesn’t sleep through the night) and getting some exercise and fresh air – even if it is just a quick walk around the block.
Be patient – before you know it your new routine will be the ‘same old’ routine.
A word about “working mums guilt”
When you are a working mum, it is easy to beat yourself up about not being with your baby all the time. But focus on the big picture. Remind yourself why you work, and why your career matters to you.
Rather than feeling guilty about what you are missing, focus on being a great role model for your child.
What if you want to change careers?
Of course you may get to the end of your maternity leave and decide that you don’t want to go back to work at all. Or perhaps you would like to try your hand at something else.
Parenthood can you an entirely new perspective and motivation to try your hand at a new career path. If you have a potential career change option in mind, then it is a good idea to start with some basic research about what qualifications you need and whether you will need additional training.
Whether you choose to stay in the same industry, or completely switch altogether, returning to work after parental leave can take some time to get accustomed to. The good news is: by remembering to be mindful of practicing the steps above, you can seamlessly ease back into work-life and make the transition comfortable and positive for both yourself and your family.