Our Field Sales & Marketing Executive, Rose Norton, shares her story and tips on navigating your return to work after maternity leave
Returning to work from maternity leave will be different for everyone. You might be really excited or dreading it…or feeling a bit of both! For me it came around so fast I couldn’t quite believe it.
You begin your maternity leave feeling a bit unsure about what’s ahead. The end of your leave feels a million miles away when you’re in PJ’s at midday with a cuppa and a packet of hobnobs. This can feel especially true when you are in a blissful baby bubble—totally absorbed in your little one.
The next thing you know, your time is up. You’re due to return. You’re expected to leave the house regularly, fully dressed and presentable. I was now supposed to leave behind my baby that I not only grew for nine months, but had also been inseparable with for a year.
No matter how long your maternity leave is for, this stage can be daunting, emotional and scary. But it is totally normal to feel this way. This is a very sensitive time but you will be so surprised with how quickly you, your baby and the rest of your family eventually adapt. You shouldn’t feel guilty about wanting to continue to work, provide for your family and invest in your career either. I love my daughter very much and enjoyed every second of maternity leave, but I am not ashamed to admit I was excited to have a bit of adult conversation, wear some make up and leave the house without a huge nappy bag filled with wipes, nappies, spare clothes, toys, snacks, dummies…the list is endless!
I would recommend focussing on all of the positives when approaching a return to work. I know this is easier said than done, so to support you, I’ve compiled some top tips I found helpful when moving back into the workplace:
Begin the transition, for you and your baby
Ask your work if you can have a KIT day. KIT days are for ‘keeping in touch’ with your workplace while on maternity leave. But it’s also a great way to start easing yourself back into work and getting your little one used to being without you.
If you count on family or friends for childcare, then these days can be great ‘test runs’. If you are using a nursery, it would be a good idea to put your baby in nursery a couple of mornings a week prior to returning to work so you both get used to the new surroundings and leaving one another. Don’t forget the ‘settling-in sessions’ nurseries offer too. These ensure you and your baby are both settled into the new environment and are comfortable.
Be honest with your boss!
Your manager should know your work-self best and can support you in your smooth return to work. If you’re distracted and nervous about leaving your child then you won’t be as productive, so it’s in everyone’s best interest to look out for you.
In this day and age, there is also a big emphasis on staff wellbeing, flexible working and mental health. We are also lucky enough to live in a world with the kind of technology that allows us to do the majority of the work we can do in an office, in our own homes.
If this is an option for you, discuss the possibility of having some working from home days within your first six months back at work.
I personally started back on 22.5 hours a week. Then after four months when I knew my little girl had adapted to not having me around all week; I increased it to 30 hours. So have an honest chat with your boss to see what is available–if you don’t ask you don’t get!
Enjoy the balance
Ensure you have the right work-life balance so you don’t feel like you’re missing out on anything with your little one! Your weekends with your family and time spent with your baby will become so precious once you’re back at work. Try and make the most of it, and have some time set aside to bond with your little one so you make those special memories.
However many days you are going back to work for, I understand you’ll want to save time wherever you can so you can spend it with your family. Therefore, I very much recommend searching for baby friendly recipes packed with flavour, nutrition, simple ingredients, low preparation times and cup/spoon measurements instead of weight measurements to save unnecessary hassle.
Whatever recipes you like best, to save some extra time, when your family prepares a meal it’s worth cooking in bulk and stocking any excess in your freezer. As the last thing you want anyone in your household to worry about after a long day is what you should have for dinner!
My final tip…enjoy the income! Treat yourself to some new work clothes, a pamper day or treat the family to a fun day out with your hard earned money. You are working hard juggling work, family and life, so ensure there’s some treats along the way to make it all worthwhile.
If you’re looking for some additional advice on how to navigate childcare when returning to work then please have a chat with the Nursery Manager at your local Bright Horizons nursery. They will be happy to discuss how we can support your individual childcare needs.
Bright Horizons are proud to be working in partnership with NCT. We support their mission to help parents through the first 1,000 days, to have the best possible experience of pregnancy, birth and early parenthood. If you would like more information on the topic of returning to work after maternity leave from NCT, please visit https://www.nct.org.uk/life-parent/work-and-childcare/returning-work/returning-work-after-maternity-leave.