With a new year about to start, some of you may be preparing for some big changes – personally, financially and in your careers. Going back to work after maternity leave can be a daunting and emotional experience. Not only has your life changed drastically, especially if you are returning to work after your first baby, but there are a lot of other things at play than can cause anxiety in the lead up to going back to work.
Having a baby is a life changing experience no matter how many kids you may have. First, second, eighth. Each child changes your life. Just when you thought surviving pregnancy was a big enough deal, surviving the return to work can be even worse.
I didn’t return to the workforce in the traditional way after my second, now being able to earn at home instead, however I always planned on going back to work after maternity leave after my first.
The hardest part was she was only 6 months old to the day when I went back to work. Any parent knows how fast 6 months with a baby goes.
Not only were there those emotional challenges of being away from my baby, but the anxieties that come with returning to work after pregnancy, knowing things will have changed and wondering where you will now fit in. Scary stuff!
GOING BACK TO WORK AFTER MATERNITY LEAVE
When you are getting close to going back to work after maternity leave, there are several things you should do to prepare yourself, to make the transition as easy as possible, and reduce anxieties.
Things can change when you are on maternity leave. You may have had every intention of returning to work with the same hours and responsibilities as before maternity leave, but that may not be ideal anymore.
You may want to reduce your work hours or adjust them to suit your new parental responsibilities.
In most cases employers are required to provide you with your existing job, or an equivalent and have no requirement to provide you with a part time role if it is not viable or necessary.
This is the case here in Australia, although they are encouraged to try and support parents going back to work after maternity leave with flexible work options where possible. Find out more here.
If you do want to reduce or change your working arrangement, organise an opportunity to meet with your employer or Human Resources team and discuss your options.
Don’t go into the meeting with unrealistic expectations – think carefully about how your flexible working arrangements can be accommodated into the workplace.
If you want to cut down to part time hours, have some ideas on how this could work, such as job share or the possibility of completing certain tasks from home each week.
Returning to Work
When going back to work after maternity leave, there are a few extra needs you may have in the workplace that were not necessary before. Discuss these with your employer before your return also.
Things to consider before going back to work after maternity leave:
- Private places to express milk if breastfeeding
- A fridge for storing expressed milk
- Opportunity to call home and check in if needed
- Ability to be reached at work in case of emergency
- Different sized uniforms (if required) in case you haven’t returned to pre-baby size
- Updates on all policy changes, employee requirements or other workplace chances that have occurred during your maternity leave
Reducing Your Anxiety
It’s natural to have anxiety on your return to work after maternity leave. Being out of the workforce for a while can make us feel like we are a little out of practice and completely out of the loop on what has been going on.
This is even harder if there have been a lot of changes in staff, policies or task requirements. Not having all the necessary knowledge is a sure way to lose your nerve.
Staying in contact with your workplace while on maternity leave can help reduce these worries. By staying in the loop you are up to date with any significant changes and you don’t have that feeling of being forgotten while out of sight, out of mind.
Here in Australia there is also the option of going back to work for up to 4 days during your maternity leave period without voiding your paid parental pay, which allows you to keep your skills up to date and remain engaged in your workforce. This is a great way to ease your way back in gradually in the month or so leading up.
Most of all, remember you have done this job before and you have the ability to do it again. Plus we humans are resilient creatures… you will adapt to changes and new faces quickly.
Preparing For Your Return
There is much more to it than just going back to work after maternity leave. You need to prepare your baby and make arrangements for their care.
If you are exclusively breastfeeding your baby, depending on the stage your baby is at with solids, number of feeds and habits, you will need to consider either expressing milk to cover the feeds while you are at work, or weaning your baby.
Alternatively, you may decide returning to work is a good time to mix feed with formula. Whatever suits you and your arrangements best.
If your baby is going to daycare, you will need to arrange a place and everything that goes with having your child enrolled in the daycare facility. Or arranging care of your child by family member or friend. If this is the case, they will need a car seat for your baby potentially, which is yet another consideration.
To ease the stress your baby may experience with you going back to work after maternity leave, it can help to have a little time away from them for a few hours here and there before you do a full day of work. This can help both of you adjust to the extended period apart so there are less tears (from both of you) on that first day.
For some, going back to work after maternity leave is a financial necessity, but for many it is an important part of life, having the ability to be successful and achieve in the workplace. The social aspect is also beneficial for many mum’s after being home with a baby for several months.
Despite this, it is still hard to be away from your baby and only natural that there may be a waterfall of emotions initially. Guilt, fear, anxiety, depressed. But it’s also okay to feel happy too and enjoy your career mum lifestyle.
Good luck Mum!
Still not ready, check out these resources for extending your time at home: