Returning to work after having a child can be a daunting prospect, but it’s a necessary step for families that rely on a double income, as well as mums keen to jump back on the career ladder.
So how can you make that smooth segue back from multi-tasking mum, to competent career woman?
Louisa Maglieri has worked in the recruitment industry for over 12 years. Nearing the end of her own ‘baby break’ and worried about leaving her two kids, she discovered there was very little information out there for mums who were returning to work after having children, and seeking reassurance and advice.
So she decide to do something about it.
She set up Careers After Kids, a website that aims to empower women and help them find the perfect work/life balance, by offering support and online tutorials to help them update their skills. Now Louisa has very kindly agreed to reveal her ‘Top 10 Tips for Returning to Work’.
1: BE PREPARED FOR CHANGE
If you’ve decided to return to work after maternity leave, make sure you’re prepared for things to be different to how you remember them: the team may have changed, or you could have a new boss, or procedures could have been updated while you were away. I know for some change doesn’t come easily, but if you remain flexible and open-minded your transition will be easier.
2: BE KIND TO YOURSELF
This is probably my most important tip. It’s very easy to beat yourself up because you made a mistake, or you don’t understand a new process. But here’s the thing – you’ve just had a baby and it takes time readjust, so be kind to yourself. Rome wasn’t built in a day, so take it easy and you’ll soon be back on top.
3: PLAN MEALS IN ADVANCE
Going back to work is a big change to your routine – especially when it comes to meals. I always advise mums to prepare meals in advance so they can quickly and easily defrost them after a long day.
4: ORGANISE CHILDCARE
Reliable childcare can be a nightmare to arrange so it’s important to get this sorted out well in advance, especially as many nurseries expect at least one month’s notice before joining, or increasing a child’s number of sessions. And if you’re thinking of going down the nanny route you’ll need to decide if you’re going to employ directly or go via an agency. I’d recommend setting aside at least two months for research before your start date, and make sure you have a Plan B in place for those times when your childcare unavoidable falls through.
5: PRACTISE YOUR COMMUTE
Commuting is stressful – even more so when you’re dropping kids off at nursery or the childminder on the way. Practice your morning routine at least a week or two in advance so you know exactly how long it will take you to get to work, and vice-versa; you might discover you need to leave home and the office earlier than expected.
6: USE YOUR NEW SKILLS
A lot of returning mums bring plenty of new skills with them, including multi-tasking and the ability to deal with stress in a calm fashion, etc. Use these to your advantage – if you’re an old hand at dealing with child tantrums and fevers, you’ll probably find dealing with a work crisis a breeze!
7: NEGOTIATE YOUR WORKING ROUTINE
Inevitably, there will be times when you’ll need to work from home due to a child’s illness, or leave early to pick-up them up. A lot of employers recognise that you do have other commitments, and by discussing these in advance they should be able to accommodate some of these for you. If they’re not willing to be flexible (not allowing you to leave 30 minutes early, for example) you might be able to agree on an alternative arrangement – working from home for instance.
8: KNOW YOUR RIGHTS
It’s essential to know your legal rights before returning to work, so that if you find yourself in a situation where your boss isn’t playing ball, you know what steps you can take. The law is protective of new mothers so if you find yourself being pushed into an unwanted corner, seek legal advice.
9: HAVE A CATCH UP
Meeting up with your old colleagues is a great way to get up to speed with the latest news and gossip. Staying connected with them will help your transition run much more smoothly, so invite them for coffee a week or two before. If you’re in two minds about going back, this could also help you decide whether you really want to go back to work or prepare for an entirely new adventure.
10: STAY POSITIVE
Going back to work can be a shock to the system, especially when you’d rather be somewhere else! It’s totally normal to feel like this, and I always advise my clients to stay positive. You might find that returning to work and the companionable buzz of an office isn’t so bad after all.
For more advice on returning to work after having children, visit www.careersafterkids.com.