The big day comes and you walk out of work for the last day ready to prepare to have your baby, it feels like you have forever until you need to go back, you have so many plans, and you excitedly say goodbye to all of your colleagues and friends to enter your new chapter of your life. Before you then know it, this time has come and gone and you’re having to think about the reality of going back to work after a baby. What can you expect? Is what you feel about it normal? How will you and your baby manage? These are just some of the questions that I know goes through every mums head when thinking about that next chapter of juggling work life with mum life and it can have a huge impact on our mental well-being if we allow it to.
My mission is to provide you with my own experience, along with those of some other mums who very kindly shared theirs with me, in the hope that these give you the comfort, the support, and some tips around what you can do to make that transition easier.
So if you are anything like me, logistics will be pretty high up on the agenda of things to sort. At first, I think the logistics of how everything will work can seem quite overwhelming, but once it’s all laid out in front of you it can definitely make it easier, so let’s break it down:
There are many things to consider when looking in to childcare and it can be difficult to know where to start. Some key questions to look at could include :
- Do you require full-time childcare?
- What is your budget for your childcare? I know if living in the UK you are able to get some support from the age of 2.
- Do you have the option of Grandparents/family members who can offer this support? (Having spoken to other mums who have set this up I think it is important to set up the boundaries for this so that you all know what to expect and you know that support will be there for as long as you need it.)
- Do you feel you would like to look at a childminder or a nursery first?
- What should you consider when looking at childcare? I know that this was one of my major questions when looking at a nursery for my son and some of the things I took in to consideration were: The feeling that I got when visiting (this is really important in my opinion so I would definitely recommend a visit), the OFSTED report for the nursery, the reputation, what they offer in terms of settling your child in (most offer some free hours to help with this process) and how much they adapt to your way of parenting and your child’s needs/ routine etc (this was quite a big one for me as it I really want the transition of nursery life to home life to be smooth for my little boy).
Coordinating schedules with partner:
So all of a sudden you now need to try to manage to do the tasks you were doing whilst on maternity, as well as working too. This can definitely all seem like too much at first, but I find that writing things down and coming up with a plan definitely helps you to feel in control. Some things you could consider are:
- Who will do the childcare pick-up/drop off? You could look at what makes sense around timings and location but also what enables you to set up for dinner easier once home for example.
- What will your new routine look like in terms of carrying out household chores? I know this one may sound boring, but if you are anything like me, feeling like these are getting on top of you is one surefire way to heighten the stress levels. Perhaps an online shop would now be easier, or would it be of benefit hiring a cleaner, or asking for additional support from relatives if they are offering?
- Do you need to schedule in time for working from home? Since returning to work I have only worked at home so far, but have definitely found that it is a fine line between when to work and when to switch off, and I can find it quite easy to think “I will just do another hour” in the evening, to then end up doing another 2 hours. Which then results in me going to bed much later than I would like to and feeling completely exhausted to start all over again on the following day.
- When will you fit in some “you time”? I know, we can often feel that this is non-existent as a parent, but having some down-time is definitely what helps to keep you going for longer and gives you more of a refreshed feeling. Check out my podcast on self-care for a quick and easy way to ensure you are looking after yourself on a regular basis.
I think it would be possible to write a whole blog just on the crazy amount of emotions that we feel when it comes to returning to work. I will share some of the emotions that other mums have shared below, and I hope it allows you to take the approach that you are not alone, that everything you are feeling is completely normal and that they are not necessarily emotions that you should try to brush under the carpet and avoid feeling.
The main emotions many mums said they experienced were:
- Worry: I think this is inevitable as you are entering into another new chapter and a bit of the unknown (something which seems to be really common once you’re a parent it would seem!). We will look in to the different worries in a moment.
- Anxiety around leaving your child with somebody else, managing working with being a parent and fitting back in at work.
- Guilt for leaving your child and going off to work, and not giving them as much of you as they had before.
- Excited at the prospect of doing something for you again and having some adult time and conversation.
- Sad that this chapter has come to an end.
When you are the one experiencing these emotions they can certainly feel overwhelming, but I definitely think there is something about being able to sit back and see that practically every other mum feels the way that you do and that those emotions are totally OK. Finding somebody who you can talk these through with can often be a help: I don’t know about you but whenever I talk through my feelings and thoughts, they never seem so bad once they are said out loud compared to being stuck in my head.
I honestly think that this could be an endless list. Are we even human if we don’t worry as a parent? It’s almost like as soon as we gain that title we become champion worriers if we weren’t already before.
I will share some of the things that other mums said they worried about, and where possible offer ideas and suggestions of ways to ease those worries too:
- Not having enough time with baby: Unfortunately this is unavoidable if you are returning to work, but by setting up designated quality time outside of work it will help to give you something to look forward to and prevent your days off slipping by so quickly that you don’t get round to doing anything but chores.
- No flexibility if my baby needs me: By setting up a ‘Plan B’, for example, knowing what your employer will allow, or speaking to friends/family who can help out when needed it can really help you to feel that you can still support your baby if they need it.
- Missing out on things your baby is doing: Some Nurserys or childminders will update you throughout the day of the things your child has been doing which can really help to still feel like you are involved. It can also be nice to take a photo and document when they start doing things for the first time so you can always celebrate those moments together, even if you weren’t physically together at the time.
- Not being their favourite person anymore: You are their parent, no matter how much love they have for somebody, they will always love you the most. You are the person who they can be the most themselves with, who they feel safe to display any emotion to, and who they know they can absolutely turn to.
- How baby will settle at nursery/childminder: This is definitely an unknown until it happens, but the settling in periods, and having a nursery/childminder that provides regular updates throughout the day via the phone/app can hugely help to settle your worries around this. I also think knowing that every child is different, and not worrying if yours is taking a little longer than others can help. Check out my podcast on how to stop comparing yourself to others which can really help with anything like this.
- How will work accommodate me with my new responsibilities of being a mum: Asking this question with your employer can certainly help to put any uncertainties at bay.
- Feeling nervous about remembering what to do at work and how welcoming colleagues will be: Keeping in touch with any colleagues that you have more of a connection with throughout maternity may be helpful to make the transition back in to work easier.
- Will baby be OK and have a good day, as well as coping with routine when you are not in control of it: Sharing your routine with those who are looking after your baby can be a huge help as it helps them to understand your baby more, but may also put your mind at ease that your baby will settle easier knowing what is coming in the day.
- Finances: Additional costs such as childcare can certainly put an added stress to returning to work. I would definitely recommend checking out what support is available to help with any childcare costs.
Surviving the First Day
Here are some great top tips shared by many mums to help make that potentially dreaded day be one that comes and goes with a lot more ease:
- Have a week of no responsibilities and simply allow that first week to be just about connecting with people and easing you back in to the swing of work and the community.
- Work from home if possible. This can make the transition back in to work life easier for some.
- Arrange a coffee with a work colleague/friend to help ease any nerves and make it easier to put your game face on and get back into work mode.
- Be prepared for the day by having everything ready, and get up early enough to have time to get you and the baby ready as well as having breakfast etc.
- Take some photos for your desk if this is possible to help you feel connected and provide you with happy feelings.
- Make contact throughout the day if this makes you feel easier, with those looking after your baby so you can be reassured that they are settled and OK.
Along with some great bits of advice on surviving the first day back there are also some great tips on making the transition in to working life easier. I hope you find these helpful:
- Remind yourself that you are going to work to give your little one a better lifestyle.
- Connect and speak with other mums who will either be going through the same thing as you, or have been through the same thing in the past.
- Be confident that children easily adapt, and many times this will feel harder for you than it does for your baby. You can definitely expect this uneasy feeling to settle down after a few weeks and this becomes the new norm and you both find your way with it a little more.
- Know that everything that you feel is completely validated and normal.
Connection is a huge thing when it comes to finding support during a potentially challenging time. Be sure to follow me on Instagram to surround yourself with some amazing women and let us all be your cheerleaders.
If you have already returned to work yourself, or have anything else you’d like to add then I would love to hear from you below.