You’ve become a semi-pro at this parenting thing, but now you’re trying to juggle being World’s Best Mum with a job you love. So, how do you bring your A-game to both?
Do you still get that ‘new girl’ feeling, even though your maternity leave finished ages ago? You’re not the only one.
Multi-tasking nursery runs with deadlines and meetings can only add to feelings of uncertainty, but relax. It takes at least four months to feel fully confident back in the workplace after having a baby, according to a recent survey.
And, while you may feel you can never truly have it all, it is possible to do well in both worlds. It’s all about prioritising, being smart and changing your focus to reflect your current life stage.
1. Start as you mean to go on
It’s easy to let that meeting run over, but laying down ground rules now will pay dividends. ‘Being clear about when you are and aren’t available will also help your colleagues, and make everyone’s lives easier,’ says Nicola De Burlet, Head of PR at Kenneth Green Associates. Feel like you’re getting dirty looks when you walk out the door? Try not to over-think it, and compromise if it’s absolutely necessary. ‘Business is about give and take, so if you can’t stay late, tell people that you’ll be around for 30 minutes that evening to take any vital calls,’ says Anna Doble, legal director of media law firm Wiggin.
2. Be honest – and realistic
Think of how you’re settling back into work as a percentage – you may be running at 50% for the first month but, over time, this will increase to 70%, then 90%. ‘Percentages turn this stage into a process with a goal, and keep things professional in terms of the language you’re using,’ says Tracey Woodward, commercial director of Urban Retreat. And expect it to take time. ‘Seeing life and work as two separate jobs will always leave you feeling behind in one or both,’ she says. ‘Instead, view them as parts of a whole that you need to balance – sometimes one has to give a little.’
3. Feel alive on no sleep
There’s nothing like staying up all night with your baby to leave you drained at work, so try a pick-me-up. ‘My routine includes a few glasses of water, some stretches and using a body brush to get my circulation going,’ says Tracey. ‘If you’re flagging during the day, run your wrists under the cold tap for a boost.’
4. Make space for creativity
You’re trying to come up with genius ideas for a client, but all you can think about is whether you remembered your toddler’s hat for nursery. Time to find some creative headspace. ‘A half-hour swim at lunch to think outside a work environment can be more productive than two hours at your desk trying to have that light-bulb moment,’ says Clare Hopkins, co-founder of beauty brand Balance Me. ‘I also bounce ideas off other people, even those in different industries, because they can show you how to approach something in a fresh way.’ Keep a notebook in your bag or an ‘ideas’ note on your phone, so you can write good ones down straight away.
5. Take time out
It’s natural to have an OMG moment when you’re overwhelmed with work/home/life stress, so step outside or into the corridor to calm yourself down. ‘Picture the worst case scenario, then put it into perspective,’ says Tracey. Whenever you doubt your decision to return to work, think over the benefits for your child. ‘He’s socialising with other children at nursery or having fun with whoever he’s with, then he gets the best of you when you get home,’ says Clare.
6. Get organised
You may have had a to-do list before, but now’s the time to get super-organised – it’ll help prevent anxiety in the long run. ‘Set yourself a household task to get done in your lunch break each day – paying a bill or booking a GP appointment,’ says Anna. ‘Have separate lists for work and home. I have a folder for everything, from weekly plans to party invitations. It sounds geeky, but knowing everything’s in one place puts you back in control.’
What are your tips for balancing work and motherhood? Let us know in the comments below.