The return to work after maternity leave often comes with a rollercoaster of emotions for many mums.
The ‘mum guilt’ makes an appearance when you think about leaving your little one, topped with the apprehension and worry whether you can still do your job on little sleep and months of being in ‘mum mode!’ Then there’s the added worry of whether you’ll actually achieve the fine art of getting to work on time once you've juggled breakfast time and getting you and your little one ready and out the door.
Finally, there’s the emotional explosion - choosing childcare that you’re happy with, all contributing to a minefield of feelings, it’s no wonder so many new mums feel a little overwhelmed with the return to work!
While every mum is different, and there’s no quick fix or perfect ‘return to work’ method, there are practical tips and techniques, that can have you and your little one ready for the new adventure that awaits you both.
1. Preparation is key
Don’t put off planning for your return because you think it’ll burst the new baby bubble. By planning well in advance - you’ll save yourself weeks of worry and stress - leaving more time to enjoy those snuggles, baby dates and maternity leave. It’s actually ideal to plan while you are still pregnant, when you aren't so tired or occupied with a new baby!
- Think about your return date: Take your baby into work for a visit for a couple of times, this’ll make you feel more relaxed about your return and is a chance to catch up with work colleagues and introduce your little one to them. An ideal ‘back to work’ plan, is to stagger your start back rather than going in full time from day one. It’ll make it easier for both you and your little one and you won’t be left feeling completely drained by the end of your first week back.
- Plan your work daily routine: Work out how long it’ll take you to get you and your little one ready and out the door. Don't forget to factor in dropping off to childcare and your travel to work. It’ll likely mean an early start - but as a new mum, you’ll probably be used to the crack of dawn start to your day! Have a couple of practice runs in the weeks before your return
- Top Tip: Get everything ready the night before to avoid a stressful start to the day, plan yours and your baby’s outfit, pack lunches, your baby’s bag and your bag and have everything by the door ready to go!
2. Plan for when things go wrong
Think about ‘what ifs’ and plan accordingly - what will happen if your little one is too sick to go to childcare? What if the childcare is closed due to illness or other reasons? Have a plan in place ready for every eventuality and it’ll make the return to work less stressful.
- Preparing for childcare: It’s likely that your baby has been used to having you full time since birth, so if you haven't already, nows the time to book a babysitter! It’s beneficial for the both of you that your baby has a little time adjusting to play time without you so that the eventual childcare ‘drop-off’ doesn't become a tearful start to your day. Ask friends or family to babysit for an hour here or there in the few weeks before your start date. This’ll give you both time to adjust. If you’ve already found childcare, most settings offer a ‘settling in period’ which is beneficial for both parents and baby in the return to work.
- Top Tip: Let your baby go to their ‘settling in’ session with something that smells of you - this offers reassurance and familiarity. Something like a muslin cloth or comforter is ideal.’
3. Go shopping
Unless you are super lucky - it’s likely your pre-pregnancy work clothes won’t fit you, so don’t stress yourself trying to fit into them. Instead go on a shopping trip and buy flattering work outfits that make you feel wonderful. Not only will you look great, you’ll feel confident and look forward to retuning to work.
4. Be kind to yourself
Returning to work can be both physically and emotionally draining - so it’s essential you are kind to yourself.
- Lunchtime ‘me time’: Use your lunchtimes to do something nice and take a break from work. It’s important to not overdo it in the first few months back or you’ll burn yourself out! Go for a gentle walk listening to music, or maybe book a hair appointment to have a well deserved pamper. Don’t feel guilty about having time for yourself either - a happy and healthy mummy is best!
- Eat well: Remember to eat well even if sometimes it’s easier and quicker to opt for the unhealthy option! This is especially important if you are still breastfeeding and expressing. Bulk cook meals and freeze them on the weekends if you find that you are too tired to cook in the evenings, and pack nutritious lunch boxes to take with you to work. Healthy eating will make you feel better and less exhausted too!
- Rest, rest, rest: Don’t be sucked into netflixathons until midnight! Get some decent nights sleep by getting an early night a few times a week. The return to work will likely knock you for six in the first few weeks so good sleep habits will make you feel so much better and ready to face each day! Avoid planning busy weekends or events on your first few weeks back at work. Enjoy lazy family pyjama days and chilled weekends together. There’s plenty of time for busy family adventures
5. Ditch the mum guilt
Whatever your reasons for returning to work, please ditch that mum guilt! Your baby will have a wonderful time in childcare, and you’ll value all of the time you get with them in the mornings, evenings and at weekends and holidays - so put your mind into positivity mode and look forward to your return to work.
Read more about why ditching the mum guilt actually makes you a better parent here.