01 Apr How to return to work after maternity leave
At 29, I became the owner of a children’s nursery whilst being 7 months pregnant and a mother to a 1-and-a-half-year-old toddler and an eight-year-old child. It was difficult for me. Very difficult. Since then, I got to know many mums at different stages in their motherhood and was able to understand their struggles. One thing that nearly all mothers found hard was returning back to work after having a baby.
After having a new born, so much in your life changes. Your usual daily routine is completely turned upside down, you’re running on little sleep and your hormones are everywhere. You spend nearly every hour of the day with your little one and the thought of handing them over to someone else fills you with dread and anxiety.
But it doesn’t have to be this crazy scary transition for you or your baby.
I have helped hundreds of parents who have gone through the same situation you have and I am sure that if you spoke to them today, they will tell you it’s not as bad as it seems. It will be difficult but the best option for you and your baby is to PREPARE.
I’m going to be honest with you, burying your head in the sand and trying to put the inevitable to the back of your mind will make this harder for you and your baby. I have seen it over and over again at my nurseries.
THE BEST OPTION IS TO PREPARE BEFOREHAND. Prepare yourself and prepare your baby.
- First things first, talk to your employer. Let them know in advance what date you have decided to go back to work. My advice is to give them at least a month’s notice as it will give you time to prepare yourself for starting back at work and it gives you time to start preparing your baby for day-care. Ask your employer if you can start work in the middle of the week; a shorter week can be a great way to ease back into work.
- One thing that parents sometimes don’t realise is that nursery places fill up quickly, especially for children under one because, due to health and safety, a nursery can only take a certain amount of babies. Every year, I have a waiting list for babies at my nurseries, so my advice is to get in quickly. If there is a specific nursery you would like your child to attend, call them at least 3-4 months in advance to enquire (some nurseries are more in demand than others, so you may need to call earlier). BONUS TIP: Look out to see if you are entitled to any childcare discounts, such as child tax credit, universal credit or sometimes your employer will provide childcare voucher schemes.
- Going back into full-time work and being a parent can be a stressful time so it is important that you make other areas of your life simpler.
- Instead of cooking from scratch every night, prepare your weekly meals on the weekend so that after work you can simply put things in the oven.
- Get a diary or a planner so that you can organise your work life and other important dates so you don’t over book yourself
- Get yourself ready for the next working day the night before. Have your clothes ironed, your bag packed, keys somewhere you will remember them (because we all somehow forget our keys somewhere) and your baby’s nappy bag stocked with all they need.
- My top tip to prepare your baby for childcare is to slowly start leaving them with someone else for as little as 15 minutes at a time. Most babies will get separation anxiety because they are used to being around you all the time. However, if you start preparing them in the months leading up to you going back to work, the transition will be a lot smoother. Think of a goodbye sentence such as ‘Mummy will be back soon’, give them a quick kiss and hug goodbye, then go. Don’t look back, even if they start crying. I know, I know, it’s hard to hear them cry but it’s good for them, they will learn to self sooth and get used to you going. Start with short 15 minute slots, then every now and again increase the time by 10 minutes. Trust me, in no time they will get used to you going and coming back.
- Get your child used to being around other children and adults. Visit local play centres or playgroups to help your child to mix with other children. It is also a great way for you to socialise with other parents and maybe set up play dates. This time will help build your child’s confidence with being with other children and allows you to see your child playing with other children without you being right beside them.
- Have back up emergency contacts in place. There will be times where, for some reason or another, you will not be able to pick your child up from nursery, so I always advise the parents at my nursery to have some family or close friends on call, in case you are unable to pick your child up.
- Finally, stay calm and stay positive. There are going to be times where you may feel guilty for leaving your child in day care or feel worried thinking that they are crying all day without you. This transition is not easy but remember you are doing this for them as well as for yourself. You are working so you can provide them with the things they need. Going into day care will also help build your child’s social abilities and confidence.
I know this is a hard time for you but it will get easier, I promise. Like the old saying goes, if you fail to plan, you plan to fail. Preparing and planning months before you are due to go back to work will help the transition go a lot smoother.
If you need any extra help or advice, join my Facebook page, Parents Keeping It Real, where other parents and myself share our tips and advice around loads of different parenting topics.
Look forward to hearing from you soon.
Sylvia the Parentologist x