Returning to work after maternity leave doesn’t have to suck

Oct 20, 2021 | Work

Return to work

Before I went on maternity leave, I enjoyed going to work. I knew what I was doing. All the information I needed was neatly stored in my head. I could recall everything and anything I needed.

I was super confident in myself and my work.

So I thought returning to work after maternity leave would be easy.

Not the case. It felt alien to me. I felt like a fish out of water. I couldn’t remember half the things I used to. Plus things had changed. Time had moved on.

I remember asking my manager when he expected me to be performing like before. Fortunately, he was supportive and told me to take one day at a time.

But the truth is, not all new mums have a good experience returning to work. Whether it’s because their manager is not supportive, or their colleagues just don’t understand or it’s the good old inner critic telling them they can’t.

It doesn’t have to be this way. You don’t have to feel alone.

To be honest, I do remember being a little excited about going back to work. Mainly, because I could have some me time. I could be Maria instead of Lea’s mummy. I could concentrate on what was going on in my world instead of cleaning, cooking and childcare.

But, I was also anxious. Whilst I was on maternity leave the world hadn’t stopped. Things had moved on in work and all without me.

The thing is, I hadn’t stopped to think about what returning to work meant for me. What I wanted from my work. How I wanted to transition back to work.

So to say day 1 was a blur is an understatement.

My colleagues asked about my daughter and what it was like being a mum. But I felt like I was having an out-of-body experience. This place was familiar. The people were the same. But at the same time it all felt very different and surreal.

I wanted to just get on with work. Why couldn’t I just get on with work? I felt stuck. It was like I was the new girl again. Which would have been fine if I was. But I was just returning to work. Returning to the job I had before.

I felt like I really had no idea.

Fast forward to now and I love my work. Yes, I’m doing something completely different but it’s what I’m meant to be doing. I work with amazing women who are trying to do their best for themselves whilst raising a family. Mums, a very challenging job yet so rewarding.

But as I’ve said, life wasn’t always like this. When I first became a mum and I was trying to transition back to work, it felt more like a slap in the face.

Before maternity leave, I was a confident project manager dealing with all types of people from the intense ‘tell it how it is’ production workers to the more tactful ‘it has to be right’ engineers.

I was confident because I knew my stuff. I knew what was going on. I knew what needed to be done.

But when I returned to work, I felt the opposite.

If I knew then what I know now I would have done things differently. Starting with…….

Talking to other mums who had already returned to work

The only way to understand what it can look like and feel like is to have a good old chat with someone who has already been there. To talk to someone who is walking in your shoes already. To be able to be honest about what you’re feeling and for them to tell you it will be okay and give you advice.

Prepare, prepare, prepare

There’s nothing better than being prepared. It’s not just for girl guides! This is not just knowing what the law says about returning to work. It’s also understanding what you want. What does work mean to you now? It might be the same as before or it might be different. It’s so important to know what your needs and wants are first then you can actually tell whoever needs to know so they are better equipped to help.

Talk to your manager about returning to work

Whether you have a supportive manager or not, it’s helpful to understand where they’re coming from and how they plan on supporting you coming back to work. Plus you get the opportunity to tell them what you want and how they can help.

Coaching, Great, self care, returning to work

Get ready mentally

It’s so important to look after your mental wellbeing as you navigate working now that you’re a mum. Practicing mindfulness or meditation. Or maybe something a little more vigorous like running or punching a punchbag. Whatever helps you to come to terms with and get comfortable with going back to work.

Buy your back to work outfit

It may sound superficial but looking good on the outside will help with feeling good on the inside. Whether it’s putting together an outfit from clothes that you already have or buying something new. Feeling good with what you’re wearing will really help.

Hindsight is a wonderful thing and can teach us a lot regardless of what the situation is. Whether you’re returning to work or about to try something new, it’s great to look back at what you’ve been through to see how it can help in the future.

You are not the person you used to be however by doing a couple of things up front you can be more confident in returning to work knowing what you want and who you are now.

How are you planning on returning to work?


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You might also like to read, It’s not about building a brick wall but creating healthy boundaries

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