Returning to work after having a baby can be unsettling, but with some prior planning, becoming a working mum may be easier than you think. Here are some important things to consider if you’re about to become a working mum:
Flexible working options
Guilt seems to be one of the biggest challenges faced by mothers going back to work and is one of the biggest sources of stress. To help start preparing yourself, it may be a good idea to think about leaving your baby with the child minder for short periods in the build up of going back to work. Or depending on finances you may be able to speak to your manager and initially go back part-time and build yourself up to full-time when you feel comfortable with leaving your baby for longer. Check if your employer has a ‘Flexible Working Policy’ as this might be th option that works best for you. If flexible working is not an option and you do not want to go back full-time, you may decide to have a think about a career change during your maternity leave. See http://www.direct.gov.uk/en/Employment/Employees/Flexibleworking/DG_10029491
Breast feeding at work
If you are still breast feeding, you don’t need to stop because you are returning to work. There are two options if you wish to continue to breastfeed, full feed or part feed. To full feed, you could speak to your manager to agree a suitable room in which you can express your milk and somewhere to store it. You could also think about expressing at home and keeping a supply in your freezer so that your child minder can feed your baby during the day, but don’t forget to check if your baby will take milk from a bottle.
Employing a childminder
There will always be days that your baby is unsettled when you say goodbye and they will undoubtedly cry, but unfortunately, as heart wrenching as it may be, you have to learn to tolerate it, keep calm, say goodbye and leave. Babies need routine and they will get used to you leaving them once they realise you are coming back. To help with this situation try to distract your baby as you are going, take items to the child minder’s that they like to play with to create a familiar surrounding and divert their attention. You may want to think about an emergency back-up in case your child minder becomes ill, or in case your baby becomes ill and your child minder can’t look after them for risk of other children in their care catching something. There are all sorts of scenarios surrounding this issue but having a back-up plan should hopefully minimise the interruption to your work. You should also speak to your manager and check whether the company has a ‘Family or Parental Leave Policy’ and read this so you know what your rights are for requiring emergency time off. If your employer does not have one, refer to the Directgov website for more ifnormation.
Keep In Touch days
If you are anxious about returning to work after a long period of maternity leave, there are things you can do prior to returning to make the transition as seamless as possible. For example, you are entitled to 10 ‘Keep In Touch’ (KIT) days whilst on maternity leave. Use these to go in to the office for meetings or to attend company events so that you see your colleagues, catch up on any news and stay in the loop. Speak to your manager and clarify your job duties on returning so you know what to expect. You could also arrange to meet up with your colleagues for a drink prior to returning, as this will help the first day back not seem so daunting.
Consultant at Source and mother to 3 ½ year old Noah, Leanne Duke comments:
“Going back to work is tough! You are torn between leaving your child and mommy duties whilst at the same time desperate to pick up your own identity as Leanne, not ‘Noah’s mum’. But best tip is to plan and communicate clearly your wants and needs with your employer along with planning back up childcare etc. Some employers are unfamiliar with this territory so it’s really important to clarify the difficulties you are facing and ultimately what is the most important thing for you going back to work. Prepare your Plan B on childcare and Plan C – you never know the emergencies you may face – be it weather, travel or multiple illnesses so you will want to make sure you can have someone else to rely on!
At the end of the day…
…going back to work after having a baby does not make you a bad mother. You may be in tears on day one of returning but you’re not alone and there’s no need to beat yourself up about it. Proper planning will ease you into the situation and prepare you better for what’s ahead. Also remember that there is a work/life balance and happy mums equal happy babies!