I know this is probably not the first blog post you’ve seen about the experience of returning to work post-baby. It’s a popular topic for a reason; after all a fairly significant percentage of our population are likely to go through the same experience…and it’s a pretty surreal one! So, while by no means do I claim to be an expert or have all the answers, I thought I would add my two-cents worth to the discussion. Of course, my experience will differ from others, but I do think I’ve learned a few things along the way that perhaps might just help another (hopefully not too sleep-deprived) parent ease themselves back into the workforce. Here are the five pieces of advice that helped me the most:
- Ditch the guilt. For me, one of the reasons I didn’t return to work until I hit the 9-month mark was feeling guilty about leaving my baby. There’s so much pressure from everyone else to stay at home with your child, cherishing every minute. However, some people operate better when they have space! I personally think I gave my little guy a better version of me when I had been away for the day and came back. Believe me when I say, some people are just not cut out to stay at home full-time with babies! Remind yourself, there’s nothing wrong with being excited and ready to return to work.
- On the other hand, don’t rush back. Those first few days or weeks can be a little tough, so if you able to, ease back into your role. I was in a fortunate position where Steve and the team at Madison were extremely accommodating about my return to work. I worked reduced hours and I logged in a lot from home, and if I hadn’t had these options, things would have been a lot harder. You know yourself when the time is right, and if you are in a position to balance the load, take your time adjusting back into regular work life.
- Remember, you are still the same amazing you. As a pretty confident person, I can honestly say being out of the game for nine months took its toll. Things happen, people change, life goes on, and it can be challenging to return and face a new environment. This is when you need to remember, you haven’t lost your skills or experience, you are still you! I also believe it’s much easier to return to something that is familiar and welcoming. Now is not the time for (more) big changes, so don’t make life too hard on yourself, return to what you’re good at.
- Get real with work life balance. The ‘old’ me was totally obsessed with my phone. Whether I was checking emails, sending out texts or refreshing social media, my phone was never far from my hand. What I quickly realized is that someone having to wait an hour for an email reply is actually pretty normal. Sure, be contactable and approachable, but take time out and change your habits. Don’t have your alerts switched on, instead check your phone at pre-determined intervals—you’ll find the time you spend at home will be so much more valuable.
- Delegate and share. I am a self-confessed control freak. I like to be super organized, and know exactly what is going on and when. But the reality is, especially if you’re only working part time, you can’t be across all the details, nor do you need to be. In my team, I’ve certainly been well supported – and I can’t be all things to all people any more – so now I prioritise what I must get involved in, versus what I just need to be aware of. This is a great time to learn to trust others, give them more responsibility and an opportunity to step up.
Having a baby is a huge and life altering event and unfortunately there’s no secret formula to transitioning back into working life afterwards. You can expect to have great days, and some not-so-great days. However, I did find that when I had these five aspects in balance, life seemed to run a little smoother. I must acknowledge that not everyone is fortunate enough to return to work as seamlessly as I did, which I guess leads to a bonus piece of advice: if you have a job you love, with an employer who will value and support you and work with your needs, then stick with them! Overall though, I think the key to a positive experience comes down to figuring out what you need to make it work for you and your family, not being too hard on yourself and maintaining a healthy level of self-belief in your abilities as an employee.