Top Tips On Coming Back To Work After Maternity

You may not know this but I myself had a 7 and 1-year-old and it’s been interesting juggling baby and business especially as the last birth came with its own health challenges. However, I’ve survived and keep thriving but it has been a steep learning curve. I get asked for advice often by women going through similar challenges or considering having a second baby so it’s a bit of a passion project for me this 2018 to get real advice and insight into the hands of those who need it. I’m passionate about passing on lessons and inspiring other women who might be worrying about coming back to work – whether they are employed or run their own business.

Returning to work after maternity leave can be a big challenge. Read about how to go back to work plus the top tips from women who have come back to work in the last 2 years.

  • Lucy Harrisis 
  • Global Head of Inclusion, Diversity and Engagement 
  • 3 days a week

I have two children so have made the ‘dreaded’ return to work twice in the last 6 years. Working in HR I understood the process of maternity leave but nothing can prepare you for the realities. I took two sets of 12 months leave and don’t feel guilty in saying thoroughly cherished every moment. When it came to returning to work, however, I was filled with dread, anxiety and a distinct lack of confidence.

After my first child, I was particularly unsure about my return to work and did very little planning and certainly no Keep In Touch (KIT) days. So, when the time came, it was quite a shock to the system. In the time I had been away the technology had changed immeasurably and I was taking on a completely new role. It certainly highlighted a gap in our own approach to returners as I was given no guidance on the technology or objectives from my manager. Thankfully, my experiences second time around were vastly improved. I met with my manager whilst on maternity leave; it was a helpful meeting quite early on and I felt reassured about my role on my return thus enabling me to relax for the remainder of my leave as well as being encouraged to use some KIT days. The planning I missed first time certainly paid off second time.

The biggest challenge I faced on both occasions, however, was a crisis in confidence and sense of identity. One thing I know now, which I didn’t before having children, is that learning to integrate the roles of mother and professional woman into a sense of identity is fraught with complexities and takes time. The physical and emotional separation from my children on both occasions was tough and switching my focus onto work drained my personal resources until I realised that it was about utilising my skills, new skills too, ones I’d honed on maternity leave. Returning part time I had to learn to prioritise, use my time effectively, make decisions efficiently and focus. A bit like managing the needs of a family. I learnt to compartmentalise work second time around which was hugely powerful. Above all I told myself I could do it, focussed on some achievements and slowly the self- belief returned… and job satisfaction.

Having no immediate family locally to support with childcare, I was reliant on good nurseries and wrap around care during term time. I then had to learn how to manage the ‘fear’ when the dreaded phone call came in to say they were poorly. Cue the pointless but emotionally driven debate with my husband as to whose work is more important and who will go pick them up. Time has taught us that it is not that hard to make those compromises, taking it in turns to cover emergencies and that you can prioritise their needs yet give a lot back to your employer.

I don’t have any particular hobbies, my spare time is limited right now, it’s more about ‘little wins’ still…drinking a whole cup of tea before it’s gone cold, not being too tired to pick up a book before bedtime, getting out to feed the ducks or search for a Gruffalo with the kids without any meltdowns… keeping weekends as sacred family time. I know this will change as they get older so I’m happy to roll with things right now.

Both internal and external networks helped on my journey back into work, reading blogs, threads on Mumsnet etc., talking to peers and colleagues about their experiences all showed that it is possible. Learning to plan with military precision also helped saved my sanity. Balancing work and a family is hard enough, being prepped for curveballs along the way is tougher still! So a semblance of organisation is what keeps Team H afloat.

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