Going back to work after time out on maternity leave can feel really daunting.
So many doubts can linger in your mind:
- Will people in my field still take me seriously?
- Will I still be “one of them”?
- What if I’m no longer good enough? What if I don’t understand a single thing they say, because I’ve been out of it for so long?
- I don’t feel I have anything interesting to say after so long at home.
- What will happen to my baby while I’m at work? What if something happens at nursery, or with the childminder?
After a few months of all-consuming parenthood, a lot of mums are ready for some adult talk.
I know I was.
The first afternoons back at work felt like a holiday. I adored my twins, but the simplicity of being able to work at my desk on my own and actually drink a coffee without interruption was tantamount to a spa break.
Maternity leave is, of course, a magical time of connecting with your new addition, as you adjust to life with your mini you.
However, in terms of work it can leave you feeling under confident, insecure and super-doubtful if you’re really cut out for it after a few months out of your routine.
Research conducted by AAT found that the average mum felt her confidence noticeably slip approximately 11 months after being away from the working world, leading to doubts about their own professional capability. Lack of flexibility was cited as a big block to getting back on the ladder, while 40 per cent felt they were nowhere near as sharp as they used to be.
I was self-employed running my design business when I had my twin girls back in 2009.
Although I worked by myself from home on the whole, the first faltering Bambi-like steps back out into meetings for consultancy work felt like giant leaps.
If you need your ambitious, career building, money making mojo back I have some tips for you to help make the transition back to work easier.
Make a list of all your successes
Write all your successes down as a list. Think it over for a couple of days and don’t miss a single thing out – include personal and professional successes and make that list as long as you can. Every time you start feeling low and doubts start creeping in, read that list aloud. Hang it in your bedroom, on your fridge, or somewhere you can frequently look at it and reassure yourself. You’re still the same fabulous woman – you just need some reminding sometimes.
Build in flexibility and expect the unexpected
If there is one thing that’s a given, you will need to learn to expect the unexpected.
Young children often pick up viruses as they build up their tiny immune systems and in the early years you can expect many occasions when you might need to re-think child care for the day due to a cold-ridden small person or teething-induced sleepless nights.
Scenario planning for such outcomes will really help you to feel less stressed and more confident.
Many workplaces offer flexibility for working mothers so chat with your supervisors and try to come up with a situation where you both end up winning when you need to be in two places at once. Similarly, discuss possible scenarios with your partner and childcare team so that you have plans in place for emergencies.
If you are self-employed as I was, build in a back up team if you can. This way if your little one needs you, you can still deliver client work and keep your business running.
Update your wardrobe and make-up
Many women lose image confidence after giving birth. Invest in a few key items that make you feel fabulous and a far cry from both your old maternity wear and your daily clothes as a mum. Update your makeup so you feel fresh, confident and more like “you”. Most make-up counters have experts who are skilled in showing you how to make the best of yourself to really help your confidence.
Go to professional events
Seek out professional events that interest you and pop along to a few before you return to work; this will allow you to get back in the working groove without actually going back. It will help you feel comfortable with the work environment without actually working, and prepare you for what’s to come. It may also bring back a little ambitious spark and encourage you to look forward to going to work.
Moreover, once you see that people don’t treat you differently because of motherhood, you’ll see a bit of that confidence creeping back in.
Reconnect with old friends and colleagues
In this digital era, it’s easy to keep in touch with Skype, email, Facebook, Linked In, Twitter, and Instagram. Use these digital tools to reconnect with your colleagues and friends.
Getting back in touch will help you reconnect with peers and colleagues ahead of going back to work, and you will feel excited about the social aspect of catching up with everyone, too.
Chat to friends who have gone back to work after a baby and find out how they coped and what they did to help their confidence and lean on them for support.
Finally, remember that you will work it all out, and that any fears will fade.
As a working mum you will learn to find your own routine, support network and rhythm as a family unit.
Also, remember that going back to work is a positive personal choice that you have made for you and your family; allow yourself to enjoy having time as the professional you, as well as the parent version of you.
Most of all – good luck!