I can’t promise that these will make your life better, make the return to work stress and worry free but I can promise that they will help. It also helps to have people to talk to and to know people who have been there before – I write about trying to balance being a working mum with the rest of my life on my blog Muddling Along (www.muddlingalongmummy.com)
1. Nobody is going to remember what you did in your first week back in 6 months’ time
Don’t worry if you are running late, if you spend the whole time on the phone checking in with your childcare, if you can’t remember your password or username. All this will not matter in a few months when you have settled back in but cutting yourself a bit of slack will mean that the first week back is less stressful than it otherwise might have been
2. Don’t make any knee jerk decisions
Do NOT decide to give it all up in the first week. Chances are that you’ll start to ride a rollercoaster of it being great and horrid and your emotions will be all over the place. Instead set yourself a point in time, preferably about three months down the line, and tell yourself that you’ll not make any decisions about how its going until that point. Chances are that by the time you hit that point, all the initial problems will have faded away and you’ll suddenly realise that either its going well and you’re back and happy or you won’t be. And then you can decide what to do.
When I went back after Bigger was born I left it until Christmas (after starting back in September) – it was incredible, I suddenly realised that I had things under control and was back enjoying working and having not had to make a decision earlier had freed me up from worrying about whether I was doing the right thing.
3. Make sure you have lots of pictures on your phone or in your bag
You are going to miss your baby. Sorry but its true. Hopefully if you have great childcare that you trust, in time you’ll find yourself not worrying about them during the working day but at first having lots of pictures will remind you. Don’t put them on your desk but carry them with you. This is super important if you’re carrying on breastfeeding and are going to be expressing at work – sitting looking at pictures of your baby whilst pumping will really help you express well.
4. Wear a watch
Not only will wearing a watch mean that you know when its time to leave but looking at your watch is a subconscious sign that you have to leave that others will pick up on. Anything that reduces down the amount of times you say ‘I have to go now’ is a good thing. And anything that makes it easier for you to walk out of the office on time is a good thing. If you don’t want to wear a watch or you find yourself getting caught in meetings right at the end of the day set an alarm on your phone that is the same sounds as the phone ring for about 5 minutes before you need to go – it rings, you answer it, excuse yourself from meeting and then don’t go back in and can get away. Sneaky, yes but very useful if you have a boss that isn’t good about remembering you have commitments outside the workplace.
5. Decide what it is that is important for you to make you feel like a ‘good’ mum, focus on doing that and ignore the rest
Is it being home for bedtime 3 night’s a week? Or cooking lots of food yourself? Or reading stories in the morning? Or continuing to breastfeed? Or making it home for tea time on a Friday? Find something that is your priority and keep to it. I find if I am away for more than a couple of bedtimes I need to tweak things like going in later one morning to compensate so my family life doesn’t get too far out of kilter. As for the rest, learn to go with the flow and ignore them.
And finally get as much help as you can and ask for help everywhere. If you can afford it, get a cleaner, do online shopping, do anything to make sure that your limited time with your child/ren is as fun as possible. Ask for help from your mum, batch cook, accept that your house isn’t going to be particularly tidy.
And most of all best of luck – nobody gives medals to working mums and in my opinion they should, we do a great job as mums and we do a great job too!
Some great tips here Hannah. The one I like best is the first one, I have found my new employers really understanding to the fact that I have been out of the workplace for nearly 2 years and that has made my stress levels much easier in this first week. I will get my head round it all in time and like you said no one will remember my first week in 6 months time. ~ Mumra.