Author Vicki Psarias, AKA Mumboss, shares her top tips for returning to employment after time off with baby…
Ease in gently
Do half days initially if you can, or make your first day close to the weekend so you’ll have a break after the first day or two back. Don’t be scared to ask questions or to set calendar reminders until you get back into the swing of things. Your colleagues will appreciate your needing support as you return to work.
Get some structure back into your life
For two weeks before returning to work, set your alarm so you get used to waking up at a specific time. Try to keep to that, even on your weekends – or days off, if you are going back part time – to help with structure. Sync your diary with work’s and your partner’s, noting any special days and events. Buy a huge wall calendar and hang it up, so you don’t forget key dates. Routine is important for you, as much as your child, so try to stick to going to bed at the same time every night to help prepare for being back at work. Whatever you do, know that things will feel a little surreal at first. That’s normal. Soon enough, though, you’ll get back into the flow of being at work and on projects that stimulate you. You’ll feel excited and challenged, and you might well feel like I do – that being at work is the easy bit. It’s the days off or the weekends, when little people are screaming, that are the hardest!
Don’t let mum guilt win
The biggest challenge for most parents returning to work, or starting their own business, is the incessant wrestling with manic mum guilt. This often arises from now dividing your time between work and kids, and not being as readily available as you were on maternity leave.
Psychologist Dr Karen Pine, co-founder of Do Something Different Ltd (dsd.me), lends her advice on dealing with this: “I honestly believe there’s too much emphasis on the effects – positive and negative – of parental behaviour on children. Mothers worry that anything they say or do will impact upon their child, hence they’re always worrying about getting it wrong and doing some lasting ‘damage’. I would say to mothers, let yourself off the hook a bit, stop beating yourself up. Of course, if you neglect or abuse your child it could do lasting damage, but mostly, if you love and care for them, they will be OK! Every minor decision does not have to be fraught with worry or potentially guilt-inducing. There’s some strong research showing that how children turn out as adults is influenced by their peer group more than their parents. And recent research has also shown that to a certain extent, children’s personality characteristics are ‘contagious’ i.e. they get them from their friends. It’s time we told parents they can chill a little and mums can stop feeling guilty. If your child’s a horror, it may be nothing to do with you!”
One thing I’m personally not great at is saying “no” – the people-pleaser in me dies a little every time I do, but I’ve learnt the hard way (hi there, exhaustion) that no’s are necessary if you want to keep your sanity. So that’s my advice. Simplify your life and don’t overstretch yourself. Life is about to change.
An extract from MUMBOSS The Honest Mum’s Guide to Surviving and Thriving at Work and at Home by Vicki Psarias was published by Piatkus on 3rd May, £13.99.