Returning to work after maternity leave- the lowdown

December 13th 2014 / Anna Hunter / 1 comment

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Going back to the office post-baby can be a daunting prospect. Take some motherly advice from women who’ve been there…

Leaving your baby for the first time is a toughie, no doubt about it. That’s before you figure in the feeding logistics, nappy bag maintenance and reversion to the crack-of-dawn commute. That said, it needn’t be a traumatic time, and there are definite positives to glean from getting back on the work horse. Doing It All columnist Emma Bartley tells it like it is, as does mother of three Rachel Boardman, a naturopath and general wellbeing whizz who has some genius general and holistic coping methods.

Gold standard childcare ensures peace of mind

It’s an obvious one, but high quality, dependable childcare is the key to sailing smoothly back into the boardroom. Rachel’s come to appreciate this with time:

“With my first child at 30 I had to get back to work quite quickly and I travelled a lot which caused a lot of anxiety on my part, and guilt. The second child was at 36 and I travelled less and had more support with childcare that I really trusted. This worked out much better. I really feel more confident when there’s a routine in place and children do too”

For freelance journalist Emma the return to work wasn’t necessarily a 9-5 exercise:

“For me because the lines are a bit blurred about exactly when I'm working. I do feel guilty if I'm sending work emails while I'm with my daughter for example. However, I do think that the key to this is getting the right childcare. If you have childcare that's really good you don't feel so bad about leaving them”

Be the queen of routine

Like Rachel, Emma stays on top of things as much as possible by sticking to a system:

“I have fixed hours of childcare and I use that time to do whatever's most urgent. If I'm going to the office though, I try to pack my daughter's bag and decide what I'm wearing the night before. Our routine runs like clockwork, up at 7am every day!”

Organised chaos counts- learning to live with it could even boost your career prospects. Rachel manages to stay zen while still spinning plates:

“Having children has made me a multi tasking wizard. I can cope with many situations at the same time and still manage to keep calm .. a perfect employee! Having said that there have been a few times that I've had to check and re-check emails before I pressed send, as my sleepless brain could be far too blunt!”

Give yourself a break

Sleepless nights will happen, guilt is likely to rear its head and you might not be able to wash your hair as much as you used to. This will not matter nearly as much as you think it will, but there’s no denying it’s a bit of a struggle, especially at first. Emma doesn’t beat around the bush:

“Something has to suffer and I chose to deprioritise looking nice. I've talked a lot about this but if I do my makeup it's on the way to work and I don't care who stares. I never blowdry my hair and I don't dress as nicely. You don't feel as confident but you also don't care as much what people think”

“If I'm tired after a bad night I make a lot more mistakes and that does worry me, as even though my colleagues know me from when I used to be sharp, people on a daily newspaper don't really make allowances. There just isn't time to carry people. Thankfully I sleep-trained the the bejeezus out of my baby and she slept through the night very early on- otherwise I'd be unemployed. Not to mention insane”

Rachel has also done her fair share of Cirque de Soleil level juggling:

“I often find myself with a list of things that have to be done that day and having to prioritise by way of which is most important, finding time for myself is way down on the list”

“Having my third child and being an older mum gives me a better perspective than I had in my early thirties as I know that the first year will be at worst exhausting, sometimes repetitive and overwhelming but this changes so fast and so soon the chaos becomes manageable, and I feel I've been able to ride this time more easily than I did with my first and second”

Letting go and cutting yourself some slack is a must. From hair upkeep to gym trips, sometimes things have to give. Emma’s been there:

“If I’m in the office I can go to the gym in a lunch hour but you do become much more focused on leaving on time to get back for the baby, so long gym sessions during the day are definitely out. I also let my fringe grow out. Getting that cut while pregnant was quite possibly the stupidest thing I ever did!”

Rachel’s let a few things fly too:

“I haven't been able to do my yoga practice as much as I'd like to, and pushing myself to do self practice once a week is tough as every moment when the babies asleep is precious time that I feel I should be doing work in. Walking my dog nearly every day, sometimes on the Heath, allows me to have some space to think close to nature, and I often feel my shoulders fall from my ears, even when I have baby in the papoose”

Accept support, both from kind souls and supplements

Rachel thinks seeking solace in the sisterhood is vital:

“If you're overwhelmed ask for support, you're not a failure in doing so. We women need to stick together and help each other always!”

Practically speaking, you can boost your energy and ride the back to work wave by investing a little time and a few resources in your own health and wellbeing:

“Looking after yourself is so important and so many mums think of themselves after everyone and everything else. Juicing every morning is a good organic source of essential nutrients and I make sure that I do this everyday, adding super greens, chia seeds and bee pollen to ensure that I get the minerals and vitamins that I need, especially if I'm not finding the time to prepare meals like I should. I use a Nutribullet so that I don’t have to waste precious time cleaning a juicer every morning ...so there’s really no excuse for not getting my five a day!”

“Keeping hydrated is another essential when you’re feeling exhausted. If, like me, you find drinking litres of liquids uninspiring, add cucumber, lemon and fresh mint”

Ditch the coffee and consider going herbal to get in even more goodness:

“Herbs rich in minerals such as iron and calcium are a perfect support, try nettle with dandelion and red raspberry leaves”

While you may struggle to even brush your hair, a good sweeping session could do your body the world of good:

“I dry body brush every morning from the soles of the feet up. It’s such an incredible pick me up in the morning, better than any caffeinated drink, it literally makes me feel elated even after four hours sleep. It gets the endorphins going and helps stimulate and improve the function of the eliminative organs such as the skin, liver, lymph, bowel and kidneys”

Supplementing your diet can also give you a much needed boost, especially if you’re flagging:

“I really recommend getting a good dose of essential fatty acids everyday to help sustain immune health, support a healthy nervous system and improve brain function- which is all important when you’re absolutely exhausted! I use CleanMarine Krill Oil for Women, £19.50, and starflower oil for hormone balance (it also makes my skin look FAR better). Take a helping hand from nature as much as possible”

Embrace the many perks of parenthood

Emma’s productivity shifted up a gear after giving birth to her first child:

“You become the master of time management. No time for work chats and I never, ever check Facebook at work. If I'm doing something I just have to go for it as there isn't time to dither. Most of my friends feel the same way, I think - I am an absolute powerhouse now”

Don’t worry- you’re wiser than ever

A final thought from Emma; despite popular opinion, becoming a mother can seriously up the ante on your career:

“I spent a lot of time worrying about taking a career break: that I would be replaced, lose my mojo, become financially dependent on my husband, etc. But it was the best thing that ever happened to me because I was stagnating in a job (sub-editing) that I liked but which was not going anywhere. Having a break, probably for the first time in your career, forces you to consider properly what you've done and what you want. I started doing much more writing, which I was scared to do before, and it has opened a whole new world of opportunity for me. I also became very mercenary about work: I say no toeverything unless I absolutely love it or it's well paid. Because there's a new minimum standard: is this worth leaving my baby for?”

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  • dawn gribble
  • September 28th 2016

Whether it is your first, second or whatever number child the fact is that returning to work after maternity leave can be distressing. Going back to the routines of your job and away from the routine of taking care of your baby can be a big adjustment.
Here are a few tips on how to adapt to life after maternity leave: establishing routines, build up your confidence, practical stuff.
Read more at https://www.doubleccoaching.com/top-tips-for-returning-to-work/

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