Considering going back to work after maternity leave can raise mixed feelings. Perhaps there’s a feeling of regaining a sense of self and identity outside of being a mother, rediscovering a world outside your local area mixed together with concerns about missing your baby, the logistics of making it work at work and a sense of emotional overwhelm when you think about juggling all of this – how can anyone wear so many hats at once?
There’s various aspects to consider when returning to work, or looking for work after having a baby that you may want to consider:
Workplace, environment and culture, is it right for you?
Finding a structure that works for us in terms of hours, days & working environment can feel challenging.
We may need to express milk or feed our babies, we may not feel the set-up is supportive for us to have space and time to do that but by law workplaces are required to make adequate provisions for this, including a safe where you can express / feed and store breastmilk so know that you are within your rights to ask.
On your side you may want to find a comfortable electric breast pump, have a cool bag for milk storage in the fridge or find set times in your day to allocate for pumping, or feeding if your baby will be with you.
Perhaps the culture of your workplace feels judgemental of your need to leave at set times, or your choice to have amended your working hours or days. If this is the case it can feel really challenging emotionally but holding your boundaries around time, your working practice can be useful for you and your colleagues. The more we set these ideas and hold them the more we open the way for others to follow.
If having a conversation around new working hours is worrying you, perhaps offering a trial of 6 months to your workplace could help everyone feel more settled about the idea, reducing the pressure.
Of course some jobs just don’t work and it can be worth considering if your job feels right for your new life, or if in fact you’d prefer to do something else, or work somewhere else, however this should be your decision and not something you feel pushed to by workplaces.
The cost, how it will work and who will look after your baby are probably on your mind. Should you opt for a nursery, childminder or relative to help with your little one while you are at work?
This decision is entirely up to you and whatever feels comfortable for your and your family.
If you are looking for child carers opting for an Ofsted registered childminder or nursery may offer you certain options including knowing the quality of the care is evaluated and also being able to claim tax free childcare vouchers through your workplace in order to help with the costs.
Most local councils will have a list of registered child carers on their websites so you can find ones local to you and many parents also like recommendations through forums and local Facebook groups.
Sometimes another parent, family member or friend will look after your little one and it’s worth knowing that legally you can’t pay them for this but you may have an arrangement to cover expenses or return the time.
In these situations it’s worth making sure that everyone feels comfortable with the arrangement, logistics and style of nurturing. Our parenting preferences can feel important to us but everyones can be different, even those close to you so making sure there is a common understanding at the beginning can help avoid any awkward conflicts further down the line.
Confidence, self-care and the emotional load
One thing that comes up frequently is the amount on unpaid domestic labour that is taken on by women and mothers in the household. This coupled with work, child rearing and the many other hats we all wear can lead to burn out, stress and overwhelm.
Whatever you do, consider if you can outsource or simply domestic tasks, can you share them with a partner or let some go without guild of failing?
How can you make sure you include in every day pockets of time that are about you – a bath, a quiet coffee during lunchtime, a 10 minute meditation daily – whatever floats your boat and helps you feel more nourished.
The more confident we feel to do this, the more confident we feel in ourselves, in setting boundaries with others and setting the example for our children.
This can be especially important when we’re dealing with the grey spaces of our experience, like shifting from being at home to going back to work. We can’t necessarily change the discomfort but we can find tools to help us get through it.
Some books you may find useful:
Jobs by Christine Armstrong
Do Less by Kate Northrup
Lean in by Sheryl Sandberg
Playing Big by Tara Mohr
Some links kindly shared at our meet-ups for those looking for support in flexible working and knowing the possibilities available