This blog series is from one Boldly Glow mama to another, and is an honest and personal look at motherhood. Laura’s awesome, practical and open blog is an amazing read for any mamas preparing to go back to paid work
Maternity leave is full of so many joys – cuddles on the sofa, coffees and playgroups with your fellow mums, binging on Netflix etc. However, if you are anything like I was, you may find that your time off with your baby is becoming increasingly overshadowed by a big, black cloud of fear of returning to work.
However, like all those mums who said the same to me (and who I didn’t quite believe), I really can vouch for it, the fear that you build up in your head really is much worse than the reality of going back. And it really is amazing how quick both you and your baby adapt to your new routine!
Here are some tips that I have picked up during my first 10 months’ as a working mum which hopefully you will find helpful!
Don’t be afraid to reassess your return to work plan
Before I left for maternity leave my husband and I had agreed, and I had told work that I would be taking 6 months off and returning full-time. However, 3 months’ into motherhood I started to get a nagging feeling that I wasn’t happy with that arrangement.
I began to feel like I needed more time off with my baby and was also having doubts about whether returning full-time was right for me. But I had somehow got it firmly into my head that if I diverted from the plan I would be letting down not only work but also my husband. I expressed my doubts to a fellow mum who encouraged me to sit down with my husband and work through the figures to see what was possible – it turned out that having me return at 9 months’ instead of 6, and reducing my hours down to 4 days’ a week was achievable. Yes, it did feel a bit awkward telling work I had had a change of heart however they were very supportive. If you are considering your options for returning to work, you can find out more about flexible working here: https://www.gov.uk/flexible-working
Choose child-care that works practically for you
Childcare is a topic that everyone seems to have an opinion on and aren’t afraid to tell you about it. A lot of well-meaning friends and colleagues would give me their thoughts on nurseries vs nannies vs childminders and quote Ofsted results at me – which not surprisingly started to become really overwhelming. However, ultimately I realised that it had to come down to what worked practically for our family. For us this meant good childcare that was available before 8am and in walking distance en route to the station – and so now Monday to Thursday our little one has his breakfast at 7:30am at a lovely nursery which has conveniently opened at the bottom of our road. Ignore the unhelpful lectures on childcare, and just do whatever works for your family!
Think practically about how you can prepare
If you can its worth taking advantage of your Keeping In Touch days at work. I found that they not only gave me an opportunity to ease myself back into work but also to introduce me to spending time away from my son (which was quite a milestone for me given that I had not spent any significant time away from him for the first 7 months of his life). Personally, I found it helped having Hubby take the day off to look after our baby while I did a KIT day as I think doing his nursery settling in sessions at the same time would have been too overwhelming for me. Key things I found helped prepare my son for nursery were moving his mealtimes at home to the same times they ate at nursery, encouraging him to nap in his cot in a dark room (rather than his pram) as they do at nursery and I also introduced a comforter so that he would be attached to it and could take it with him to nursery. Outside of the settling in sessions, my nursery also operated stay-and-play sessions two times a week which I started taking him to 2/3 months before he started so that he could get used to going into that environment on a regular basis.
One of my key techniques for making life as a working mum easier is being really organised. I set aside some time each Saturday morning to plan out our meals for the next week and write my shopping list – while it may sound like a dull way to spend a Saturday it usually only takes 15 minutes and makes such a difference to my life during the week. The fact that me and hubby both know what’s on the menu for dinner that night, and that we have all the ingredients we need to it, saves us having to have those annoying “what do you want for dinner” conversations after a long day at work and followed by dealing with a toddler’s bath and bedtime. The night before a working day, I also make my lunch, pack my son’s bag for nursery and lay out mine and my son’s clothes for the next day. Anything that you can think of doing the night before to make your morning routine of getting ready for work/childcare easier is worth doing!
There’s nothing wrong with not feeling guilty
While I was on maternity leave I was worried about the guilt I would feel at leaving my little one at nursery while I returned to the office. However, to my surprise the “daily feeling of guilt” which working mums always seem to talk about in movies and TV shows just isn’t part of my life. Sure, I feel a rush of love when I kiss him goodbye at the gate – but I really do enjoy being back at work and don’t feel guilty about it. It was exhilarating to be back using the skills that I didn’t exercise while on maternity and to be in an environment where people didn’t just know me as “Henry’s mum” (as well as being able to make a cup of tea whenever I wanted and go to the bathroom in peace!) In a way I feel like the time I spend away from him at work, makes me more appreciative and present during our time together at home.
Don’t forget to schedule time for yourself
When your days are packed juggling work deadlines and chasing after toddlers, it can be all too easy to neglect to take time out for yourself and is certainly something I have been guilty of. Attending Deborah’s Mums Relax classes has taught me the importance of being kind to yourself. Whether it’s taking time to enjoy a bath or to sit and read a magazine it’s amazing how soothing it is to just take that dedicated time for yourself.