When someone asks you: ‘So when are you going back to work?’
- does your heart beat with excitement?
- do you feel like saying: ‘I’m already doing a job far more difficult and important than yours!’ but don’t? or
- does your stomach churn because your return to work is imminent but don’t know how to squeeze being a good mum, holding down a paying job and fitting all the other logistics into your life?
It’s different for all of us. The motivation for returning to paid work may be financial, or that your maternity leave has come to an end. You might be looking forward to having your first uninterrupted conversation in twelve months, serving someone a drink and being thanked for it, or excited about writing a media release. You might worry about the quality or availability of childcare. Turning up to work late, or with soggy Weet-Bix smeared on your skirt might also be a concern. You might even feel guilty about being excited, but that’s all part of it.
If you’re going back into a position you’ve held before, you’ll be familiar with the work, location, relationships, etc. but even then, it won’t be the same because you’ll have someone else to consider: Did I pack enough food for Max? Will his runny nose develop into something worse? How am I going to get out of this meeting so I’ll be at childcare in time for pick up? Or, you might be looking for a new position, or career path, where everything will be different.
Whatever your situation, thinking through the practicalities will make the transition easier. Here are five things you can do to help prepare yourself for going back to work.
1. Brainstorm what you need to take into account and make a ‘to do’ list. Answer these questions to get you started:
- Do you need a childcare place/s or are family going to care for your child/children, or are there other options, such as employing a nanny?
- When will a childcare place be available, and what days and hours? Does this fit with your work days and hours?
- How much time will drop offs and pick ups take? Can anyone help with this?
- Do helpers have appropriate child restraints in their car?
- What will your child/children need every day? e.g. food, nappies, etc. and when are you going to shop for/prepare this?
- Make sure you have organised someone who can collect your child, whether it is because they are sick, or you’ve been caught in a traffic jam, and let the childcare centre or school know before the event.
2. Tell your family and friends you’re returning to work. This will help them understand the changes in your life and they may even offer to help.
3. Talk to other mums who have already returned to work. Use this opportunity to vent the lows, and learn from what has worked for them. Be prepared for the ups and downs: one day your child might race into childcare and the next you may be carrying them in kicking and screaming.
4. Find out whether your workplace offers a gradual return to work program so you and your child/children can ease into to the new situation, and what your carers’ leave entitlements are.
5. Research the sort of role and hours you’d like to work if you’re looking for a new position or career. Speaking to a career counsellor can help, and you might need to develop or update your skills. On-line courses are a great option for mums looking to return to work because they’re flexible, self-paced and come with personalised support and so can fit into your already busy life. Remember to update your resume with your newly-acquired skills (negotiation, adaptability, time management, etc.), the courses you’ve attended and volunteer roles you’ve filled in your time away from the paid workforce.
Give it a go. It may be challenging, but you’ll grow through the process and that’s going to benefit your child too. And they’ll learn new things too.