You have done it. You've survived the tough first weeks and months of motherhood, the sleepless nights, and the relentless feeding routine. By now it feels like you're settled into your new role as a mother, and even if things are moving around a bit, still, you have found some kind of family rhythm.
Perfect time to change it all up again and go back to work?! No matter what is driving your return after maternity leave, this new transition can indeed feel very daunting. Your whole world is about to change once more!
The good thing is, you are not alone. A few of us have done it already, and we're happy to share our experience. Here are some tips which have helped a lot during my personal transition, and I hope they will come in handy for yours:
1. Build yourself up (buttercup!)
A few days before going back, spend a few minutes going through your skills inventory. Remind yourself of all the great things you have achieved, the talents you have, … in short all the reasons your boss is lucky to have you back! This will do a lot for you: it will reassure you that you do know what you are doing (in case you ever doubted it!), it will build your self-confidence, and it will turn the work switch back “on” in your brain, getting you ready to hit the ground running.
The week before going back, your baby would have probably had a couple of settling sessions at the nursery, or you would have met with your new nanny. Try and use this opportunity to do a “dry run” of the new routine: get ready, get your baby ready, and see how the commute and drop scenario would go. This will take away some of the fear of the new routine and give you confidence that it is doable.
3. Give yourself a break
When a colleague of yours comes back from a break, do you expect them to be 100% on it right away? or when a new joiner arrives, do you think they feel comfortable immediately? You probably expect them to take a little while until they are 100% on it (I certainly do!). Coming back from maternity leave is a mixture of both: you come back to something you know, except you have changed, and this is a new job for you, compared to your job as mum on maternity leave. So when you feel the pressure piling on in your head, take a deep breath, and give your brain time to ramp up to full steam again.
4. Start mid-week
This is a great tip that a friend gave me, and I have found it invaluable: having only two or three days to do instead of a full week is a great way to slowly ease you into coming back.
5. Meet up
Organise meetings with your colleagues in that first week, so they can quickly and informally bring you back up to speed with what’s been happening. If you have colleagues who have been through the same transition as you, even better! They will completely understand what you’re going through and will be a great support during these first few days - and I am sure they’ll be happy to help, having been in your shoes before!
6. Delegate nursery calls
If possible, plan that your other half will be on call if there’s a problem at nursery. The first few weeks for a baby at nursery tend to turn into a great incubation experiment, when they pick up all the illnesses around! Whilst it’s a tough time for them (and for you), be reassured that it is quickly over, as their immune system gets stronger by fighting all of this off. I remember getting calls almost every week when my son started the nursery. Having my husband pick him up most of the times was great as it meant it took the pressure off for me, and I could focus on this challenging transition. Now we tend to share the load, depending on who’s more able to leave work. And it doesn’t happen nowhere near as often!
Take some, leave some, and share your own tips about coming back to work. All the best for your new adventure!