Returning back to work after maternity leave is definitely a challenge. It’s challenging emotionally – you may feel sad and uneasy about leaving your baby for long hours every business day. On the contrary, you might also feel pangs of relief as you’ll get busy with other tasks than breastfeeding and talking to other moms. And, in addition, it’s physically and mentally tough to concentrate again on time-pressing tasks, difficult clients and annoying boss after the relaxed period.
In any case, there are proven ways to make the coming back to the workplace smoother and easier. Follow the steps below as suggested by our career consultants. Use the practical tips to manage your emotions, get organized in the office and continue keeping the baby your main priority.
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Find a childcare provider and arrange with them early on. However, it’s also important that you build trust with the childcare provider so that you feel relaxed and assured that your little one is in safe hands. To feel confident with them, you’ll need to take time to learn as much about the service provider as possible:
✓ If you’ve chosen a nursery option, research the organization, the qualifications of carers and look for reviews from other parents. Mind that there should be three carers for children under two. Ask everything you want.
✓ Have you opted for a nanny? Find the person who is able to come one week before you head to the job. Interact with the child together so that you could see the person at work. Invite the nanny out for a dinner to know more about her. Knowing that your baby is cared for well will help you better concentrate in the office and reduce anxiety.
Returning to the traditional 9-to-5 schedule can be a huge stress. Do it gradually, so that the changes go smoother for you and a baby. Here are the options you can consider:
✓ Work half-days. Arrange with your manager so that you could work part-time at least for a week. Coming back to the busy schedule at a slow pace will help you adapt and prevent you from feeling overwhelmed and stressed.
✓ Start it on Thursday. The experts also suggest that you return to work mid-week so that your first working week takes 2-3 days, not 5. Thus, you get an opportunity to evaluate your physical and mental state and realize if you can manage the workload, as well as give you an idea of what works well and what should be changed.
✓ Consider working remotely. More and more employers offer the opportunity to work from home, so ask about such an opportunity. Working remotely at least 1-2 days is good for the career-family balance.
✓ Come up prepared. When preparing to negotiate the above-mentioned working conditions with your boss, work out a concrete plan for how you’re going to deliver results while working half-days or from home. This increases the chance that your request will be approved.
So, you were out of the office for 1-3 month. A lot of things have changed. You’d better schedule a talk with your boss outside of the office and find out the following:
✓ The changes in the organization. Was the leadership changed, a new CEO assigned, or the strategic goals for the department updated? The dramatic changes like these usually impact the entire company, and you want to know what to expect.
✓ The boss’s expectations. What do they expect you to do in the first place as soon as you return to the office? Finding this out will help you focus on the tasks of high importance instead of completing secondary assignments that piled up on your desk.
✓ The pumping talk. Talk to the manager about your plans for pumping and ask how they could support this need – for example, give you a private space to pump. Block the pumping time in your schedule and make it a non-negotiable priority.
✓ The flexible working options. Check out if it’s possible to work part-time, have flexible hours, or to work remotely. As we’ve suggested above, come up with a specific plan of how you’re going to make things work.
Your first weeks on the job after maternity leave isn’t the best time to show personal initiative at work. Your primary goal is to find and maintain the balance between work and family without getting overtired and frustrated. To eliminate stress at work effectively, here’s what you can do:
✓ Let the coworkers know when you’re available. If you work flexible hours or part-time, tell them in which hours exactly they can and can’t reach you by the phone or email. Thus, there will not be missed deadlines because of miscommunication.
✓ Say ‘no’ to projects you cannot complete. The coworkers might overwhelm you with urgent tasks, let alone the assignments that piled out while you were away. To manage this, select the top priority duties and concentrate on them in the first place, delegating or postponing the rest.
✓ Manage the expectations of others. To avoid coming across as arrogant as you refuse to work on some task, explain your position. For instance, if the boss gives you another urgent project while you’re up in your ears in work already, say ‘I’m willing to take this, but I have to get the task X done by tomorrow. Should I focus on this project and complete X later this week?’.
✓ Communicate your family priorities. If you have to pick up the child from daycare at a certain time or have other urgent commitments, discuss this with your boss or colleagues early.
After a few weeks at home, it might be hard for you to remember how your morning routine looked like before having a baby. To avoid showing up late and make your morning routines effective, do the following:
✓ Test your morning routine for a few days in a row at the end of the leave. Set an alarm and get ready for work, completing all necessary morning activities. This is necessary to work out all unexpected circumstances. For instance, you may find out that getting dressed and having a breakfast are not that fast with a crying baby on your hands. Or, you might get stuck in the traffic jam on your way to daycare in busy morning hours. Testing the routine helps you work out the most effective one.
✓ Update your wardrobe. The dresses you wore before pregnancy probably won’t fit well. Don’t get discouraged because of that. It took months for your body to get into the current shape, and you will need months of workout to get fit again. So, buy yourself the new well-fitting pieces. It will help you feel more confident and comfortable, which will have a positive effect on your mood and productivity.
You’re likely to experience information overload and stress. You were away from the office hustle and pressure for weeks, so many working moms start feeling overwhelmed, tired, and stress. And the situation gets even tougher because of the sleepless nights and the general exhaustion because of spending days and nights with a crying baby.
In this case, don’t force yourself to be perfect both in the office and at home. Be patient and persistent, but don’t beat yourself if it takes you longer than before to complete a project at work or to negotiate terms with a client. Don’t take on more tasks than you can realistically complete. Work hard, but remember that it will take you a while to get back to the traditional working rhythm, so don’t get overwhelmed.
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Did you quit the job to give birth and to stay longer with your baby? In this case, you’ll need to give your resume a quality update before you start applying for jobs. You might even want to pay for resume writing help to get a resume that effectively addresses the maternity leave issue and articulates your professional value.
The biggest challenge about updating your resume is that if your maternity leave took longer than 2-3 months, an employer will inevitably notice the gap. Thus, you need to proactively address this gap. Here are the main guidelines for updating your resume:
✓ List your maternity leave on Work Experience section. If you’ve been out of workforce for over half a year, consider creating a separate entry called ‘Career break’ or ‘Maternity leave’. Add the dates of your leave and explain the situation in 1-2 sentences. You might list the newly acquired skills here as well.
✓ Mention it in a cover letter. If you don’t feel comfortable listing the leave along with professional duties, touch upon the subject on a cover letter. Say for how long you’ve taken the leave and mention how you kept your skills current during this time.
✓ Focus on out-of-work engagements. Did you take your time to take courses or training, volunteer, freelance or do community work during your leave? Mention these engagements closer to the top of the resume to show the prospective employers that you remained active.
✓ Use references. It’s much faster and efficient to look for new jobs through networking and references than through the job sites. Use the power of your network to seek new opportunities and get interview invitations.
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