As the weeks and months of maternity leave go by, your return to work gets closer and starts feeling more and more real. For some mums the return is welcome – they feel ready to start a new chapter and to get a bit of their pre-baby life back. For others the reality of returning to the workplace feels daunting, overwhelming and heart-breaking. There are also mums with mixed feelings who fall anywhere in between the two ends of the spectrum.
All feelings are valid.
I’ve written a blog post on the emotions of returning to work after maternity leave which goes into this further.
If you’re one of the mums who are dreading the end of your maternity leave, I see you and I hear you. I know what it feels like to spend the last few weeks of maternity leave welling up whenever you think about leaving your baby with a childminder, nursery, grandparent or anyone else.
Having been there myself I know that if you don’t face the fears and worries it can consume those last precious moments of maternity leave. I don’t want that for any mum.
When you’ve had time away from the workplace doing something completely different ie. caring for your baby, mums often struggle with self-doubt when they think about returning to the job they were doing before.
Thoughts of, “I’m not up to it anymore” or “I’m not going to remember what to do” might be crossing your mind. But although a lot may have happened over the course of your maternity leave, you are still the same person. In fact, you’ve grown and discovered new strengths over your maternity leave and many of the more intangible skills will be transferable to your work. I bet your ability to juggle multiple to-dos has improved significantly since becoming a mum for one thing!
So, as the end date of your maternity leave approaches, rather than doubting yourself before you’ve even started, remind yourself that you can do this.
When you return to work after maternity leave it’s tempting to put pressure on yourself to get up to speed as quickly as possible. But remember it is a big transition and it may take some time to adjust to it.
Work out what your priorities are for those first few days and weeks (even months) and be realistic about what you can and want to achieve. Spreading yourself too thinly and becoming overwhelmed will only add to any feelings you have of mum guilt going back to work and wondering how you are going to manage the working mum juggle. You will feel better succeeding in the things that are most important to you rather than trying to accomplish everything but not doing it as well as you would like.
While you might not be thrilled with this idea initially, KIT days can really help mums dip their toes back into the workplace and make the actual return feel less scary. Rather than it being several months, a year, or more with little to no contact with your employer, KIT days allow you to catch up with colleagues, feel more up to date with what’s been happening and get used to the idea of being back at work, in a more gradual manner.
Also, if being apart from your baby is one of the reasons you are dreading the end of your maternity leave, KIT days give both you and your baby the opportunity to experience it for the odd day here and there before it becomes permanent. While you are likely to still feel upset at the thought of it, when it comes to your first day back at work after maternity leave at least it won’t all be quite so new and overwhelming.
Employees can work up to 10 days during their maternity leave so if this is something you would like to do it’s worth asking your company about.
When you’re alone with your thoughts about returning to work you might find yourself consumed with negative feelings around working mum guilt or how to juggle being a working mum. And until you’ve been through it, it can be hard to imagine what it will actually look like and how it will feel, which can leave you feeling even more uncertain.
Speaking to other mums who have already returned to work after maternity leave, and getting their perspective, will help alleviate some of the worries you might be having around the unknowns.
Coaching has so many benefits, but when you are approaching a huge period of change such as going back to work after having a baby, I think this is a time when that extra support can be invaluable.
A Coach will provide an objective, non-judgmental and safe space for you to explore the thoughts, fears and niggles that you have going round your head. But rather than letting you dwell on those thoughts, a Coach will guide you to pick apart what’s behind them, what they mean for you and create an action plan to overcome them.
Return to work coaching is likely to be focused around topics such as:
your current emotions and concerns,
tackling your lack of confidence,
looking at how you feel your identity has changed with motherhood,
helping you clarify your priorities,
coming up with a return-to-work plan and
assessing your long-term career plans.
If you’re wondering how to cope with the end of maternity leave, my Back to Work package is designed specifically for mums returning to work after maternity leave. It consists of three coaching sessions (two sessions in the lead up to and one session after you have returned to work).
Taking the time and care to think about this can set you up to feeling more confident and energised returning to your workplace at the end of maternity leave.
I hope you’ve found these tips helpful as you think about how to prepare for the end of your maternity leave. If you want to discuss my Back to Work coaching package and how it could help you then book a free discovery call with me – I’d love to talk to you about it!