Tip 1: Embrace flexibility
Some workplaces are starting to offer flexible hours to returning parents as standard. The idea is that you slowly build up your hours over your first few weeks and months back at work before being expected to fulfil your full contract. If you’re not one of the lucky few to work somewhere with such a forward-thinking policy, you can always ask for it anyway. Any flexibility you can negotiate is such a gift in helping you and your family to adjust to the change and develop your new routines.
Tip 2: Share the load
Whilst you’ve been off work you might have picked up the lion’s share of the childcare responsibilities, and possibly quite a lot of the household ones too. Your partner will probably have a well-established routine around their work. It can be easy to assume that nothing is really changing for them. That’s not true... some of those responsibilities will need to be rebalanced now that you’ll be working too. It’s good to have a conversation about it well in advance of your return to avoid arguments later on. Don’t forget to think about who else you can lean on too.
Tip 3: Know when good is enough
For me it was choosing a ‘good’ rated nursery that’s a short walk from home over the ‘outstanding’ rated one a 20 minute bus ride away. It means settling for toddler ready meals or fish fingers on week nights instead of a home cooked meal. It can be pressing send on a piece of work I know does the job, rather than spending an extra hour finessing it. It’s doing my make up on that train rather than leaving the house looking immaculate. If you pride yourself on always doing your best, it can be hard to lower the standards you put on yourself. Try to remember that often your absolute best is choosing the things that take the stress out of family life and maximise the time you get to spend together.
Tip 4: Focus on your strengths
Returning to work can be emotionally tough and your confidence can take a knock. ‘Mum-guilt’ is a thing and it tends to peak around this time. For some it centres around no longer being there for your tot 24/7. For others it’s not being the reliable work-horse you were pre-kids. It can be guilt around time for your friendships or relationship. For others it’s about not having the time to exercise or look after yourself as much as you used to. Whichever stick, or combination of sticks, you’re choosing to beat yourself up with, stop! Instead of focusing on all the things you’re not doing, give yourself credit for all the things you are. You might be more time-stretched, but you still bring all the strengths to your work, your relationships and caring for your family as you always did. In learning how to juggle everything you might just bring a few more too.
Tip 5: Every cloud...
Although returning to work can present its challenges, there are plenty of positives too. From the small pleasures like enjoying a whole cup of coffee whilst it’s still warm, getting to listen to or read something of your choice on your commute, or an uninterrupted lunch with a work-friend. It feels great to get some of your pre-baby identity back, and engage your brain differently. Pay day itself is a big help obviously but for me the real unexpected pleasure was in picking up my little boy from nursery. Seeing his little face at the end of the day and how excited he is to see me never gets dull. When you’re on leave and with them all the time, you never get the experience the joy of having been missed!
Farnaz and her team specialise in offering personal development coaching and independent HR advice for individuals and businesses. She's happy to offer a discount for all of you so if you are looking for some advice please contact her at: firstname.lastname@example.org