First of all, congratulations! For each parent, this is such a personal journey that there is no script to follow. Instead here are some tips to help you be mindful of and embrace the changes.
As the Professional woman:
- You hopefully agreed boundaries before your maternity break and they are being adhered to. It may be that you have changed your mind and you want more or less contact – let people know so that you maximise this time. It is worth considering which colleagues are key influencers and always keep abreast of the political landscape – a coffee/lunch with them can quickly bring you up to speed with developments at work.
- Remember that this can be a great opportunity to develop new skills and learn about topics you never have enough time for in a typical working week. There is an abundance of interesting articles, discussions, forums etc you can access or explore an on-line course as a possibility. Please be mindful that this may be unlikely in the early days of maternity – you’ll find there is quite enough to do!
- Take a step back and reflect on what is important for you professionally. With the benefit of some space between you and work, it is a fruitful time to consider what strengths and skills would you like to harness more at work; what would excite and challenge you as a goal?
- Be aware that it is completely normal if you are also hit by fears of “my peer(s) are doing a better job ….” or “I have become obsolete….”; especially if you are a high performer! Refute these negative thoughts and instead focus on what you know your value-add is and what you want next.
- Diary management – a couple of weeks before your return, make contact with your Line Manager and agree an appointment if possible, the morning of Day 1; to understand any changes in your absence, share your aspirations and any new goals. Also be mindful that week one is another key transition so be kind to yourself and talk to the Manager about potential flexibility in that first week, especially if juggling crèche.
- Think about what helps you feel empowered and confident – may be your favourite work outfit, new haircut, certain shoes or jewellery…..whatever it is, make time in the couple of weeks before day one to organise yourself, so that day 1 you are feeling good about yourself and walk in ‘tall’!
- Meet up with other new Mothers. You may be feeling on top of the world; or like many other new Mothers, you may feel on top of the world some of the time but a lot of the time, you could be asking yourself, “what have I done, how can I manage, when did I last sleep, why are others’ coping so much better…..?” It is a great relief to meet with others who are also at the same stage as you, to share highs and lows; so that you ‘normalise’ a lot of what you may be feeling – trust me, you will not be alone on this emotional rollercoaster!
- Try to have at least one event/appointment/meet-up planned each day – it’s great to get you out of the home and overcome some of the fears and challenges that come with transporting a new baby. It is easy once you know how and often the thought of it becomes bigger than it is.
- Prioritise taking care of yourself – in the early weeks especially! This means accepting help, be it cooked meals from others, cleaning services, sleeping when the baby sleeps and letting go possibly of high standards over the decoration of the house. This is such a big period of change, mentally and physically, that you really need to take care of yourself so that you can enjoy it and the baby is relaxed too.
- Talk to the crèche re the process for orientation and settling in – ideally start a few weeks before you return to work, with short bursts in week one and extending the time each week. This will be a great help for both of you!
- Guilt typically starts creeping in when you are returning to work, guilty for leaving your baby, guilty for being excited at having the ‘adult world’ back, guilty for knowing that you plan to reduce your working week and impact on others……When it creeps in, take each “guilt” at a time and ask yourself, ‘is this absolutely true? How is this a benefit for x person (ie whoever/ whatever you are feeling guilty about!)? Believe me, there are always benefits.