When you plan your return to work after maternity leave there is, understandably, a lot of focus on the logistics. This often include agreeing a plan about how to manage drop off and pick-ups, thinking about how to manage the time off needed for the many illnesses that come with a childcare setting or considering how to manage running the house.
However, there are often some emotions swirling around as you head back to work. It can feel hard to talk about these because they can seem a bit silly and you don’t have any choice but to go back to work but, nevertheless, these emotions can drain your energy and focus.
The emotions commonly reported by women returning to work after maternity leave
- A sense of grief about the fact that you won’t have as much 1:1 time with your child anymore or perhaps you feel like you haven’t made the most of your maternity leave.
- Guilt – these feelings can be wide ranging and related to:
- spending time away from your child
- leaving your child with someone else
- not being there for every pick-up or bedtime
- looking forward to some time away from your child
- There can also be several worries:
- worrying about your child while they are away from you
- being concerned about how you will fit everything you need to do at home and at work into your day
- being unsure about how to get back up to speed again at work
- feeling apprehensive about how to get your job done if you are returning part time or flexibly.
Tips for managing these emotions on a day-to-day basis
These emotions should subside as you re-establish yourself at work but some things that may help in the short term are:
- Identify some positives about being back at work. Being able to have a hot cup of tea or eat your lunch in peace are universal ones but what aspects of your role give you real satisfaction and a sense of a job well done?
- Think about the benefits of childcare. As much as we’d like to keep our children close to us forever we have to help them forge their own path. Learning to build relationships with other caregivers is an important first step and children gain a great deal from spending time with children of their own age. I am personally quite happy for nursery to provide some opportunities for messy play so I don’t have to!
- Talk to others. Talking to other mothers in your team or organisation about their return to work can be helpful as it helps you to understand that your feeling are very common and allows you access to their tried and tested tips.
- Plan some fun activities for you and your child when you are with them so you have something to look forward to.
This article was written by Karen Hedges, one of Careering into Motherhood’s Partner Coaches. Karen is a qualified career coach, HR professional and a single parent who supports working mothers navigating maternity leave or parenting young children. You can get in touch via her profile page or book a free discovery call to learn more about how she can support you.
December 17, 2023