So it’s finally here, the first day back at work after maternity leave.

You’ve managed to dig out some work clothes from the back of the wardrobe. Your hair is washed and you’ve put some make up on for the first time in months. You’ve prised your screaming toddler off your leg at day care, trying unsuccessfully to convince yourself they’ll be ok. You arrive at the office with a fixed grin on your face and see some familiar (and not so familiar) faces.

But something doesn’t feel right. You’re suddenly racked with guilt about being apart from your child and full of doubt about how you will remember how to do your job. How important even is this job to you now? What does it now mean to be a working parent anyway?

If any of this feels familiar you are not alone! The return to work after maternity leave can be a scary and overwhelming transition. But there are things you can do to help it go as smoothly as possible.

  1. Don’t expect to be the same person you were before you went on maternity leave. You have different identities now, as a mum and as an employee – embrace that, share who you are as a parent with your co-workers and your boss. You will be able to offer an amazing set of new skills through having had a baby – flexibility, resilience, time management….the list goes on!
  2. Create a network of support, inside and outside of the workplace. Find out if your employer offers return to work support or a parent network. Surrounding yourself with people who are going through or been through similar experiences to you is so important for managing this phase of your life.
  3. Know your rights around flexible working. All employees have the right to request flexible working from day 1 and your employer has to consider how they can make it work for you. If your request is turned down or not considered properly, you can fight it.
  4. Last but by no means least is the importance of self-care. Going back to work with a young child is exhausting. You will be tired and some days it won’t seem worth it. To be the best you can be at work and at home, you need to find time during the week for some “you” time, whatever that looks like for you. It’s not selfish, it’s necessary to thrive.

This article was written by  Nicola Miles a Career & Life coach, and one of our partner coaches who supports mums to overcome the challenges of returning to work after maternity leave, in order to thrive as a working parent.  Connect with  Nicola to find out how she can help you navigate your return to work.