10 Things I’d Tell My Best Friend About Going Back To Work
So you’re about to go back to work? Well let’s make a cup of tea, pull up a chair and have a chat about what you might expect.
Here are the top ten things I’d like to share both from my own experience of going back to work and also from all of the mums that I work with during our Mumager workshops:
1. Get over your guilt
81% of us mums say that we feel guilty at some point about going to work. It may be guilt at leaving your baby in the care of someone else; the fact that during the week you only see your children for a couple of hours each day; or simply that you feel guilty about looking forward to going back to work! Whilst it’s good to know we’re not alone in our guilty musings, it doesn’t make us feel any better. There are a number of things we can do to get a grip on our guilt, but in short – we need to focus on what we can control. If you’re in a position where you have to work, we need to accept this and stop berating ourselves. Instead we can look for ways in which we can make the best of the situation. For example choosing a childcare provider that you’re really happy with, looking at your finances to see if you can afford to reduce your hours or simply get a cleaner so you can spend your time at home with your little ones (rather than rushing around with a hoover in one hand and a toilet brush in the other).
2. Think quality not quantity
One of the biggest adjustments to make when you go back to work is the shift from being with your baby all day, to maybe just a few hours in the evening. I used to come home from a work trip and almost will my little boys to wake up just so I could have a cuddle! Rather than mourn the time you've lost, focus instead on what you do have. Try to make the most of that time and remember it’s about quality of time not quantity. Recent research showed that the amount of time parents spend with their kids between the ages of 3 and 11 has virtually no relationship to how children turn out. What they found was more important was quality parent time — such as reading, sharing meals, talking with them or just hanging out with them and being present (with phones safely tucked away!). If you feel like you need some help with switching off and being present you can read our tips here.
3. Superwoman days
There will be days, or even just moments of the day, when you feel awesome and more than just a little bit proud of yourself. You’ll think ‘I can do this’ as you have a productive day at work, you come home and everyone is in great form – you enjoy some play time before cooking a nutritious meal that everyone polishes off; then there’s snuggles at bed-time and a well-earned glass of wine and chat with your other half on the sofa. Sounds like heaven doesn’t it! Relish and enjoy those days or moments... because there will be times when you have...
4. Feel-rubbish-at-everything days
There will be days when you feel like you’re trying to be all things to all people and aren’t doing a very good job of keeping anyone, least of all yourself happy. Maybe you’ve had to leave an important meeting early so you can make the crèche pick up and your boss has been less than understanding, you’ve been short and grumpy with the kids, heated up a microwave meal for dinner, despaired at the piles of ironing at the top of the stairs and snapped at your partner. Its okay, we all have days like that (honestly we do). It doesn’t make you a bad Mum, it just makes you human. Remember tomorrow is a whole new day. Rather than beat yourself up about it try to think what you can do to make yourself feel better. And on the home front a cuddle and ‘I’m sorry’ can work wonders – both to your kids and your partner.
5. Some days you’ll feel like going to work is easier than being at home
Lean a little closer because I don’t want to say this too loudly... but... actually, some days it’s easier to go to work than it is to stay at home. Some of my toughest days at work seem like a dawdle when compared to coping with a toddler in full-on tantrum mode. So make the most of being able to go to the toilet on your own. Enjoy that cup of coffee. And if you can - get out for a break at lunchtime. If you have a commute, try to make the most of the time – it may be the only ‘you time’ you regularly get!
6. Go for ‘good enough’
Aiming for perfection can be a recipe for disaster. Of course there will be things that you want to give your all to – but something will have to give along the way. Your house may no longer look like a show home, you may sometimes serve beans on toast for dinner, and you may never iron your children’s clothes. And that’s okay. Plus go easy on yourself, it may take you some time to get back into the swing of things.
7. Stop comparing yourself to other mums
Some mums can’t bear the thought of going back to work and may never feel ready to leave their baby. Other mums really look forward to going back to work. Some mums want to ‘lean out’ and take a step back for a while whereas other mums want to ‘lean in’ and progress in their career. Wherever you fall on the spectrum – that’s ok. We’re all different, and no two situations are the same. We probably all know a mum who on the surface looks so polished and in control... but behind the scenes she too will have had to pick dried Weetabix off her top before going into a meeting, or will have been up half the night with a toddler who won’t settle. We’re all just doing the best we can.
8. Treat yourself
Before you go back to work – splash out on a couple of new outfits. Even if you’re back to your pre-pregnancy weight you may be a different shape and clothes will feel different on you. There’s nothing like a new outfit to put a spring in your step. When you’re working, give yourself little rewards along the way – it may be a simple as a glossy magazine and a cappuccino at the end of the week, a new lipstick, or something more indulgent like a massage every few months. Yes you may be shelling out the equivalent of a second mortgage on childcare, but a little treat every now and then can boost your spirits.
9. Set boundaries
Start as you mean to go on. Be clear about what you can and can’t do and communicate this to the people who need to go. Leave on time. Put on your out of office when you’re not at work and avoid the temptation of replying to emails in the evening or on a day you’re not working – otherwise you’ll be creating a rod for your own back. If you don’t manage your boundaries, no-one else will do it for you.
10. You need to be a team at home
You can’t do everything on your own. You may have got into the habit of doing more around the house whilst you’ve been on maternity leave, but now you’re back at work you and your partner are going to have to work as a team to get everything done. Some couples decide who is responsible for doing what so that everyone knows their role. Other couples set a kitchen timer and do 20 minutes of ‘hardcore housework’ so that they can then relax and enjoy the evening together. Don’t be a martyr and think it’s all down to you. Many working mums decide to get a cleaner. For the price of an average takeaway – you can get someone to come in and work their magic – giving you more time to enjoy with your children and partner. At Mumager we support working mums. We’re here for you - if you have an issue or a question then we’d love to hear from you. You can ask a question via the Mumager forum or contact us on Twitter or Facebook. We run workshops throughout the year so do get in touch for more information at firstname.lastname@example.org
For more tips you can read our article.