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Back To Work: A Roller-Coaster Of Emotions

Think of how many changes you’ve experienced in the last few years – both at work and in your personal life.

Some of these will have been really positive changes from promotions at work to having a baby. Some may have been disappointing like restructures at work or losing a loved one. When something negative happens, we expect to feel a range of emotions. However it’s confusing when something good happens and we find ourselves on a roller-coaster - happy one minute and feeling overwhelmed and uncertain the next.

I’ve been really looking forward to going back to work – so why am I feeling so miserable right now?

I’m not sure I should have taken that promotion

These are two comments we often hear from the mums we work with at Mumager.

If faced with conflicting emotions when something positive has happened, it’s helpful to look at how we typically react to change. This can help us identify what to do so that we feel more confident and happy.

The change curve was developed back in 1969 by a lady called Elisabeth Kübler-Ross, and was initially used to help understand the grieving process. It’s now a popular tool used to help us understand what happens psychologically when we’re faced with change. We’re going to look at how we respond when something positive happens.

Let’s bring this to life by sharing one Mum’s transition back to work:

Elation: I’ve really enjoyed my maternity leave but I’m ready to go back to work as I love my job. I’ve been shopping for a new outfit and I’m excited about this next phase.

Honeymoon: This is great! It’s such a novelty getting up and dressed for work. I’ll confess I love having some time to myself – I can go for coffee anytime and am meeting a friend for lunch today. I feel like I’ve got some structure back to my day and I’m enjoying using my brain. At night I’m so happy to see my baby and have some quality time with him.

Doubt: The novelty is wearing off a bit. I’m questioning if I’ve done the right thing going back to work? My baby has picked up a bug in crèche so I’m taking time off and I’m only just back to work.

Loss of confidence: I don’t think I can do this. I’m exhausted. I’ve a busy job and the baby is teething so I’m not getting a lot of sleep. I don’t feel like I’m being a good mum, or that I’m performing at work. I’m starting to feel a bit overwhelmed. After work I feel like I’m distracted by everything I have to do so am not getting quality time with my baby.

Despair: I feel like I’m at rock-bottom. I don’t see how I’ll ever get a grip on things. I’m feeling emotional and it’s hard to find many positives about my situation.

Way forward: Slowly but surely we’re finding a routine that works for everyone. There are small successes and days where things begin to feel a little easier.

Confident: I’m starting to feel like I’m more on top of things and in control. Things may not be perfect, but I’m better able to cope. I’m enjoying being back at work, and having quality time with my family. I can do this!

Of course we’re all different. The time it can take to move through the curve, and the extent of the ‘lows and highs’ varies for each of us. It will also depend on what else you have going on in your life. The important thing is firstly to recognise that the change curve exists and it's normal to feel conflicting emotions even when something good is happening. The second thing is to identify what you can do to help yourself (or others) through the dip in the curve so you can start to feel better.

Here are some tips from our experience

Elation Enjoy the moment!
Honeymoon Keep enjoying the moment whilst recognising this phase won’t
last forever. Begin to plan for what’s going to happen when the novelty wears off.
Doubt/Loss of confidence

  • Remember what’s important to you and have faith in the decisions you’ve made – whether it’s choosing to go back to work, accepting a promotion or using your parental leave to reduce your hours. Focus on why you made the original decision.

  • Focus on what you can control - not what you can’t. If something is bothering you – what can you do to change the situation?

  • Surround yourself with positive people and stay away from those who will bring you down further.

  • Think about what you are achieving instead of what you aren’t.

  • Remember it’s a time of transition – what seems impossible right now, in time will become manageable

Despair

  • Don’t suffer in silence. Talk to people you trust. By sharing how you’re feeling you may get a different perspective, or at the very least discover that you’re not alone

  • Be kind to yourself. You’re going through a time of transition and its okay to not feel okay.

  • Look after yourself and indulge in things that make you feel better – whether it’s having a change of scenery, getting out in nature, regularly pampering yourself with a long bubbly bath or taking time each day to meditate for a few minutes.

  • Seek professional help if you feel you need it

Finding a way forward/Confident

  • Try out different solutions until you find what works for you. If you’re struggling with the juggling act – who can you ask for help? Can you afford a cleaner? How can you and your partner work as a team? Once you’ve found what works – stick to it!

  • Look back on your journey and what you’ve achieved. Perhaps you’re now in a position to help others who may be going through something similar.

So – next time you’re on the roller-coaster of change, you’ll know what to expect and how to move through the tricky times. Enjoy the ride!

 

At Mumager we support working mums - from planning to go on maternity leave, returning to work and continuing your career. Contact us at info@mumager.ie for more information on our open workshops and in-house corporate programmes.

About the Author

Mumager can give advice on everything related to going back to work after maternity leave. Whether it’s understanding your entitlements or how to deal with a difficult boss please ask us.

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