Honest Advice About Returning To Work After Maternity Leave
For some mums, particularly first timers — returning to work after maternity leave can be a sad and anxious time, while others look forward to getting back to the regular routine. Either way, there are lots of ways to help make the transition a little easier, writes Michelle McDonagh.
Following the birth of my first child eight years ago, I was one of those mums who dreaded the return to work and put it off as long as possible. It was the same sick feeling of dread I used to feel at the end of the long summer holidays at the thought of going back to school.
I will never forget the first morning I dropped my nine-month-old baby off to her new childminder, how her huge brown eyes followed me as I left. I drove around the corner, pulled in to the side of the road and broke down in tears. I can still remember the feeling of sadness, loneliness and guilt that threatened to overwhelm me as I sobbed my heart out.
It Goes Get Easier
Fast forward four years and two more babies later, and I couldn’t wait to get back to my job as a freelance journalist, which was a heck of a lot easier than my job as a mother of three kids aged four and under. At this stage, after a couple of disasters, we had finally found an amazing childminder (no easy task). The guilt never fully went away, although it has eased a lot, and having a good childminder helps to keep the ship on an even keel.
Tried & Tested Advice
Andrea Mara is a freelance writer, author and mother of three from Dublin. When she’s not working or looking after the kids, she is simultaneously making tomorrow’s school lunches, eating cake and letting off steam on her Office Mum blog. She remarks:
“No matter how much you enjoy your job, and certainly if you don’t, returning to work after maternity leave is often daunting. Even if you feel ‘ready to go back’ it’s hard leaving the little person in crèche or with a childminder. It’s difficult the first time, and it’s no less difficult after subsequent babies – not only are you now leaving a few more smallies behind, you now have a bigger challenge of fitting an even busier morning and evening routine around your working day.”
Mum's Advice For The Big Return:
1. Maybe Not Monday
I always went back on a Tuesday – I found it easier to have a slightly shorter week for the first week. Others would suggest starting back on a Thursday so that you have a really short week to begin with, not least for baby who is starting with crèche or childminder.
2. Start as you mean to go on
If you are someone who, like me, worked late every evening before you had children, but now need to leave on time to collect your child, I would suggest that you do this on day one when you return to work. Otherwise you’re setting a false expectation for your boss and colleagues, and it’s much harder to get up and leave on time if you’ve stayed late your first few days.
3. Have A Plan B For ‘Crèche-itis’
It’s a rule of parenthood – almost all babies get sick during their first weeks in creche. Each time I went back to work, I asked my husband to be ready to take time off if needed, in order that I could avoid that stomach-churning experience of asking my boss if I could stay at home with a sick baby during my first days back. Sometimes there’s just nothing you can do, but it’s good to think about it in advance if even to plan how to communicate with your boss if this happens.
4. Have A Cooking Plan
I have a childminder who cooks for the kids, so I leave enough of everything and she puts us in the pot too. Lots of people are more creative and more organised at cooking than I am, so this isn’t to say that whipping up a quick, healthy meal after work isn’t possible, but it’s worth thinking about the approach that is best for you and trying a few options.
5. My Housework Tips:
- Get a cleaner if you can
- Buy your groceries online
- Find inventive ways to avoid ironing.
6. Quality Time With Baby
Our quality time with our children in the evenings is to spend time on bath and stories and cuddles with no rush, no stress. In other families, there might be a completely different way of having quality time – the point is to think about how it might work and how to do it in the least stressful way possible for you and your children after a long day apart.
7. Go Shopping
Okay, not strictly necessary, but new clothes for going back to work will make you feel better on that first day.
One of the first things to consider when planning your return to work is the childcare route you will take. Workplace flexibility, finances, and availability of a place in a crèche may influence your decision, but so too will the emotional choice of where you like your baby to be.
There is plenty of information available about the range of childcare options from au pairs and nannies to childminders and crèches from Childcare Ireland (www.childcareireland.ie), Early Childhood Ireland (www.earlychildhoodireland.ie) and the National Childcare Agency (www.nationalchildcare.ie).