As lockdown continues, and we face another few months of life without access to our traditional gym settings, I have been inundated with questions regarding training strategies that can be implemented at home.
Returning to work after maternity leave can be a very difficult transition, especially after your first baby. With extended periods of maternity leave available, it can be up to a year since you had to navigate working life. But let’s not forget that was also a time when you were a very different person in a different headspace.
In a survey carried out by MMB Magazine in 2018 fewer than one in five women felt confident in returning to work after maternity leave.
Now that’s not to say that all mothers feel anxious about the return to work, it’s equally normal to feel excited about the return and the satisfaction you get from a job you love. It can provide a perfect space for you to counteract some of the chaos of being a mum and all the demands that this can bring.
As the saying goes ‘The moment a child is born, the mother is also born’, and it is just so true. When you last walked out of your place of work to start maternity leave, you had a different schedule, different priorities and perspectives.
Not only that, as you return, you may be in the position that getting ready for work also means getting ready for nursery or some form of child care. This can add extra complexities thrown into your morning mix from logistics, earlier starts and numerous bags to be organised and packed.
But it’s not just the worries about getting to work that some women feel. As the date for return creeps up, thoughts may turn to changes that may have taken place at work and anxieties about re-joining the team, new processes that may be in place or indeed new people.
Anxieties coupled with tiredness and adjusting to a new routine can feel overwhelming and may stir up feelings such as:
So, what simple things can you do to help make the transition easier?
The great news is there are lots of ways to make the transition easier and the earlier you think about them the better.
Childcare can take many forms and finding the perfect blend for you is completely unique, but can certainly provide a solid foundation to an easier transition back to work. Looking for the right childcare provider can take some time, and in some cases, waiting lists can vary. So, understanding your needs and starting your search earlier will help in feeling more prepared for when the time comes.
Visit lots of different childcare settings and remain open-minded about options available to you, it’s important that you feel confident in your baby’s childcare providers so taking your time to find the right match can never be underestimated.
Settling-in periods can really benefit preparing for this transition and can also be used to your advantage. These can allow both you and your baby to get to grips with a new routine and help pave the way for when you do start back to work.
Some organisations will arrange Keeping in Touch days (KiT days) designed to understand what support you may need in getting back to work and to agree new working hours if required. These are great opportunities to set boundaries and help manage expectations. For example, overtime and travel times may now be restricted due to childcare options.
It can be helpful to explain to your line manager or HR representative about any childcare arrangements that you may have and that the first few weeks will be a transition phase for you and your baby and there could be benefits available to you via your employer.
It’s also a great opportunity for those looking forward to the return to work to find out about any new projects that they might want to be considered for. Some organisations may arrange your KiT days to include time with your team to assist in easing you back in and these can provide the perfect space to reconnect with old colleagues and new.
As you get closer to your start date, it’s a great opportunity to check that you have everything you need. Now, when you were last at work, you were more than likely in maternity wear, so checking that you have some comfortable and well-fitting clothes for your return can all boost confidence levels.
Remember those settling-in days I mentioned? Using some of this time is a fantastic opportunity to carve out time to get prepared.
Planning a couple of dry runs too can minimise nerves when it comes to starting your new routine and will help iron out any timing issues you may encounter ready for when you officially start.
When planning on going back to work, practising a little self-kindness can go a long way. If possible, think about starting on reduced hours for the first few weeks, this will allow you and your baby adjust to your new routine.
If this isn’t possible, starting back mid-week can also help and knowing that the weekend is only a few days away can alleviate some of the initial tiredness that your new routine may bring.
It is inevitable that in the early days that your little one may pick up a number of bugs. Although an essential part of building a robust immune system, it can be stressful when you are juggling the needs of work and the health of your baby.
Letting your employer know your home set up for these occasions can be super helpful and reduce stress when the time comes. It may be that a member of your extended family may be able to support you during these instances. Thinking about a plan in advance can really decrease extra stress.
Establishing feeding plans for both you and your baby can really help when it comes to organising ahead of time. If you are still breastfeeding, do you need to consider how you can facilitate this at work? Liaising with your HR department can manage any concerns you may have regarding this.
Equally ensuring you are well-nourished is just as important. Batch cooking in advance can ensure that you can enjoy balanced and nutritious meals quickly whilst ensuring you are fuelling your body correctly.
If it’s important to you a good deep clean of your home prior to returning to work can take the pressure off whilst you get used to your new routine. It doesn’t have to be perfect, but coming home to a clean home can help you relax after a long day.
If this feels overwhelming asking a friend or family member to lend a hand can take the pressure off, and if you have a partner at home, working out a schedule and sharing chores can make things easier in the longer term.
Getting a good night’s rest, as hard as it may seem is really important, as is getting fully organised.
Give yourself plenty of time the day before to get clothes (for both you and your baby), bags and lunches ready – and don’t forget to ensure you have enough petrol in the car, and means for parking if required.
If you have support during the night and it’s possible to step back from night-time demands for a few nights whilst you ease yourself into a new routine, that can help immensely. If not, give yourself enough time prep time in the mornings and evenings as well as getting in some early nights.
Navigating the next phase in parenthood isn’t easy, it comes with bumps in the road and challenges that you might not have anticipated – how do I know, well I’ve navigated that path too.
Getting the right support can make all the difference and give you the extra confidence that all parents need from time to time. From learning simple breathing techniques to help combat symptoms of anxiety, to new positive ways of thinking and grounding exercises; cognitive behavioural hypnotherapy can support you build an arsenal of strategies and coping mechanisms to support this transition and build confidence. It’s important that you understand that this is just another phase of your parenting journey – this moment is not set in stone – it’s a process.
Cognitive behavioural hypnotherapy can support those navigating all stages of parenthood, from early years to teenage years and beyond.
“If it takes a village to raise a child, it takes a village to support that child’s parent.” – Ann Douglas
Imagine playing a complex board game where everyone is playing by their own rules, except you don’t know what the rules are or how to invent your own. That’s what life can feel like when we haven’t learnt the skill of healthy personal boundaries.
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