There comes a moment in a new mother’s life where she has to face up to the reality; her maternity leave is coming to an end. I found this really hard the last time, with my third child. I didn’t want to go back, my heart wasn’t in it. My 9 month old didn’t sleep well and I missed him and our new life together. I’d started blogging and found a new passion. I stayed for 5 months and then left to pursue a career as a freelance blogger. I still work as a clinical Midwife now and again, but I’m much happier working from home. You never know how you’re going to feel, even if you’ve had children before.
Maternity leave in the UK is fairly generous, especially when compared to countries like the USA. You are allowed up to 12 months off with your child without fear of reprisal from your employer, but few families are able to afford the Mum to be able to take that length of time off from work on just the government allowance.
The truth is, whether you take the mandated two weeks off from work after giving birth or the full 12 months, going back to work after maternity leave is going to be tough. However, the first thing to focus on is…
You Might Enjoy It, Too
Being a new mother tends to involve surrendering your usual interests and points of focus in favour of caring for your new child. That’s the deal, and we all accept it willingly – those first few weeks are completely precious.
However, some women suffer from a feeling of identity crisis – who are they now that they’re a Mum? Getting back to work can help alleviate some of that concern. You will miss your baby terribly – that’s pretty much a given – but it can also help you feel more grounded and sure of yourself, able to reassert your place in the world. You will savour having a hot cup of tea and being able to go to the toilet in peace. The car journey alone is some kind of wonderful.
Do What You Need
Here’s the rub: there is no right or wrong way to go back to work after maternity leave. The only thing you do have to prioritise is doing what feels right to you.
Some Mums will feel the need to surround themselves with reminders of their baby, filling their desks with photographs and delightful trinkets such as a family tree frame by Little Gems Online, or a ‘best Mum ever’ mug. And that’s fine!
Others will prefer to keep their work life as normal as possible, for fear of too many reminders being too upsetting. Don’t let yourself be impacted by what’s considered to be normal; this is your call and yours alone.
Take It Slowly
If you go from being a full-time Mum on a Friday and back to work full time, nine to five, on the Monday then you’re going to be in for a shock. Reintroduction to the workplace is an essential; a few half days, or starting the working week on a Wednesday for a few weeks.
This can help you reorient yourself after a life-changing experience, as well as build your confidence with your childcare arrangements and how everything is going to work. It can be tempting to think you should just throw yourself right back on in there and get on with it, but be wary – that might work, but most Mums benefit most from taking their time as they re-enter the world of work.
Know your rights
If you’re breastfeeding you’re entitled to a safe space to express and store your breastmilk, and the time to do it, typically 2 expressing breaks in a 7.5 hour day. Get a good quality electric breast pump that will keep your supply going. If your child is ill and you need to take time off, you can get one days carers leave and then you can negotiate unpaid or annual leave with your boss. They should be able to offer flexible work options for you.
Talk About It
Finally, consider seeing a therapist to work through the myriad of different feelings that going back to work after you’ve given birth can throw at you, and remember to keep in touch with your friends and family. Your attitude to work may change, you may not want to dedicate as much time to it as before. This can ease the transition and give you a safe space to work through any lingering concerns. Good luck!
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