Take a deep breath – it’s time to go back to work
It’s been at the back of your mind for a while, niggling away at you however hard you’ve tried not to think about it. But soon you won’t be able to ignore the texts from colleagues asking when you’ll be back and you’ll have to face facts – your maternity leave is nearly over. From total denial to gradual acceptance, here are the stages you might go through…
1. “I can’t do it. I won’t do it. And you can’t make me”
However long or short your maternity leave has been, the thought of going back to work can be daunting for even the most career-minded mum. Suddenly all those days spent playing endless games of peekaboo, singing ‘Twinkle Twinkle Little Star’ for the 100th time and changing yet another explosive nappy, don’t seem enough.
2. “But at least I’ll be earning”
You’ve been worrying about your finances ever since you found out how little you would have coming in on maternity leave, so it might be quite nice to be putting some money back into your account instead of draining it each month. Although you’ve got an extra mouth to feed, at least you won’t feel so guilty about buying something for yourself every once in a while…
3. “No, I can’t do it, they’ll miss me too much”
Ok, let’s think about this. The reality is, your baby is probably still young enough to adapt quickly to a new routine so it’s much more likely that you’re going to be the one doing the pining. As long as your little one has their favourite blanket/rabbit/muslin/soother/dummy (delete where appropriate), they’ll be fine. And when you get withdrawal symptoms, there’s always the 300+ photos and videos you have on your phone to look through at lunchtime. Or why not print out a photo for your desk or work station to ease the pangs. And what about a photo cushion? Keyring? Mouse mat? Mug? T-shirt? No one will mind, will they?
4. “Ok I’ll do it, but what about the logistics?”
Don’t panic, you’ve already nailed multi-tasking – if you can feed your little one while doing your weekly shop online and answering the door to the postman, then you can do this. Just take it step by step and give yourself plenty of time to get things the way you want them. If you’re looking to work part time, talk to your boss as soon as you can – all employees have the legal right to request flexible working. When it comes to childcare, make sure you consider all your options from nurseries, nannies, childminders or asking a grandparent to help out.
If you’re still breastfeeding, speak to your boss or HR manager to see how they can support you – if you work close to home you might be able to pop back to feed or express. Or there might be a quiet room at work where you can express milk to store in the fridge or freezer. And don’t forget you should still be able to breastfeed in the morning and evenings – it’s a lovely way to reconnect with your baby after being apart. If you’re thinking of changing when or how you feed them, be sure to give your baby (and your body) time to get used to the changes rather than going cold turkey on day one.
5. “Can you see the stain on this?”
You’ve spent most of your maternity leave in comfy loungewear with a baby as your only audience, and now you have to venture out into the world of Real People – and no one seems to be wearing leggings and sliders. Think about updating your work wardrobe with a few key pieces in a palette of colours that you can mix and match. And while you want to look work-appropriate, you’ll feel more confident if you’re comfortable. So, tight waistbands and itchy fabrics are out! Don’t forget you might not be back to your pre-pregnancy size so make sure your clothes still fit comfortably. If you wear a uniform, make sure it still fits before your first shift so you have time to order a new one if not.
6. “There’s so much to think about…”
It’s time to channel your inner Monica from Friends and get organised. Try getting all your bags (and baby’s things) ready the night before and lay out your outfit too to save time rummaging in the wardrobe for something clean to wear in the morning. Finally, although it might seem harsh, put your alarm on 15 minutes earlier than you need to give yourself a few extra minutes to come round before your mission begins.
7. “…but I did manage to drink a whole cup of hot coffee today”
Once you’re on the train or at your place of work, you’ll be surprised how enjoyable it can be to actually have time to do simple things like finish a whole cup of tea or coffee while it’s still hot, go to the toilet on your own or eat a sandwich sitting down rather than with a baby attached to your hip. However much you love you little one, being a parent is all encompassing and it can sometimes feel like you’ve lost who you were before your baby came along and rocked your world. Going back to work can help you to regain some sense of self, give you another focus and also help you appreciate what’s waiting back at home.
8. “Walking through my own front door has never felt so good”
While it’s great to be back at work, even the most fabulous of workplaces can’t beat the feeling you get when you gather your little one in your arms for a cuddle at the end of the day. Being away from them makes the time you do spend together more precious. Until they fill up that nappy yet again and you find yourself thinking, ‘Is it time to go back to work yet?!’
Love this? Find more tips and suggestions for life with your little one when you sign up to Tesco Baby Club.