Returning to work after maternity leave is not easy, but for many it is a necessity for a variety of reasons. For us, the primary reason was financial. We do not have a large income and my salary is relied on for our daily living. I definitely struggled returning to work after maternity leave. It was a stretch, but I was able to take off 12 months with my daughter and feel so lucky to have had that time. I hadn’t planned that. But I suffered from PND and the first nine months were a really difficult time. My lovely mum actually offered to help us financially for the last three months and I will be forever grateful for that because at that time I had started to feel much more human and actually enjoy the time I was having with my much-longed-for blessing.
When you first have a baby, returning to work is so off your radar – it seems like a million miles away, but in reality the time actually arrives pretty quickly. It is almost laughable how naïve I was before I had her. I knew I would return to work, I thought I’d just happily enroll her in a nursery and then drop her off seamlessly each work morning. Because having a baby wasn’t going to change my life that much, she would just slot right in. HA! I’d bounce right back from childbirth and early motherhood, I’d have a sleeper, and I’d still do plenty without her as it would be important not to lose my sense of “me”. HA HA HA! It really is laughable how ignorant I was pre-baby. The reality was, I felt like I was drowning, my daughter didn’t understand the concept of sleep (and still struggles now), and the few times I went out in the first 9 months of her life I was a nervous wreck with leaky milk-filled boobs and always cut the evening short and returned home after a few unrelaxing hours away.
I felt so anxious as my start-date for work approached, and so nervous about leaving my daughter in childcare. I also felt such a huge amount of guilt. How could I be leaving my little bear cub? For nine whole hours at a time. Would she think I had just abandoned her? It didn’t help that until about 9/10 months she was still breastfeeding every 2-3 hours and wouldn’t take a bottle, so practically it seemed impossible to leave her too.
I have been back at work for six months now, and for the most part I actually enjoy the work-life balance. Its not always easy, especially when my daughter seems to have been sick 8563250 like most toddlers, meaning I must take time off or feel total mum guilt at leaving a grumpy and clingy baby with her grandparents as childcare won’t take her. In other words, the whole experience has been no way as bad as I thought it would be. If you are planning a return to work soon, here are my top tips to help make it a little less stressful.
My top tips for returning to work
See if you can do a phased return. I used the annual leave I had accrued whilst on maternity leave for the first month and only worked half my hours. It definitely eased me into it.
Check your finances before deciding how many days. I had friends planning to go back full-time but with childcare costs they weren’t much better off so have ended up going part-time.
Remember your worth! For a while I felt like the lady who had just had a baby, “just” a mum. It took me a while to settle back into my role and remember I am good at my job!
Get yourself a few new work clothes. I didn’t do this at first and it didn’t help I was feeling emotionally to then be squeezing myself into a dress that was a size too small.
Jamie is mum to 17-month-old Harper. She lives with her in the Cotswolds with her husband and their two naughty dogs. Jamie works 3 days a week as a psychological researcher in the defence industry. She writes a blog over at mamabearofone.com and covers her raw journey in motherhood, writing about her experiences of PND and breastfeeding with allergies. She also is a bit of an Instagram addict and loves to, in her words, “prat around” on Insta stories.