Saturday, 10 January 2015

Returning to Work After Maternity Leave

Going back to work after having my first son Fraser was THE hardest thing I have ever done in my life and I suffered from A LOT of anxiety.  I went back (4 days a week) when Fraser was 10 months and with my second son, Caleb, I went back (3 days a week) when he was 1. 

I’ve been back at work for two months now and we’re in a good routine so I thought I would share my top tips for returning to work following maternity leave.

1.       Settle In
-          If you are about to return to work, you probably already have your childcare sorted.  If you haven’t it’s time to sit down with family, work out who can help and get your name down on nursery or childminder waiting lists.
-          Before you start back, have ‘settling in’ visits with your chosen childcare provider two weeks prior to your actual start date.  Doing a dry run will help to get some of your emotions out before you’re due back and you’ll be a lot more comfortable with the process because you’ve practised it.
-          When your child is at their settling in visit don’t go home and cry – book afternoon tea or do something fun with a friend to take your mind off of it!

Fraser Ready for Nursery - aged 2

Fraser's First Day of Nursery - he looks so small :-(

2.       Get Organised
-          Lists are your friend! I keep an ‘admin’ list on my phone of things I need to get done.  I try to do house admin in my lunch break such as order a birthday card online or pay the gas bill etc.
-          I keep a shopping list pad next to the fridge so my hubby and I can add to it as soon as we have run out of something and then we’ll both try to pick bits up when we can.
-          Get everything ready the night before.  Organise the baby bag/nursery bag, school uniforms, decide what you’ll wear, iron clothes etc. all the night before.  I even put the nursery bag in the car the night before so that all we need to do in the morning is get the kids fed and clothed and out we go.

3.       Meal Plan
-          Meal planning REALLY helps me to stay organised.  I have a chalk board that I fill out each week.  If you don’t fancy a meal one night you can swap the choices around a bit. 
-          Use a slow cooker.  It is the best; you can throw things in at breakfast time and come home to a lovely dinner and the whole house smelling delicious! I also have a recipe book but there are great recipes online: Slow Cooker Recipes
-          Freeze ahead. When I went back to work we bought a second freezer so that I could make and freeze baby food and meals for us too.  I tend to make a huge chilli, store it in Ziploc bags and bring it out once a week for chilli night! It is quick and easy and healthy.
-          Internet food shopping is a working mum’s best friend.  Do your big shop each week this way and you’ll only have to pick up little forgotten bits from the corner store during the week.
My Meal Planner Chalkboard

4.       Lower your standards or Hire Help
-          If you like to live in a show home, accept that this will be difficult when you’re back at work!  When you’re on maternity leave it is easy to clean and tidy during naps but now it is a bit trickier.  We have a cleaner that comes every other week to do a clean, this is a huge help as I can keep the house clean day to day but every two weeks it is so nice to have a deeper clean by a professional!
-          My husband used to spend hours and hours gardening on the weekends and didn’t even enjoy it that much.  We decided to hire a gardener and recently we even had a fake lawn laid to replace our grass.  This may sound extreme but it always looks great, is soft for the kids to play on and is zero maintenance and means he gets more time playing football in the garden with the boys than pulling weeds!


5.       Quality Time
-          Try not to spend your precious days off with your baby hoovering and doing the washing.  Book a music class for your baby, go to the park, feed the ducks, visit the library etc.  – makes you feel less guilty. I always plan to be home during Caleb’s long nap so I can get housework done while he’s snoozing.

Baby Fraser on a Trip to the Park 
On a Day Out to the Farm 
6.       Work as a Team
-          It is the 21st century, so split tasks with your partner!  They may have been a little bit spoilt when you were on maternity leave and may have become used to coming home to a clean house, with dinner ready etc.   Now that you’re back at work they may need a gentle reminder that you now need a little help around the house! J
-          Don’t nag or struggle on your own – if you want to talk about help or house work with your partner, bring it up and ask them for their thoughts on how to make things easier.  When a man thinks it was their idea it is a lot better and easier!

7.       Don’t Vent at Work
-          If you have had a terrible night’s sleep because your little one is ill or teething it may be tempting to tell everyone at work how hard a night you have had.  Don’t.  Be professional and keep going.  Colleagues who have older children will have forgotten how hard it was and those who haven’t yet had children don’t care.

8.       Think Positively!
-          Your baby will learn so much, love bonding with others and making friends and become more social and outgoing. 
-          There are many reports that suggest part-time working mums are happier than full-time stay at home mums: Click here (for just one, there are many more)
-          You’re doing what is best for your family and career and your children will appreciate it when they need help with university fees.

Guilt and motherhood go hand in hand so get ready to feel a lot of that.  After 3 – 4 weeks you’ll all be in your new routine, far less emotional and enjoying a little bit of adult conversation.

Good Luck! xx
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