Many of us think that returning to work after maternity leave is like coming back from a long holiday. Yes, we may have forgotten our logins, our brains may be a bit foggy, and we may be spending too much time showing off pictures to anyone who cares to see them. But overall, we’re ready to hit the ground running, right?
Wrong. Mothers going back to work (and everyone else around them) often don’t realise how challenging the adjustment will be. And if they do, they usually lack the support they need to make it less daunting and overwhelming.
But with a little preparation and a good dose of kindness, it is possible to make this transition a lot smoother and to feel more in control.
Watch: The horoscopes as new mums. Post continues after video.
Here are six ways to make returning to work from maternity leave easier:
1. Reset your expectations.
I work with a lot of new mums facing a return to work and the first thing we do is reset expectations. It will likely be intense at first, and the longer you’ve been away, the harder it may feel.
Be prepared for the process of settling in to take a few months: not only because you’ve been out of touch and out of practice for a while, but also because you’re coming back as a different person altogether.
This identity shift a woman goes through as she steps into motherhood is called matrescence. It’s a process that literally turns a woman’s world upside down: from the way she views herself, to the way she relates to others (partner, friends and family) and also the way she approaches work. Combine this with a new set of logistical challenges to manage – no wonder women find it hard!
2. Be kind to yourself.
You will likely feel out of your depth: "I don’t belong here." "I don’t think I can keep up."
Imposter syndrome may come to haunt you: "Someone is going to find me out." "What am I doing?"
You will likely feel guilty, often: "I should be spending more time with my child." "I should be spending more time at work."