Going back to work after maternity leave can suck. A lot. You’ve just spent the last 6 months to a year getting used to being a Mum, and now you have to take your pajamas off, put some makeup on and throw yourself back into the world of work. Whether you’re looking forward to it or not, stepping through that door on the first day back is always going to be a tough one.
But what happens after you’ve been back for a while? Does it get any easier? Do sleepless nights become the norm, and do you actually start to enjoy it?
My experience of going back to work after maternity leave
When I went back to work last December I’d had 12 months off, and going back was a big shock to the system. I’d always known I was going to go back because we had no other choice financially, but I can’t say that it was something I was particularly looking forward to.
I wrote about my experience of going back to work after maternity leave here when I was 3 months in and looking back, I’m happy to say that things have definitely improved in some respects, though are still a struggle in other ways.
Cupar generally only wakes up once during the night now, he doesn’t need feeding in the mornings anymore, and although we do still breastfeed, he doesn’t need or want it during the day and hasn’t done for a while.
This all means that I get a bit more sleep, I can ‘get up and go’, and I don’t have to worry about racing home to feed him straight away, which takes the pressure off me a little bit.
While things have improved, I do still find certain parts of being a working Mum a struggle, and I don’t think that will change any time soon. My life and my priorities are different now, and I’m just not the same person I was before I had Cupar.
There are three main areas I struggle with on a day to day basis:
Going back to work has definitely affected me physically. The tiredness has been unreal and a lot of days when I get home I just want to curl up and go to sleep. Luckily Cupar seems to have settled on having a nap when I get home, so if I’m struggling I can sleep when he does.
I knew I’d have the usual feelings of not wanting to leave Cupar and missing him during the day, but I didn’t expect to feel constantly on edge. I’m always wondering what he’s up to and if he’s ok, which does make things difficult, but it is just a normal part of being a Mum.
My emotions have literally been all over the place since going back to work. I work in a male environment, so whereas, when I was on maternity leave, I was going to baby groups and meeting up with Mum friends during the day, now I’m back at work I’m surrounded by people who have different interests, and different lives to me.
I almost feel like I’m a fake version of myself at work, like I’m putting on a front, and hiding who I really am. I can’t talk about all the new things Cupar has learned or the things we did at the weekend like I can with other mums because it’s just not something people at work are interested in. I feel like I’m in a constant battle of being a Mum and being work me, and it can be really hard to switch between the two.
For me, going back to work after maternity leave was something I had to do, not wanted to do. I don’t hate my job by any means, but I do miss solely being a Mum.
How to make going back to work after maternity leave easier
My advice for anyone that’s getting ready to go back to work after maternity leave, is to take each day as it comes and to be gentle on yourself.
Depending on what your employer offers, there are a few things you can do to make the transition back into work that little bit less stressful:
Work from home
It’s always worth checking to see if working from home is an option, even if it’s just for one day a week. If you feel you could cope with working and looking after a little one, then it could be a nice balance, especially if you don’t have to work to set hours. Nap times and bedtimes are always good times to work, and you’ll be surprised how much you can get done!
Flexible working can be really handy, especially when you’re still trying to find your rhythm. If you have the option to do flexi-time it means that you don’t have to panic as much about leaving the house on time, especially when you’re covered in baby sick and need a quick change, or oversleep because you’ve been awake all night with a crying baby.
Going back to work part-time can be a nice way to ease yourself back into a working routine. I decided to go back to work part-time because I knew I wouldn’t be able to handle full-time hours, and it was the best thing I could have done. I get to have lunch with Cupar every day, spend time with him in the afternoons, and even catch up on some housework.
If going back to work part-time isn’t an option for you, then going back on compressed hours could help. This basically means that you work full-time hours, but over three or four days instead of the usual five. You still get the financial benefit of being full time, but you also get the added bonus of a day or two off during the week to spend with your little one.
Obviously, it’s not for the faint of heart, as you will be working long days, but the work week will be shorter, which can only be a good thing!
Book your holiday in advance
If there are certain days that you know you’re going to want off work, like birthdays or school plays, then make sure that you book them off well in advance. Depending on where you work, holidays can get booked up quickly, and you don’t want to find yourself being stuck at work when there’s something important on.
What if you just can’t face it?
If you just know in your heart that you can’t go back, then there are lots of other options you can explore:
Work from home
There are a lot of work from home and work online opportunities out there which are perfect for Mums. A few of my favourite blogs, which are packed full of tips and advice and well worth checking out are:
An option, if you’re business minded and don’t mind getting out there, is to give a company like Avon or Usbourne books a go. Both have the potential to earn money if you can put the time in, and they’re both jobs that you can do with your little one in tow.
If you don’t fancy working for someone else, then how about setting up your own business? Things like cleaning and gardening are relatively easy to set up, and once you’re ready to go, the possibilities are endless. Working for yourself is a lot more flexible than working for someone else, because you can set your own hours and days, and you can also choose how much work you take on.
Sort your finances out
You could always have a look at your finances and decide if you really do have to work. You might find that if you cut down on some bills, cancel any subscriptions and change your shopping habits that you may be able to manage without an extra wage coming in, especially if you’re not going to be left with much money after paying for childcare.
However you feel, just remember that you’re not alone. Being a working Mum is hard. We all have down days, we all struggle with tiredness, and we all look forward to walking through that front door at the end of the day and giving our little ones a cuddle.