A woman with a phone and laptap that is going back to work after maternity leave

Going Back To Work After Maternity Leave

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?

a woman going back to work after maternity leave sitting at a laptop
Image by hamonazaryan1 from Pixabay

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.

Positives

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.

Struggles

There are three main areas I struggle with on a day to day basis:

Tiredness

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.

Anxiety

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.

Emotional

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.

a cup of coffee on a book before going back to work after maternity leave
Image by Andrian Valeanu from Pixabay

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

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.

Part-time

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.

Compressed hours

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:

a laptop on a bed for working from home instead of going back to work after maternity leave
Image by Pexels from Pixabay

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:

Emma Drew

Boost My Budget

Lylia Rose

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.

What did you struggle with after going back to work? Did you find it was as bad as you thought it would be?

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6 Replies to “Going Back To Work After Maternity Leave”

  1. I’ve been back at work properly for two weeks now and something I’m struggling with is my colleagues treating me as if I’ve only had a week off, when in reality I’ve had 13 months away from the business. I still need reminding on how to do things and there’s things that I’ve messed up on, but that’s totally normal after such a long time away. I just wish my colleagues could appreciate that.
    I’d love to be in a position where I could work from home, but in my current role it’s just not possible unfortunately. I’m hoping to change that though by the end of the year.

    Claire. X

    1. Me too! I’ve been really organised and written down a whole ‘work from home’ plan for this year 🙂 Let’s hope we both get there.

      I know what you mean about colleagues treating you like you’d just had a week off. I had a few problems when I first went back which meant that it took me even longer to settle back in. People that haven’t been off for any length of time, especially with a baby, just don’t understand what it’s like. I hope things get better for you 🙂 x

  2. This is such an important post. I think many women go through a spectrum of emotions when it comes to the end of maternity leave. I know women who felt relieved and that the return to a set work schedule gave them time to breathe and feel refreshed. Your tips are so on point for making the transition as smoothly and as easily as possible.

    1. I’ve known women who felt relieved too, and also women that were dreading it. It’s interesting to see that everyone copes with returning to work differently. I think it’s a very personal thing.

  3. I found the idea of going back much worse than the reality. I went back when my son was 8 months old until he went to nursery.

    I was made redundant so decided that I’d tale some time off and was able to enjoy time with him when he was part time.

    He is now almost 12 and I have worked in schools for the last 5 years and I feel I finally have the balance right x

    1. I found the idea of going back worse than the reality as well. I mean, I still don’t like it, but at least it’s not as bad as it could have been!

      Well done on getting the balance right. I’m still trying 🙂 x

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