How to Successfully Transition Back to Work After Maternity Leave

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Gladys Simen33
Life Coach for working mothers
April 19, 2024 at 2:33PM UTC

It’s not uncommon to have a bit of anxiety when it’s time to go back to work after maternity leave. There are a lot of changes that have taken place. You are allowed to feel overwhelmed by the change in pace and/or routine that going back to work entails.

Maybe your professional life adds a lot more stress to your life as a mother. Or perhaps you’re just dying to return to your old self when you were diving into your professional life, and motherhood feels great, however, you need other ways to stimulate that brainpower; therefore you can’t wait to have that part of your life back!

Whatever the case may be, here are some tips on making the whole return less stressful for you!

1. Make your self-care a priority

I am willing to bet that you are known for taking good care of everyone around you. Your family, your friends, your coworkers etc. You probably take their needs seriously and do whatever it takes to meet them! Who watches the watch(wo)man then? Taking care of yourself first is a NON-NEGOTIABLE need, a priority you must make,  especially as all the mental clutter from work adds up to the space. Protect your precious self and your mental health. Take the time to recharge your batteries and to regenerate. Daily. Think about it that way: How could you be of service to anyone else in the world, if you are in no condition to do it? Remember, you have to put on your oxygen mask FIRST before you can help others. The same principle applies here! So take good care of yourself, what you eat and how you sleep. Bring some movement into your routine and make time for it. Your future self will thank you for this!

And don’t forget to take your vacation. It’s in my book, a mandatory break one must be diligent about taking to preserve one’s sanity! 

2. Get ready to roll on the emotional rollercoaster

Changes may trigger many emotions — fear/imposter syndrome and/or guilt about leaving your baby for an extended period could be experienced. 

It’s crucial that you get on self-appreciation and self-love because some emotions might be uncomfortable to deal with. Make the space for them, acknowledge them, sit a while with them and remember your why, to be able to process those feelings adequately. Don’t try to figure it all out at once, take your time and rest in the knowledge you are doing the best you can, for yourself and your family.

I deal with Mom’s guilt by reminding myself I am showing my children that being a working mama means being able to show my children that I can live a fulfilled life outside of being their mom; I am setting high standards for both of them. Being a mom makes me MORE qualified to go after what I want. And those end-of-day rituals (another non-negotiable) with your kids make-up (a little bit) for it!

3. Ask for help — and accept it

Here it is: you have to be open to accepting help, even if it’s not in the way you expect it. It’s about what gets done, not how it gets done. Allowing myself to ask and accept help when I need it has helped me get more done, ease stress, and expose my family to different ways of doing things. It definitely takes a village. 

Some organizations are already good at proposing gradual returns to work for their employees. If you are not so lucky in your current organization, I suggest you work with your leadership team/ HR to craft a schedule that could work for you, to support and accommodate you. Examples of accommodation could include :

Working remotely. 

This is crucial for working parents. It could be that you are still breastfeeding or you still want to be hands-on with your little one for a while. Krystin Morgan, a working mom at Hubspot, states on her Linkedin profile:

“I'm excited to be back and so thankful for the flexibility to work remotely. No commute = more baby time.” More bonding is benefitting both parents and children. Can we say happy mom = better employee? A supportive manager certainly makes ALL the difference in the world because they understand that it is important to keep giving working mamas the opportunities they deserve — or nudging them out of their comfort zone whilst supporting their evolving needs at each stage of their parenthood journey.

Coming back to work gradually. 

You could start part-time for a month and the full-time thereafter. Or rearrange your schedule to include time dedicated to your childcare needs. Flexible work schedules allow room for things to change in an instant and were a lifesaver during the pandemic when juggling remote schooling with full-time jobs became the norm. Review your career goals and see if they are still in line with your new priorities or if it’s time to pivot and try something else!

Create a support system both at and outside of work. 

Share parenting responsibilities with your partner and/or don’t hesitate to delegate from time to time to extended family, close friends, nannies services, etc. Find a way that works well for you and your family when it comes to the distribution of labor, to avoid little grudges that could in time become big rancours. 

At work, another parent can provide the space for you to be well, a mom at work or a colleague/mentor can bring diversity of thoughts and/or opinions, so make sure you work on building a solid network. I know of a group of parents at an organization that came together to help their HR teams to revise their policies and accommodate not only parents but also caretakers! So don’t hesitate to leverage your voice and experience to amplify the message, if given the opportunity!

Those are just some ideas to get you started on your journey back to work. You will definitely think of many others and my rule of thumb is to favor any idea that puts your kids first. If it feels like “Mission Impossible “ in your current organization, it might be time to reevaluate, again flexibility is the working parent's best tool. Life may happen during working hours and work could happen when the kids are asleep!

4. Changes bring new beginnings 

It may be your first return to work after maternity leave or your fourth one, I guarantee you that every time will feel different. I am convinced that being a mom adds to our worth and value, especially to an organization. We bring transferable skills to the table that could apply to pretty much every work, task, or project we are currently on. You know, skills like patience, outside-the-box thinking, empathy, fairness. And adding to that dedication, focus and excellent time management make us working mamas ideal employees. Being a mom doesn't mean we don't have career ambitions or would neglect our work. We are definitely masters at juggling multiple priorities at once. We just need a world with fewer stereotypes and more understanding for the times when we have to pivot some time at the very last minute. 

However you feel about change, give yourself a lot of grace and go easy on yourself. A gradual change is definitely more manageable than a sudden one. And don’t forget, you are a mom, rest assured that nothing (ok very few things) phases you. You got this!

As mothers, we are surrounded by people that love nothing more than to tell us what we “should" do or be. Returning to work after some love time with our baby(ies) is definitely a milestone in the life of a parent. You may have been simply you before, but now you are a mom, a parent. Take time to adjust to your new reality, and ask for support. Just be brave enough to accept it, when in need.  You don’t have to do everything by yourself, you don’t have to be everything to everyone, every time. You’ll learn to pick your battles, both at home and in the office.

It’s a beautiful journey you are on, and returning to work is just one way you fulfill your huge potential! So? Do you! And for the naysayers and inner critics? Don’t dwell on doubt and keep going. Welcome back, mama!

This article reflects the views of the author and not necessarily those of Fairygodboss.
Gladys Simen is a life coach for moms who are trying to balance their work and family life. She is a life enthusiast who lived in five different countries and mastered two languages. It took becoming a fabulous mama for her to tap into some BIG superpowers within herself.  Former quiet introvert, today is passionate about helping women live big, beautiful, shooting-for-the-stars kind of lives right now. Gladys considers herself an advocate for the working mama! You can learn more about Gladys here.

What’s your no. 1 piece of advice for transitioning back to work after maternity leave? Share your answer in the comments to help other Fairygodboss members!

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