A year out of the workplace will have you questioning a few things. First you have a brand new human who is totally reliant on you and whom you are totally in love with. This means the last thing you probably want to do is hand the object of your devotion over to a stranger while you return to work – a place that feels like a lifetime ago. Second, it will shake your confidence; you will feel like a different person now and you will undoubtedly question whether this new person can do their job as well as the old person. Third and by no means last, you will feel judged by your colleagues. It’s not a nice feeling.
I’m not the oracle on how to handle all of this. It’s tough, there’s no question about that, but coming from someone who’s done it, made some big errors and still got through to a place that feels almost like balance, I want you all to know the following things before you return to work:
Mum guilt is normal and all mothers feel it. Not one working mum I’ve spoken with said they found the first few weeks easy. But trust me when I say you are the only one feeling like rubbish all day. Your little one will be laughing, playing and having lots of well-thought-out interactive play that will nourish their mind and help them develop!
I found the best way to combat mum-guilt after the return to work and from then on really, is making the time you do spend together extra special. Crafts, outings, sensory play, reading; make the effort to plan out your weekends much like you would your workweek and you will find you’ll feel a lot better about your ability to do the Girl Boss thing and the Mum thing simultaneously.
New You/Old You:
This is a tough one, but I promise, you are still you. The kick-ass career girl you were is still in there and is just as capable, if not more so now that you have perfected a juggling act no non-parent will ever understand. You will surprise yourself with how much you can get done in a day. Efficiencies go through the roof and believe it or not, so does your appreciation for the workplace. Assuming you enjoy your job – because after all, nothing can make you appreciate a job you hate – you will actually begin to cherish that grown up time you get to be “the old you”. Once the mummy guilt has worn off, of course.
With this in mind, do not undersell yourself. Be smart about what you negotiate when you go back into the workplace. Don’t feel like you have to take whatever is offered, because you’re a mum. Most businesses these days recognise the value that hard-working mothers (and fathers) bring to the workplace so the key here is to know your worth and fight for an arrangement that suits your new life. If you don’t have a job to return to, check out Kristy Lee’s tips to resume writing for new mums.
Fear of Judgement:
First off, it’s important to recognise that it’s a probability no one is judging you at all and a lot of this fear will be in your mind. That said, there are often people without families who don’t understand the logistics, the emotion and the stress that comes with it. Hopefully, these people aren’t your boss, but all it takes is some eye rolls when you run out of the door on time each night to make you feel like you’re not cutting it.
This is BS and my advice here is to give yourself some time. It won’t take you long at all to find your feet back in your career and it won’t matter if you’re getting in late, leaving early, or even working part-time. Your work ethic and contribution will speak for itself. Remind yourself that employees with less responsibility will spend far more time procrastinating than the new you. All those tea breaks, long lunches and Friday drinks will likely not apply to you anymore, so it all swings in roundabouts!
So, whatever stage you’re at; whether you’re pregnant, mid-way through mat-leave or just thinking about the possibility of having a baby, try not to stress to much about the return to work part. They grow so fast and the time really does fly, so give yourself a break, enjoy it and have faith in the “you” that will always be in there – mummy or not.