By Kelsea Lindsey- EA at American Express Global Business Travel
This time last year I was on Maternity leave with my then 3-month-old daughter. I was busying myself with things like attending baby groups, having coffee dates with other mothers, and generally adapting to the challenges and rewards that motherhood brings. As I had been off for 9 months, I found myself totally out of the routine of work and returning was far from my thoughts.
Then suddenly, August came around and the realisation hit me… “I am going back to work.” The thought of this made me feel a whirlwind of emotions that ranged from anxiety and excitement to guilt and resentment. A million questions popped into my head like, “what if something happens to my daughter whilst I am at work?” and “what if she prefers the childminder to me?”.
I suppose I had always known I wanted to be a “working mum” but had never really thought about what that meant, and I found myself a bit overwhelmed when that became a reality.
If, like me, you decide you also want to go back to work after having a baby, here are a few tips I can share from my experience to help you cope a bit better with those first few weeks back:
Plan, Plan, Plan
As Pas/EAs/Administrative professionals, our expertise is in our ability to manage hectic schedules and last-minute curve balls, as well as predict certain scenarios and contingency plan in case things go wrong. If you haven’t already applied these skills to your personal life, trust me now is the time!
Get yours and your child’s bags packed the night before and clothes ready for the morning, dust off your slow cooker so you can come home to a hot meal, batch cook on Sundays and try and check journey planner the night before to help you plan your travel in advance. Small adjustments like
these will reduce stress and make going back to work that much easier!
Set Clear Expectations
Before having children, you may have been the type to get into the office early and go home late, log on at weekends and generally be available 24/7; however, it’s important that different expectations are set on the return from maternity leave, as your whole lifestyle is likely to change when a little one arrives.
You may need to leave the office at 5pm sharp to get home for the childcare pick up, or maybe you need to take an hour out each day in the office to pump or nurse. Whatever the situation may be, be open and honest with your boss. Maybe you can both make some compromises to make
things easier by discussing flexible working e.g. working from home or a job share.
Also, don’t be afraid of being transparent with your exec. Your priorities will have understandably shifted, so it’s important that you have the right work-life balance so that all parties can function optimally.
Be Kind to Yourself
For many, going back to work after maternity leave is going to be hard. You have spent all your time, for up to a year, with your little bundle of joy and suddenly, it’s back to the grindstone.
This is an emotional time and it is important that you take each day as it comes, especially in the early stages.
Going back to work isn’t for everyone, so give yourself a month or so and if you are still feeling down, maybe it is worth reflecting on your situation and thinking about if things need to change in any way. This change might take the form of reducing hours, different childcare or perhaps taking a
career break. In contrast, some people feel bad for being happy to be back at work; don’t punish yourself because you want to go out there and continue your career. It is normal to enjoy some adult conversation and a cup of tea that hasn’t gone cold!
Speak to your Childcare Provider
In those early weeks, you may want some additional reassurance. If you are anxious, speak to your childcare provider and explain your anxiety; they will be very used to this and are likely to reassure you or help reduce your anxiety by sending you pictures throughout the day or the odd text here
and there to let you know what your child is up to.
Returning from maternity leave brings a huge amount of emotion. Be kind to yourself and give yourself appropriate time to adjust. By following these steps, hopefully, you, your child and your employer will all find the right balance. Good luck!