Maternity Leave: embracing the journey back to work

Lisa

I was so confident in my return to work from Maternity Leave that I decided to do a half-marathon the day before which, for full disclosure, was a rookie error. 

I had taken a year out and navigated one of the biggest life shifts that I will ever go through by having my first child. In my head, returning to work felt like it would be a simple transition in comparison (and so would that half-marathon!). 

Seven weeks ago, I returned to work and I thought it important to share my experience. Because it’s tough. Working and being a parent is like balancing two full-time jobs, and the curve balls you are thrown are unavoidable. 

But that’s completely normal. Research by TENA found that 31% of women found returning to work ‘harder than expected’. 40% felt guilt over going to work instead of being at home with their new baby, and I can testify that the ‘mum guilt’ is real. 

So, with all this in mind, I wanted to share my learnings for any new parents returning to work. 

 

1. Plan your return to work 

This might seem obvious, but think about your return to work carefully. From the very beginning of my maternity leave I thought it would be sensible to have a phased return to work. It would have numerous advantages mentally, giving me confidence, preventing me from feeling overwhelmed and able to test out childcare.  

Think about the number of days per week you want to work, and the office-WFH balance. Medialab has been incredibly flexible with my working hours, and the ability to work from home has allowed me to juggle childcare.  

Think ahead and consider the balance you need to strike for your new working and home-life.  

However… 

2. Be prepared that plans may change 

I initially planned to come back after nine months, of which Medialab was very accommodating and came back with several scenarios for a return-to-work plan. 

However, I realised nine months was too soon and I decided to postpone my return. Again, Medialab was incredibly flexible and made it clear that the ball was in my court.  

Start small and ease yourself back in. Give yourself the opportunity to test the water, find out what works for you and adjust accordingly. 

To help manage that effectively… 

3. Communicate with your employer 

One thing I have learnt is that there are a lot of emotions to manage. Be that missing my daughter or feeling guilty about leaving her at nursery, those feelings are completely normal. 

My advice is to communicate those feelings. Medialab offers all mums returning to work the access to a professional maternity coach, helping to guide through one of life’s biggest changes. I found it instrumental to where I am today. Being able to have a 1:1 conversation about my emotions, worries and challenges, then creating an action plan, had a colossal impact.  

So whether it’s about your new working pattern or just simply how you’re feeling, talk to your employer and utilise the tools and services they offer to support you. 

4. Utilise your support network 

I couldn’t encourage you enough to accept the support network around you, whether they are friends, family or work colleagues. Whilst at the start you may find it patronising to rely on lots of people, you will quickly realise that it’s instrumental to coping with your new work-life balance. Many of your support will have been through the exact same experience as you, and you will find solace in that. 

5. Be kind to yourself 

There I said it. After months of rolling my eyes at the phrase, I finally embraced it. Don’t put too much pressure on yourself and remember that your workplace and colleagues respect and value you. The leadership team at Medialab has really demonstrated this and supported me, and I can’t think of a better place to return to work and forge my career as a working parent. 

The last seven weeks really have been a journey for me, but I am incredibly grateful to Medialab for the support they have given to me and, despite my resistance at the start, utilising the strong support network offered by Medialab, my friends and family has gotten me to a place where I have started to feel liberated at work.  

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