Your return to work: Melissa

Every month I am going to be publishing a guest post from a mum who has been through returning to the workplace after maternity leave. We all have individual experiences, situations, ambitions and so on. I hope by sharing a range of stories there will be something that mums on maternity leave thinking about their return to work can relate to.
This post is written by Melissa, a mum of one in her late 30s, expecting another baby in the Autumn. She is an Economist at a stockbroker in London.

Question 1. How did you feel about your return to work in the lead up to it?

I put a lot of pressure on myself to return to work at a fixed date, which in retrospect was not a great idea! Sorting out childcare arrangements, dealing with sleep regressions and not being quite physically ready to go back made it all more stressful than it needed to be – even small things like sorting out a work wardrobe that would fit but also accommodate breastfeeding felt tricky. I did look forward to getting back to my ‘old’ life too, though, interacting with people and getting out and about.

Question 2. What were the biggest challenges or worries that you had about your return to work?

I think it’s quite common to worry about whether you’ll ‘remember how to do your job’, and I certainly felt that! The transition from being on maternity leave into a busy office felt like a real culture shock and it took time to get back into things. I think I do my job quite differently now as a result – hopefully better! – and focus on elements that are important and downgrade the rest. We struggled with sleep (our daughter didn’t sleep through until she was over two-and-a-half), which was probably the biggest challenge.
The time you spend off on maternity leave seems a lot longer to you than it does to your colleagues and clients – your job will still be there when you get back!


Question 3. Is there anything that would have helped your transition back to the workplace?

Giving myself a bit more time would have helped for sure, but it is difficult to balance financial demands against time with your baby. I was super resistant to working part-time but, when my daughter was one, I did switch to part-time and it has been brilliant.

I’m very fortunate that my husband now stays at home with our daughter, too, so that helps enormously. We struggled through the first year both working but found that it just didn’t suit us. So there’s no magic formula and things can change.
Working from home can be super helpful now but it’s also good to be able to escape to the office as it’s difficult to say ‘no’ to a toddler when they need your attention.

Question 4. What tips would you give to other mums who are currently on maternity leave and preparing for their return to work?

Be kind to yourself and don’t rush.
Consider whether part-time can work for you, even if it’s only temporary.
Expect to re-learn how to do your role as a busy mum and deliver in a way that works better for you, your family and your employer.
For anyone breastfeeding, I thought going back to work would be the end of that phase, but I managed to carry on feeding at night (until lockdowns etc came along). So going back to work doesn’t have to mean the end of the breastfeeding journey if you don’t want it to.
Lastly, find the combination of work/childcare/time at home that works for you and don’t worry if your arrangements have to change over time.

Thank you so much Melissa!

I hope you found reading about Melissa’s experience helpful. If you are on maternity leave and would like to return to work with confidence, you can get my free guide with some top tips so you can prepare yourself.
All the best,
PS. Do you know a mumma who might find this post helpful? Why not share it with her now.

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