After living in the baby bubble, transitioning from maternity leave to work can feel like an overwhelming adjustment. Steph Claire Smith shares her top tips.
By Steph Claire Smith
Something that is becoming very clear to me is that it’s quite hard to ‘wing it’ at work when you have a baby. My confidence level at work has already increased by being more organised and structured with my working week. Below are some of the tips I’m trying to follow myself as I transition from maternity leave to working mum.
“WHETHER YOU’RE RETURNING TO WORK FULL-TIME OR PART-TIME AS A MUM, I TAKE MY HAT OFF TO YOU. IT ISN’T EASY, AND WHICHEVER DECISION YOU MAKE, YOU ARE DOING AMAZING THINGS FOR YOURSELF AND YOUR FAMILY.”
Set boundaries and priorities
When you’re trying to balance mum life with work, time with friends, self-care, etc., something has to give. Work out what your priorities are and then set some boundaries for yourself so you can keep your cup full. I’ve learned that I need to allow myself time each week for zero plans, so that I have time to recharge and give myself some love. Without that downtime, I cannot be my best self as a mother or a team member at work.
Create a base schedule
I’ve set my working hours and I’ve set my family time hours. Of course, not every week will play out perfectly, but at least this way, I can be 100 per cent present when I’m at home with my little one and not feel guilty about not being at work. When I’m at work, I have the space I need to be committed and engaged to whatever we’re doing without feeling guilty for not being at home, most of the time.
Cut yourself some slack
This is easier said than done, but let’s stop setting ourselves impossible targets, like being 100 per cent excellent at everything we do. Motherhood is all-consuming, and it does change us, so set realistic expectations for yourself when it comes to work.
Be open with your work colleagues
Whether you’re an employee or an employer, it’s important that the people you work with are aware of where you are. My mum took a year off from work when she had me, and when she returned, she felt really able and confident in taking her old workload back on. But she felt like she had to keep assuring the team around her that she was okay as they had assumed she would be struggling.
On the flip side, I’ve had to be very open with Laura and the team about where I’m at and how much I can take on because, at points, I have certainly jumped in too deep, too quickly and overwhelmed myself in the process. This hasn’t come from external pressure – only my own. I needed to be honest with myself and my team. And as an employer, I would hope that members of my team would feel comfortable to be open and honest with me about their needs or expectations when returning to work.
Have physical to-do lists
Sleep deprivation mixed with having a mini human being on your mind all the time often results in forgetfulness. This was one of the biggest barriers for me when it came to the idea of returning to work because I found myself forgetting things daily.
I started writing to-do lists, keeping track of appointments and jotting down notes throughout the day – either on a physical notepad or on the Notes app on my phone, and I find this really helps me to stay on top of things. Try using one of these each day to keep your thoughts in one place.
Whether you’re returning to work full-time or part-time as a mum, I take my hat off to you. It isn’t easy, and whichever decision you make, you are doing amazing things for yourself and your family. Whether it was your choice/preference or not to return to work, I hope you’re okay and I hope you thrive at work knowing that you’re a superhero for juggling it all. And if you have a partner or there’s another carer in your child’s life, remember that it’s not your job to do everything.
Often, as mothers, we feel like we need to have everything sorted. That we need to be the one who remembers the appointments, does the grocery shopping, makes the lunches, etc. Remember, you do not need to do everything yourself. It’s okay to speak up and ask others to help and to share the load. And if you are a mum going solo and doing it all, you are my hero.
Remember, you do not need to do everything yourself. It’s okay to speak up and ask others to help and to share the load.
Text from You Take Care by Laura Henshaw and Steph Claire Smith. Murdoch Books RRP $36.99.
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