Returning to Work with Confidence

Laura Bentley

That Balanced Life Coach

After having your baby you may be thinking about returning to work. For some mums this is a few weeks after giving birth, for others it can be a year or more. No matter your return to work circumstances you may be experiencing a lot of mixed emotions. This guide will give you some practical tips on how to manage your return to work with confidence.

What might I be feeling?

It’s normal to have a whole raft of emotions as you take the first steps back into the workplace. You may be nervous; feeling disconnected from ‘work mode’ and worried that things will have changed. You may have a sense of reluctance in going back to work and not yet feel ready to leave your child. There may also be some guilt about returning and having to use childcare for perhaps the first time. And of course, you may be really excited about going back to work, but that too makes you feel guilty for wanting something other than ‘just being a mum’.

back to work after childcare

All of these feelings affect your confidence and can be detrimental to how quickly you settle back into a job role. They may also lead to stress, exhaustion and overwhelm. By using some of the tools outlined below you will be able to navigate these feelings more effectively and start to overcome some of the barriers you face in restarting your career.

Acknowledging change

Any time a change happens we have to go through a set of emotions. You can think of this as a tunnel to get to the end of. When you feel exhausted, overwhelmed and stressed it means that you are ‘stuck’ in the tunnel. By recognising this you can begin to move forward and complete the emotional cycle that change brings.

Going through a change normally follows the below pattern. However, it’s important to note that change is processed differently by everyone and on varying timescales, and so it is helpful to avoid comparing your return to work with others’. If it takes you longer to adjust to the new routines that going to work brings, be kind to yourself and accept that you are moving through the change at your own pace.

Shock & Denial

You avoid thinking about going back to work for as long as possible

Frustration & Low mood

The thought of returning to work fills you with sadness rather than joy

Experimentation & Decisions

You start to consider what might work for you with regards to timelines, childcare and new routines

Integration & New normal

You accept the new ‘status quo’ and begin to feel energised and motivated

During each of these stages you will require help from those around you to move to the next phase.

Who do I ask for help?

In the early phase of thinking about going back to work, you will benefit from lots of communication. Get in touch with your HR department, manager and colleagues to understand what a return to work could look like. Remember – the more information you have, the more confident you will feel in making decisions that are right and fit for you.
If the thought of going back to work becomes difficult to manage then you need to look for emotional support. This can come from friends and family or HR but it may also be worth considering talking to a career coach. Your priorities as a working mum will be different to before you had children and you may now be thinking about a different way of working, or something new altogether. Find the time to explore the ‘what if’ as well as what currently is.

Once you have started to accept the change, you can begin to look for more direction and clear guidance on what going back to work means for you. Now is the time to make plans, requests and arrangements to ensure as smooth a transition back to work as possible. Do not be afraid to ask for flexibility – we are living in a world where the 9-5 is becoming less and less the norm. Employers should be trying to accommodate flexible working requests where possible.

10 Tips to build condidence when returning to work after maternity leave:

  1. Use your ‘keeping in touch’ days (if you have these) to ease yourself back into the working patterns 
  2. Ask for help – see this as a strength, not a burden
  3. Use positive affirmations to remind yourself of your strengths
  4. Speak to other parents at your childcare settings to see how much the kids enjoy their time there
  5. Reflect on your progress and your wins; what are you most proud of in returning to work?
  6. Banish the guilt! Mum guilt is very common, but if you have chosen to return to work for financial, emotional or practical reasons then you have nothing to feel guilty about. 
  7. Once you are back in the swing of things, ask for regular feedback and reviews with your manager on how things are going – both emotionally and within the role itself
  8. Talk to other recently returned to work mums to share experiences
  9. Use stress reducing techniques to help you manage the return; physical movement, laughing, crying, good sleep (we know this can be a whole other issue when it comes to having children!), mindfulness and communication all help you go through that emotional tunnel
  10. Be kind to yourself! You are taking big steps into the unknown and it will take time to adjust

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