To help us answer these questions is coach, Fiona Hatton.
As a coach, Fiona supports women to live a happier life: through prioritising their wellbeing, doing more of what they love, and focusing on what really matters to them. She has worked with women who’ve gone on to change career, leave a toxic workplace, and make big life decisions about where (and how) they want to live.
IF YOU HAVE ANY QUESTIONS FOR US – WHETHER IT BE ABOUT WORK RELATIONSHIPS, GAINING CONFIDENCE, OR TAKING THE LEAP INTO TECH – YOU CAN ASK US ANYTHING.
I’m currently on maternity leave but am thinking about making the decision to return to work in the near future.
My problem (or worry) is that I’ve been out of the loop for so long, processes and work are bound to have changed. My priorities and concerns have also changed. I feel very overwhelmed at juggling this new part in my life – and am unsure of how to find my work-life balance, while asserting myself as the capable person at work.
How can I go about setting myself up for a positive return to work?
HEY NEW MUM,
Going back to work after having a baby is a big deal. There are all sorts of practical things to consider before you even take into account the huge mix of emotions that come into play. And that often means how we’re feeling gets pushed to the bottom of the pile. So the first thing I’m going to ask you is:
How do I feel about going back to work?
It is ok to feel excited. It is ok to feel anxious or overwhelmed. It is ok to feel sad. And it’s ok to feel a range of emotions that contradict each other and change from day to day.
Once you identify how you’re feeling, think about why you’re feeling that way. Understanding what’s behind your emotions can make it much easier to work out your next steps towards making this return a positive experience.
What does a good return to work look like for you?
You’ve mentioned finding your work / life balance. Remember, your balance could be very different from someone else’s, so think about what you need, not what other people are doing. And while you’re at it, distinguish between what’s essential for you and your family, and what’s nice-to-have. This will make it easier for you to know when to compromise and when to stand your ground.
You’ve also said that you want to demonstrate that you’re capable. What does capable mean to you? Is it being prepared and organised? Is it meeting targets? Try to differentiate between what you need to feel capable, and what you think other people will be looking for. Which is most important to you? Where do you want to focus your effort?
What else makes a good return to work for you?
What is on your mind?
You’ve already mentioned you’re worried that processes might have changed – what else are you concerned about? Grab a pen and list out everything that’s on your mind. And when you think you’ve finished, ask yourself, what else? I can almost guarantee there’ll be something!
Once you’ve got it all out, it will be easier to see themes, and decide which to tackle first. Perhaps these are logistical – getting to and from work, picking up your baby, etc. Maybe they are related to keeping up-to-date with changes at work. Or even how you’ll make time for yourself while you’re juggling family and work.
Remember your concerns are valid and the first step to addressing them is noticing what they are.
What are your options?
Take a look at your list. What actions could address those concerns and help you move closer towards a good return? Write down as many as you can think of. Who can you speak to at work ahead of time to find out what’s changed, for example? What keep-in-touch opportunities are there? How do you feel about using them?
Next, decide which ones you’d like to try. Who or what could help you to take those actions?
What do you bring with you now that you didn’t have before?
Your maternity leave hasn’t been a void where you’ve been frozen in time – or gone backwards – what have you learnt and experienced that has changed you since your baby was born? How will those things benefit you and your workplace?
Try to remember that your new priorities and perspectives could have a really positive impact on your work. You are not playing catch-up.
Enjoy the rest of your maternity leave – and I’m wishing you an amazing return to work when it comes.