Back to the Grind

Getting Back to Work After Taking Maternity LeaveReturning to Work After Maternity Leave

Okay, so you’ve just spent 8 to 12 weeks blissfully sleepless, catering to the every need of a tiny, helpless human being that has you totally wrapped around his or her finger.  Even if you told your supervisor at work that you would be checking email frequently, you’ve probably only done it once or twice, and that was only because you needed a break from reading “Little Blue Truck” or “I Love You, Stinkyface” for the 8 millionth time.  Your shower routine is a little….off…and your eyebrows have developed their own special arch (which looks nothing like an arch).

Nevertheless, the moment has arrived.  Your leave is over.  The outside world beckons.
Before we get to tips on transitioning and job hunting if you left the business world all together to bring baby home, I want to do a little “expectations management”.  There are a few truths about returning to work that are almost universal, and preparing yourself ahead of time will hopefully help you navigate them with a bit more sanity.

  1. You will cry.  It might not be your first day back.  It might not be your second.  You may think you are an ironclad fortress of professionalism, but when your sweet cherub is in the hands of someone else… even your own mother… you will find yourself ducking to the bathroom at some point in that first week and choking back sobs.  Mommy Mentor Advice: Just let it flow.  Make sure your handbag is stocked with tissue, an ice pack and a bottle of eucalyptus oil that week.  Use the ice pack to ease the swelling around your eyes when the waterworks have stalled, and just wave the oil under your nose a couple of times to refresh you when you think you have yourself back under control.  Prepare for this to happen at least twice.
  2. Everyone will ask you about the baby constantly for the first week.  You will LOVE this and joyfully answer all of their questions ad nauseum.  Then, they will stop.  You will be disappointed.  Just remember – your colleagues have lives too.  Don’t forget to ask what has been going on with them since you left for your trip to Planet Baby.
  3. Your boss will give you 1 to 2 weeks to quietly adjust back into your role, but don’t expect any special treatment after that.  You are not the only parent in the office. 

If you keep these factors in mind when returning to your job (well, your OTHER job), you will find the rest of the process becomes a lot easier.

Here are some things to help make your transition into your old job a bit easier:

  • Make sure you are comfortable with the childcare you’ve chosen.  Whether it is daycare or home care, be certain that you have done your research and interviews thoroughly and that you feel confident that your baby is in good hands.  That confidence will get you through a lot of tough days.  If you have a family member who can watch your baby through your first week, that often helps to ease the emotions of the transition.
  • Have a heart to heart with your supervisor.  Yes, you should leave your personal life outside when you are in the office, but returning from having a baby is a unique situation.  Let your supervisor know that you are committed to your job, but that the first month or so will be a tough time of transition for you.  People are always thankful for honesty and are typically more empathetic when you come clean from the start.
  • Cut yourself some slack.  The pile of work that has been left for you may be ceiling-high, but remember – you are just one person now doing two full-time jobs.  It’s better to be thorough than fast.
  • Talk to your colleagues.  Do NOT hide away in your office plowing through your mounds of leftover work.  Reestablishing office relationships can be just as important as completing tasks.  Remind everyone how much they missed you.

Finding a New Job After Taking Maternity Leave

Now – if you left your job to spend the first year or so at home with your baby, getting back to work can be a bit more challenging.  Like any parent who works and also takes care of baby, you are now going to be doing two fulltime jobs.  Anyone who has ever engaged in a job search will tell you – it is a job in and of itself.

Here are a few hints to help make the search less daunting and more enjoyable:

  1. Use your contacts.  Before you get online and start sifting through job posts, ask around.  Talk to your friends, former colleagues and family members.  See if they know of any open positions for which you would be qualified.  After all, finding a job is all about whom you know.
  2. Make sure your at-home-with-baby gap is represented on your resume.  This will inform employers as to why you have been without employment for a period.  Otherwise, they make assumptions.
  3. Spruce up said resume.  While you were at home with baby, you may have stumbled upon some new strengths that you can highlight – i.e. “incredible multi-tasker” or “very organized”.  Even “cheerful through challenges”.  I mean, you DID just dive into a job you had never done before, and you’re winning!
  4. Weigh the monetary value of your return to work.  Maybe your motivation is simply that you want to hold a job again.  That’s fine.  Skip this step.  But, if you are looking for a job in order to supplement the family income, make sure you have factored in the high cost of childcare before you do so.  Sometimes, it honestly doesn’t make financial sense to return to employment and hire someone else to do what you’ve been doing.  Remember: you ARE DOING A JOB.  Raising a child is incredibly fulfilling, but it is HARD.
  5. It’s also important to consider part-time employment.  If you are fortunate enough to have a partner who can carry you and baby on his or her insurance, that is fantastic!  It may suit your schedule better to take on a job that allows you more time at home with your little one.  You may even want to consider working from home, but here’s a word of caution: you will STILL need help in this scenario.  Toddlers don’t just take care of themselves.

No matter which phase of returning to work you find yourself within, remember this: you have been doing life’s toughest, most all-encompassing, most grueling job ever since your baby was born.  If your confidence is low, bask in that knowledge. You got this.  You SO got this.  Now, go get your eyebrows done!

4 thoughts on “Back to the Grind

  1. I can’t relate to your specific experience too well as I’m a man with no kids, however I have returned to work many times from leaves of absence. I never cried the first day back, but I sure felt motivation to start other projects outside of work so that I never have to come back to work again haha. Great advice here though!

  2. Nice and essential article about the role of mother and working woman. It is difficult to get back after these emotional days with your newborn baby. I love the third point you mention, your boss can give you 1-2 week to adjust then you need to understand your responsibility in office.

    Finding the job after Maternity Leave would be difficult so if we can manage to get enough leave, I don’t suggest to quit the job.

  3. Great tips and as a mother of 3, I can say that you nailed these right on the head. This would be a good post for a new mother to read so she knows what to expect.

  4. I have not had the chance to experience anything like this, but it will happen soon enough I am sure 🙂 Thank you for the tips and giving me a bit of confidence that it will be OK!

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