Looking to return to work after maternity leave?
No matter how much time you’ve taken off, getting back into work after mat leave isn’t always easy. Not only do you need to catch up on the work you’ve missed during your break, you also have to fit your family commitments around your schedule – not to mention find the right work/life balance.
We spoke to Susanna Quirke at Inspiring Interns, who gave us some of her top tips to help you make the transition from full-time motherhood to working mum:
1. Maximise your support network
Need a helping hand when times get tough?
Even outside of your own group of friends, there are plenty of ways to find a ‘buddy’ to call at the end of a long day. And often, these lifelines can be a vital way to let you know that you’re not alone.
Pip Hulbert of Wunderman UK explains: ‘Buddies are responsible for holding monthly meetings with the new mum, making themselves available, and are always open to discussing both agency and personal issues.’
And even if the idea of offloading your problems onto a stranger seems odd at first, you might find comfort in support groups. You can find both on the Parents Support Group website, for free.
2. Sort out your childcare
Childcare can be expensive but, if you’re working, it’s a necessary evil. To find a service near you, try websites like Childcare.co.uk.
Remember to ask questions. You need to make sure that your childcare provider is somebody you can trust, who will care for your children in the way you would yourself. What do they feed the kids? What are their sleep times? What do they read to them?
Finding the right person will ensure you spend less time worrying, greatly reducing your stress at work and allowing you to concentrate on the job at hand.
Short on cash? You might be eligible for childcare support. Check out the latest government guidelines.
3. Don’t underestimate your skills
Many mothers returning to work after an absence fear they’ve lost ‘the knack’. Remember: if you could do it before, you can do it now.
In fact, motherhood could actually have made you an even better worker. You have new skills now, such as an increased awareness of public services, greater patience/compassion, and even a better understanding of the younger generation.
Don’t be afraid to use your newfound attributes to your advantage – whether it’s in an interview situation, or discussions with your manager.
4. Consider flexible working
If you’re going back to work in a job you already hold, you could think about asking for flexible hours.
Flexible work doesn’t necessarily mean part-time. You could compress a full-time five-day week into four, arrange a delayed start/finish to your day in order to drop your children at school, or even work from home as part of your role.
If you’re interviewing, there’s no need to ask for flexible hours at the application stage. Instead, ask indirect questions about contracted hours, and whether any employees currently work flexibly. Then, if you’re offered the job, or have been working for a few months, make your requests.
If you’re still having issues, Workingmums.co.uk aims to work with employers who are receptive to working mothers’ needs.
5. Be kind to yourself
OK, so you’re the same person you were before you had your children – but there may be some differences when you come back after mat leave.
You may be temporarily weaker, and caring for children on top of a full-time job is hard at the best of times. It might also take a little time to get back up-to-speed.
But however you’re feeling, always make sure to put aside time for yourself every day. It might be your commute, or a tea after the children have gone to bed. It might just be ensuring you’re getting to bed a bit earlier, or splitting daily chores with your partner, if you have one.
Finally, always make sure you know your rights. Make sure that you’re claiming all the help you’re entitled to. This might include Child Tax Credit, Working Tax Credit and free childcare for three- and four-year-olds.
Remember: you’re a mother now. If you can handle a 6-month-old in a strop, you can handle anything.
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Inspiring Interns is the UK’s leading graduate recruitment agency, which specialises in sourcing candidates for internships in London. If you’re interested in starting your career journey, take a look at their graduate jobs and internships today.
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