How to navigate the return to work after maternity leave

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How to navigate the return to work after maternity leave

The narrative we, as mothers, often hear through the media about the return to work after maternity leave is not always a positive one. The reality is that although it is tough in a lot of ways, it is also a special and exciting time. There are ways to overcome everything you need to, so that you can thrive, be the best mother to your children and the most wonderful employee in your workplace. 

There is a lot to navigate when you have a baby, as a first time mom or not. Returning to work does not need to be daunting, it’s an excellent way to get back into the swing of things and it gives you a little bit of space to focus on your career and yourself. 

Below we share some of our top tips for how to navigate this re-entry into the workplace. 

Determine what you can and can’t control

One of the biggest lessons some of us learn when we become mothers is which areas of life we can control, and which areas of life we have no control over. The quicker we come to grips with the things we can control and release the things that we can’t control the more resilient we can become as working parents. Having children can be challenging because we don’t always know what’s coming or how to cope. Having an understanding of your circles of control and influence (see Covey’s graph below) can make a big difference to how you respond to everything in life. This concept is taken from the book by Stephen Covey called the 7 Habits of Highly Effective People.

Source: 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, Stephen Covey

Adjust your thoughts and attitudes 

The stories we tell ourselves and the thoughts we have can change our whole perception of life. When you take charge of your thought processes and patterns, you take charge of how you respond to the things that happen around you. Your thoughts and your attitudes towards work, family and everyday life are within your control according to Stephen Covey’s graph in the previous section, which means that you have the ability to change them for the better. Here are some ideas for how you can do that:

  • Recognise that you are not perfect, and take the pressure off. Be kind to yourself and let yourself off the hook. We are all human, and it’s good to take one small step at a time. 

  • Identify and reconceptualise your thought patterns - this is a very insightful set of practical steps from Dr. Caroline Leaf, a cognitive and metacognitive neuropsychologist. The essence of it is that we can change the way we think, and avoid going down negative spirals. If you’re someone who overthinks, then this will be music to your ears. Read more here. 

  • An attitude is something that you choose as a response to a situation. When we have well rehearsed attitude responses to certain situations then that becomes our ‘normal.’ The wonderful thing is that your attitude can change, and you have the capacity to respond to things however you want to. When you catch yourself in a negative reaction, or you’re thinking doom and gloom thoughts about life, then take time to notice it and choose something more positive to dwell on. Think about things you are grateful for and write them down. Gratitude is an antidote to a negative attitude and will remind you of the good things in life. 

Get practical after maternity leave

There is a lot to manage during and after your maternity leave. With a whole new person added into your lifestyle, new dynamics are a reality. The best way to navigate this time is to become as practical as you can be with the things you can control. Here are some ideas for how you can do this: 

  • Plan, plan, plan: planning can be challenging because you aren’t always sure what’s going to happen, especially when you have children. There is, however, a measure to which you can plan and get your kids into a bit of a routine. The sooner you find what works for your unique household, the better. 

  • Use helpful apps to keep track: Use your phone or desk calendar to track events so that you can always remember important dates and when certain things happen (such as visits to your doctor or baby milestones). Download helpful baby apps to track your baby schedule and to view milestones and growth spurt information such as the Wonder Weeks App and a baby tracker app which tracks nursing, feeding, sleep, medication and more for new babies. These tools will help you save some headspace for other things without having to try and remember when you last gave your kid some baby panado or telament drops. You can also track your own milestones after pregnancy, such as when you have your first cycle, or how you are feeling, apps like Flo are great for this. 

  • Schedule in the important things: showering, self-care, time alone, date night, sleep, meals and meal preparation for the baby and for you and your partner. These are some of the important things, you may have others that you particularly want to prioritise, schedule the time in for these things so that you don’t miss out on what you need to do in order to function.

  • Be flexible: flexibility is a great resource for a working mom, which is why, at RecruitMyMom, we stand for flexible work environments for mothers. Life does happen, and sometimes our plans do not work out as we’d like them to. Be ready to be flexible while keeping hold of what you can control - this is where resilience and an ability to bounce back becomes essential. 

Develop a strong support system

They say it takes a village to raise a child, and this couldn’t be more true. As a working parent, you rely on your village so that you are able to do what you need to do to bring in provision and express your talents and skills through your career. Lean on your parents, local friends or community members, the women who look after your kids at a creche or playschool or if you’re honoured to have employed a house nanny. Appreciate these people around you and allow their help to bring peace of mind. 

It’s also important to make sure that you, as a mother, have your own support network of friends, community members, mentors and even colleagues who are able to encourage you and remind you of how amazing you are. 

Remember, you are made for this!

There’s an inherent new strength that comes from being a mother, a new set of skills and abilities that we never thought we would have. We have seen time and time again, how the soft skills and EQ (emotional intelligence) that mothers have is an asset to any workplace.

Being a working mother is exhilarating, emotional, empowering and fulfilling all at the same time as it’s tough and brings you to the end of yourself. Being a mother is what makes you extraordinary in every facet of who you are. When you add your career into that, it’s altogether impossible, and yet somehow completely possible! We love this quote from Tina Fey:

“I think every working mom goes through the same thing: you go through big chunks of time where you’re just thinking ‘this is impossible - this is impossible!’ And then you keep going, and you sort of do the impossible.”

Today it’s your turn to believe in the power of your dreams, to say to yourself, “I can do all that I need to do” and then to do it. We believe in you, and we want to remind you that you are extraordinary. 

If you have any thoughts or inspiration to share with other moms, please use our hashtag #extraordinarymoms and tag @RecruitMyMom in your posts on Facebook and Instagram. Let’s build each other up and share a narrative of hope and encouragement, we’d love to connect with you.