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The work/life balancing act! Returning to work after maternity/paternity

by Abigail Day | 7 November 2018

Going on maternity leave is one of the most exciting and exhilarating experiences a new parent will ever go through! Having all the time in the world with your new born child, watching them grow and being there for them all the time is a truly memorable and rewarding experience. However, for most of us that time needs to come to an end at some point. That time for me came a few months ago and deciding the right time to return has been one of the most challenging decisions of my career to date.

No one tells you how difficult going back to work will be after having a child. On the one hand I was looking forward to getting back to the career I have built for myself over the past 15 years, and on the other hand I felt apprehensive about Jack settling in at nursery and adapting to this new way of life. Luckily, I work for an organisation that has a great deal of experience with new mums and they made my return to work, and my return to work as easy as it could be. I can imagine the whole experience to be very different at an organisation that may not be as supportive.

The important thing I realised when making my decision of when to come back to work was not to rush it. Parents who return to work too soon will only resent their job which is not a healthy situation to be in. One of the toughest decision for me was what nursery to send Jack to, and worrying about how he would be in a new and strange environment. It took me a long time to find a nursery that I was happy with, and it wasn’t until the eleventh hour that I found somewhere I knew he would enjoy. It is very important to find a nursey that you are 100 percent comfortable with as this made my return much easier.

I imagine that parents who do not find a nursery they are totally comfortable with, or who jump straight back into their regular working day-to-day will resent their workplace even more. You need to be able to concentrate at work, and spark the right balance between your home life and your work life – which I know is much easier said than done. My advice for anyone struggling with this decision is to do keep in touch with your employer through keep in touch days and phase your return rather than jumping back into the deep end. Work with your employer and decide on a phased return to work scheme that is suitable for you. I would advise any new working mums to make good use of staying in touch days as these really helped me to keep on top of what was going on and get back up to speed. Keeping in touch regularly, and ensuring detailed handovers are in place will really help you plan your return, set realistic expectations and ensure you are not putting too much pressure on yourself. It may also be beneficial to buddy up with people that have had or are going through a similar experience. Getting advice from other women can really help make decisions that bit easier.

That being said, the most important thing about a return to work is figuring out the right balance for you. When you are in work, you should try to fully concentrate on work, and when you leave the office leave your work at the door. I know this will be really challenging for a lot of professionals, especially those in high stress careers, however it is vitally important. New parents need to be brave and ask for the flexibility they need to make work/life balance work for both parties. Be prepared to give something back to your employer in return for what they give to you, and make sure that you make a good business case for working flexibly.

Most employers will be accommodating, so remember to always ask for help if you feel that you need it. The quicker you feel secure and comfortable being back at work, the more productive you will become and your employer should be aware of this. I would therefore advise you to work with your manager to ensure you are both doing all you can to make your return to work as seamless and stressless as possible. Most important of all, both employees and employers should remember that working out a solution is what everyone wants, so putting the time and effort in to do so, from both parties, is worth the effort.

I think the most important aspect of all of this is to have a very clear plan. This is something I wish I had done a little bit better. Planning your return to work is just as important as getting back into it, so ensure you work with your employer to make the process as easy as possible.

If you would like any more advice on how to navigate your return to work feel free to get in touch by emailing me at abigail.day@sellickpartnership.co.uk, alternatively you can check out our candidate resources section for more top tips on finding your next role.