Becoming a parent can be daunting - whether it’s your first child or your third! The decision to go back to work after your maternity leave can be a challenging and emotional experience with feelings of anxiety, guilt, and uncertainty often dominating the decision-making process.
However, there are ways to make the transition back to work smoother and less overwhelming. From seeking support from family and friends to exploring flexible work arrangements, there are many ways new parents can navigate this challenging time. Ultimately, the decision to return to work postpartum is a personal one that depends on a range of factors, including financial considerations, career aspirations, and family dynamics.
With the right support and resources, however the return to work can be a positive and empowering experience for you and your family.
What’s in this article?
- What are the challenges of returning to work postpartum?
- What can you do to overcome these challenges?
- 11 Ways to make returning to work postpartum a positive experience
- What help is available to you from employers?
- Support at FDM
What are the challenges of returning to work postpartum?
Besides a range of physical, mental and emotional hurdles of motherhood, some of the other challenges for women going back to work postpartum include:
- Separation anxiety: It can be tough to leave a new baby in someone else's care, especially if you are still breastfeeding or dealing with sleepless nights. This can lead to feelings of guilt, anxiety, and sadness.
- Navigating postpartum depression: Postpartum depression is a common mental health condition that affects many new mothers and can manifest as feelings of sadness, anxiety, fatigue and irritability. These symptoms can make it very difficult to adjust to the demands of a new job or return to work after maternity leave.
- Physical recovery: Recovering from childbirth can be a slow and painful process, and returning to work too soon can exacerbate physical discomfort or lead to complications. Every woman’s experience of childbirth and recovery is unique, so it’s important to allow your body to heal and adjust to the demands of motherhood before returning to work.
- Time management: Balancing the demands of a new baby with the pressures of a demanding job can be challenging, leaving little time for self-care, exercise, or socialising. This can often leave you feeling overwhelmed and exhausted, both physically and emotionally.
- Breastfeeding: Breastfeeding mothers may struggle to find the time and privacy to pump or nurse during the workday, which can lead to discomfort, decreased milk supply, or even infection.
- Lack of support: Returning to work after having a baby can be an isolating experience, especially if you are the only new parent in your workplace or if you lack a support network of friends and family. This sense of isolation can heighten feelings of anxiety and loneliness.
- Financial pressures: The cost of childcare, reduced income during maternity leave, and the pressure to perform at work can all create significant financial stress for new parents.
What can you do to overcome these challenges?
Going back to work postpartum doesn’t have to be an unsettling experience. There are many things you can do to make the transition as smooth as possible.
11 Ways to make returning to work postpartum a positive experience
- Arrange childcare ahead of returning to work
- Consider a phased return to work
- Build a support network
- Communicate with your employer
- Use your Keep-in-Touch days
- Set clear boundaries
- Prioritise daily tasks
- Practise routines
- Dedicate some time to upskilling
- Make self-care a priority
- Be kind to yourself!
1. Arrange childcare ahead of returning to work
Starting childcare ahead of time allows you to gradually increase the amount of time your child spends away from you. It also gives your children the opportunity to become familiar with their caregivers and the childcare environment. This can help reduce separation anxiety and stress for both you and your child, making the transition back to work less daunting.
Whether you choose a private nursery or opt for a childminder, there are a range of childcare options to consider as you return to work.
2. Consider a phased return to work
Returning to work full-time can be challenging, but a phased return can make the transition smoother. A phased return to work involves gradually increasing the hours and workload over a period of time, rather than returning to full-time work immediately after maternity leave.
Going back into a working environment after extended break can also be intimidating. A phased return can give you time and space to catch up with any changes in your industry that may have occurred during your absence. You could explore some transferable skills to help you get back to work.
3. Build a support network
Seek out family, friends and colleagues for practical and emotional support. This could include help with childcare, household tasks, or just someone to talk to when you’re feeling overwhelmed. It’s crucial to have a support network to turn to if you’re dealing with postnatal depression after returning to work.
One way to build a support network is to connect with other new parents who are going through similar experiences. Join local parent groups or parenting forums to meet other new parents to exchange ideas and advice. Alternatively, try reaching out to colleagues who are parents, as this can provide a sense of camaraderie and mutual support. Remember, don’t be afraid to ask for help when you need it!
4. Communicate with your employer
It’s important to communicate your expectations and boundaries to your employer when going back to work. For example, if you need to leave work early to pick up your child from nursery, make sure to inform your employer in advance. This will avoid creating conflicts between your work and parental responsibilities and help you maintain a healthy work-life balance.
5. Use your keep-in-touch (KIT) days
It’s completely normal to feel anxious about reintegrating into the workplace after your maternity leave. Using your keep-in-touch days is a good opportunity to check in with your colleagues and getting updated on any chances or new developments within the team and company.
Use your keep-in-touch days to attend team meetings, training sessions or social events and gradually ease yourself back into the work environment and start to rebuild relationships with your colleagues. You can also use this time to discuss your needs and limitations with your employer and find ways to make your return to work as smooth as possible.
Are you nervous about returning to work postpartum? Learn more about the parenting skills that make you better at your job.
6. Set clear boundaries
Juggling the demands of work and family can be hard, but setting clear boundaries helps you maintain a healthy work-life balance and prevent burnout. For example, you may decide not to check work emails or take calls after a certain time in the evening to prioritise your family.
It’s also important to be realistic about what you can and cannot handle at work. Acknowledge that your priorities and capacity may have shifted since becoming a parent. Setting boundaries can help you manage your workload and expectations in a way that is sustainable for you, your employer and your family.
7. Prioritise daily tasks
Prioritise tasks to focus on the most critical items on your to-do list. These are tasks that need to be done right away and have a significant impact on your work or personal life. Break down large tasks into smaller parts that are easier to tackle without getting stressed or overwhelmed.
Prioritising your daily tasks not only helps you manage your workload but also provides a sense of accomplishment to keep you motivated.
8. Practise routines
To manage your time more effectively and balance your work, family, and other commitments, it's important to establish a set of routines that work for you. By planning your days and weeks in advance, you can ensure that you have enough time for everything you need to do, without feeling overwhelmed or stressed.
9. Dedicate some time to upskilling
After a period of maternity leave, it's common to experience a gap in your professional skills. Upskilling can help you bridge that gap and ensure that you're up-to-date with tech and industry trends, making you a more valuable employee.
There are many ways to upskill, depending on your industry and career goals - from attending conferences and training programmes to enrolling in online courses and certifications. You could also ask your employer about any professional development opportunities within your organisation. By upskilling, you can demonstrate your commitment to your profession and your willingness to learn and grow.
10. Make self-care a priority
It’s easy to get caught up in the demands of work and family and neglect your own well-being. However, taking care of yourself is crucial for maintaining your energy levels, health and productivity.
Self-care can take many forms, and it's important to find activities that fit your schedule and lifestyle. This may include exercise, meditation, spending time with loved ones, pursuing hobbies, or simply taking some quiet time to yourself. Find activities that bring you joy and make time for them regularly. You’ll feel recharged and empowered to manage the challenges of returning to work postpartum.
11. Be kind to yourself!
Take the pressure off yourself and remember that it's okay to ask for help and to make mistakes. Being kind to yourself is an essential part of managing the challenges of returning to work postpartum. Celebrate your successes, no matter how small they may seem! Recognise the progress you are making, and take time to appreciate the moments of joy and connection that you experience along the way.
What help is available to you from employers?
If you are concerned about returning to work postpartum, it's important to speak to your employer as they may be able to provide support during the transition. Here are a few examples of the types of help that employers can offer:
- Family-friendly policies: Employers may offer family-friendly policies such as parental leave, unpaid leave, or childcare vouchers. These policies can provide new parents with the time and resources they need to manage their family responsibilities.
- Employee assistance programs: Some employers offer employee assistance programs that provide confidential counselling, support, and advice to employees and their families. This can be particularly helpful for new parents who may be dealing with stress or other challenges.
- Childcare support: Employers may provide childcare support such as on-site childcare facilities or subsidies for external childcare providers. This can help alleviate the financial and logistical challenges of finding childcare.
- Training and development: Employers may provide training and development opportunities to help new parents refresh their skills and stay up-to-date with industry trends. This can help new parents feel confident and valued in their roles.
Support at FDM
FDM is committed to supporting its employees in every way possible, recognising the unique challenges and opportunities that come with this transition. By providing access to our Care Network, FDM promotes a work environment where everyone feels supported, including those returning to work after maternity leave. We help our employees successfully balance their work and family responsibilities while thriving in their careers.