Returning to work tips

Are you about to return to work and worrying yourself silly about managing the whole parenting-plus-work scenario? Check out our advice for the bumpy first few weeks

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First things first - if it's not you who's looking after your beloved child during the day, then who is it? Getting this sorted is key to the rest of the returning-to-work process.

  • Book your childcare early ie when you've plenty of time to look round properly and find a creche/childminder etc you're happy with, rather than rushing desperately because you're due to clock back in the next day.
  • Back-up plans for childcare are crucial.
  • And I would suggest plans C and D for childcare as well a plan B, frankly. In our case, plans C and D were NCT class members who lived nearby and worked part time.
  • We had to fly my father-in-law out from Canada to cover three weeks of childcare while we hired a nanny. It may seem insurmountable, but it's worth trying. Again, hiring our nanny was word of mouth too - I literally asked everyone I could think of and ended up with a brilliant nanny who was a friend of a friend.
  • Arranging your normal everyday childcare for when everything is going fine is easy (though expensive). The hard bit is sorting out your back-up childcare for when the child is ill, or the childminder is sick, or something comes up at work so you suddenly have to work extra hours or go on a long trip.

Domestic science

If you're still in your PJs when the PM programme starts, then Mumsnetters recommend the following so that the change of gear to working life routine isn't too grinding:

  • Get lunches, clothes and bags for you and DC sorted every evening. Do all your ironing for work clothes in the week at week ends. Lots of lists - what to do at home, eat for tea, food to buy, do at work. Set an alarm on mobile phone half an hour and fifteen mins before you have to leave. Internet shopping for everything! Slow cooker. Don't be houseproud.
  • Create a housekeeping schedule so that it is all done during the week and you don't spend your weekends cleaning the bathroom etc.
  • Food: and God said let there be internet supermarket shopping that is delivered. And lo, the grocery shop was delivered, and She saw that it was good. ESSENTIAL. Ditto meal planning, or at least having a damn good idea of what's for tea without flapping. Cleaning: basic only. Depends how housetrained your other half is. Keep the bathroom/kitchen cleanish to keep cholera at bay, but don't worry beyond that.




Countdown to your first day back

These Mumsnet-approved ploys will ensure you're physically and mentally ready for the Big Day:

  • Try on your work outfits and make sure you have tights, shoe polish and accessories. Make sure everything still fits, or invest in some new basics if you are not the shape you were when working before.
  • If possible, have a couple of days with the baby in childcare before you go back so you can deal with your emotion of leaving them before you also have to deal with work.
  • Lists, batches, online shopping, night-before planning.
  • A few people I know used their accrued holiday so did a few days a week and built up to full time (this really helps as I felt done-in for first couple of months going back to work).

Once you're back at work

Even the blithest of spirits can find being back at work a little disorientating (not helped by panic-stricken moments of wondering where you've left your baby) but all is not lost (including your baby):

  • If you feel like crap on day one - honestly, things will improve. Your baby will be just fine, as long as you're happy with the childcare you've arranged. It's you who will need to adjust. So be kind to yourself. And enjoy going to the loo in peace.
  • Be prepared for the fact that you'll feel like you've done a day's work before you even get to work.
  • If you do not get back into the swing with colleagues, keep an open mind and discuss it. Just like when interviewing, make sure that your bosses know what it is that makes you so valuable to them. Ensure they get reminded of it often (especially if you choose to ask for part-time working). It is very difficult to cope with a job and a baby if the baby is not sleeping well. You may want to delay returning (or you may want to Google for advice).
  • Enjoy the wonder of being able to drink a cup of coffee at work, without being disturbed by someone who need to go to the toilet, and make a list of all the good points about working e.g. seeing your dc's faces light up when you pick them up.
  • When women in my team come back from maternity leave, I send them on an update course (we are lawyers) so they know what has changed, and also that they have forgotten less than they feared.

Resign yourself to the fact that frequently one of you is going to be sick...

  • Think through all illness scenarios so you're covered - what if you're ill, DC is ill, childminder is ill, etc. Do not underestimate how many bugs your toddler can pick up from childcare - in a year I used pretty much all my annual leave up on caring for a poorly son.
  • Find out what your manager's attitude is to taking time off if your child is sick and is bounced from the creche. I went back to a different manager and ended up with the union and HR involved. I've since gone part-time and changed back to my pre-maternity leave manager and she has a completely different attitude (so far!).

...or tired

  • You are going to be tired. Accept this. You are also going to catch everything DC brings home, so if you're not looking after a sick child you're feeling pants yourself. And as a mummy, you have to keep going...

Family matters

All for one, and one for all is the Musketeers' Mumsnetters' mantra:

  • Juggling family and work is the job of both parents - not just the mum. It's a whole package (even if you're not with the dad anymore) that both parents need to discuss together: agreeing on what you both want for your kids, yourselves, the state of your house, your finances, and then working out the best way both of you can contribute to that. Men can be stay-at-home parents, can work part-time, pick kids up from nursery/childminder/school, too. Viewing the while thing as a team effort is crucial.
  • The most important things are prioritising family time at weekends, remembering that 'No' is a complete sentence, and refusing to feel guilty about anything. Pare your (and I mean both parents) life down to your family and work and concentrate on the two and making it all work, and then add in sport/clubs/volunteering/socialising slowly to stop you getting overloaded.
  • Talk to your DH about how you will share responsibilitites. I could not do my job if my DH was not flexible and prepared to do as much at home as me. Try to separate work and life. I am really strict about finishing work on time and not taking calls etc when I am with the kids. If you do it, people will expect it of you. My colleagues now know that if they call me after 5pm I won't answer, so they don't bother.
  • If you've always been the one to do everything, then you can't expect your partner to mind read what needs doing. Passive aggressive sighing when the dishwasher isn't emptied doesn't help anyone, as I learned the hard way.
  • If you're good at organising, then organise your DP to take an equal share in making the whole parenting/working thing work.

And finally...

It's a big deal adjusting to being back at work, particularly after your first child, so if you're finding it all a bit challenging, chin up - your fellow Mumsnetters have pearls of worked-through wisdom:

  • I agree with the others who've said they've got better at delegation, lists etc. I've never been so efficient.
  • Focus on the positives - possibly being able to afford a holiday this year, being in work means I spend less money - me and DD now cherish my time off and plan to do lovely things together.
  • Don't talk about work all the time at home and (probably more important) don't talk about your kids all the time at work.
  • Use your lunch break to get some time to yourself.
  • You have to let certain things go - I never ever stay after work for drinks, rarely volunteer for extra stuff unless I know I can accommodate it easily, and have decided that the position I am now at will be as far as I go, promotion-wise. You do have to make compromises.
  • Don't feel too guilty; there's nothing wrong with you if you cannot face staying at home with your offspring 24/7 and want/need to work to stay sane (as well as for the filthy lucre).
  • Things will never be the same again. That doesn't mean it's a bad thing, it just means you might have to think differently about a problem. 

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Last updated: 2 months ago