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Mumsnet users share their tips on returning to work after maternity leave

277 replies

EllieMumsnet · 19/09/2018 12:08

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Returning to work after being on maternity leave can be both exciting as well as a little daunting. Some go back into the job they were in before having a child, whereas others look for a new job that may be a little more family friendly. Whether you realise it in the moment or not, becoming a parent can teach you lots of skills (or improve the ones you had already such as multi-tasking) that will make your return to work feel much smoother. That’s why Whitbread would love to hear all your tips for returning back to work after maternity leave and especially the skills you learnt whilst on maternity leave that helped you return back to work

Here's what Whitbread have to say: "They say if you can’t stand the heat, you should get out of the kitchen. But for those of us who have a real passion for food? Well, that becomes a bit tricky. It’s true that balancing life as a professional chef can be difficult sometimes – particularly as a working parent. But here at Whitbread, the amazing teams, flexibility and the buzz of a busy service makes this the only place we want to be. With a huge number of working parents in our team, we know the huge value the additional skills and qualities developed through raising children can bring to our workplace."

Did you find that easing back in part time really helped you find the balance between work and parenting? Maybe your new ability to get a multitude of things done in the short time your baby naps for, helped your time management skills at work? What about your ability to cope under pressure and/or lack of sleep...if you can sit through a crying baby, you can get through that 2-hour meeting at work right? Or maybe you found that throwing yourself in the deep end was the best way you coped with returning to work?

Whatever your tips and the skills you learnt are, share them on the thread below and you’ll be entered into a prize draw where one MNer will win a £300 voucher of their choice (from a list).

Thanks and good luck!

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Mumsnet users share their tips on returning to work after maternity leave
OP posts:
BristolMum96 · 19/09/2018 12:29

Going back part time helped. I didn't feel so guilty about leaving my baby every day. The fact she is looked after by my mum whilst I'm at work helps, as I know she's fully safe and gets 1 to 1 attention. But I am aware this is fortunate and not an available situation to most. I think I would've struggled a lot to send her to nursery at 9 months.

Verbena87 · 19/09/2018 14:19

Going back part time has really helped.

I also find it easier to be direct and to prioritise - I have far fewer spare fucks to give, much lower tolerance for unnecessary faffing about, an a vastly increased sense of the value of my time. That’s quite nice, and I think I probably get more done and am less likely to be treated as a doormat as a result.

Batch cooking when I’m off, or cooking double quantities so we have 2 nights dinner sorted is a big help, as is doing big batches of Bircher muesli/overnight oats for ready-made breakfasts.

Using my commute as a bit of peace rather than a waste of time is lovely - good podcasts and a travel mug of really good coffee and settle into not having to be ‘on duty’ for baby or boss is a real pleasure.

RockinRobinTweets · 19/09/2018 14:42

We both went part time in the end. It definitely helped and the work/life balance is great.

Actually returning was daunting. Would they have preferred my maternity cover? Could my brain still function? It took time to build up to managing my work well again but I got there in the end and my employer was understanding.

Going back was good - great to see adults in the day but lots to look forward to in the evenings too.

You do have to find a few dinners that don’t take too much time or attention. There will be nights when you get in and have to put the kids to bed before you can sit down for dinner - plenty more opportunity to get hangry.

At the weekend, one parent takes the kids out whilst the other cleans in peace. Food shopping is often done in the evening when the other is doing bedtime.

Once you get to the weekend, you get Wine to celebrate surviving! It can be tiring but you can be happy and tired at the same time.

Moose23ishungry · 19/09/2018 14:56

I have found that using my KIT days has made it easier to feel connected to the team and stay on top of news and changes within it. It really made it feel like I hadn't missed anything.

I am returning full time because if I work part time then it's just delaying my retirement! I'm putting away as much as possible now, with a view to being able to retire at 50.

We have had some help with childcare for the first four months of me working, so he will go to his grandparents twice per week, and at four months in, he will be in nursery full time.

asuwere · 19/09/2018 14:58

I've returned 4 times (after each DC) and I would say the most important thing is to be completely happy and trusting of whatever/whoever childcare you have in place as it means you don't have the added worry of whether DC is OK. :)

Asteve15 · 19/09/2018 14:59

I was so worried about returning to work after maternity leave and it was something that I was constantly panicking about for at least a few months on the run up to the return.

One thing that helped was using some of my annual leave so that for the first week I only did half days at work and then the second week I alternated a full day at work and a day on annual leave. This helped to ease getting back into work, as well as being separated from my girl for the first real time. I have also dropped 3 hours and compressed the rest so that I can have an additional day off but not lose too much of my wages. The additional hour isn't too bad, as I only have a really short lunch and I treasure the extra day off a week and the time spent with DD. It makes a working week, away from he much more bearable.

It is a huge shock to the system at first, with my constant panicking before hand everyone would say it'll be hard but you'll get used to it and I hate to say I kind of have, though I literally run out of the door at the end of the day to get back to her.

One of the things being on maternity and being a new mum has helped me to do is not to take work home, (mentally or physically) if something doesn't get done, it doesn't get done and I care a lot less about that now than I did before. Don't get me wrong I still take pride in my work and do it to the best I can but when I get home my time is for my little one and not for worrying about what happened or didn't happen at work.

Batch cooking, if you can, is also a big help - last thing you want is to spend time cooking when you could be enjoying cuddles.

treegone · 19/09/2018 15:24

For my own sanity and to not have my wages go entirely on childcare (x 3) I decided to leave teaching and find work I could do at the weekend and nights. I earn significantly less but because I look after kids in the week and dh looks after them at the weekend we have no child care outgoings. It wouldn’t suit everyone but works for us. I like that I have been able to find work to fit my family rather than having to adapt my family to my work. He job I do is easy, (just as well as I still have porridge brain thanks to no sleep) and I don’t have to take anything home.
I don’t think I’ve got any more skilful at stuff just because I have children, I didn’t have a problem with organising etc anyway, but I am more protective of myself in that I am emotionally and mentally at full stretch with looking after 3 small children and I know absolutely I cannot cope with work stress, problems or have it use any of me up. If I’d stayed in teaching I would be off sick I’m sure of it!

ailsasheldon · 19/09/2018 15:26

I was happy to go back to working full time when my daughter and twins were 4 months old. I was worried about forgetting the knowledge I needed for work and found looking after small children really stressful. I hope it gave me the time out I needed to be a better parent. Working is certainly easier than looking after kids.

Mummymummums · 19/09/2018 15:59

Going back part time and flexibly was brilliant. As is having a flexible employer. Knowing I can take time off for special events means the world and I don't feel I'm missing out.
In my line of work being a parent has helped me empathise better with some clients.

SlipperyLizard · 19/09/2018 16:37

We both went part time, and were really lucky to have my mum help with childcare.

You definitely become more efficient when spending hours in the office is no longer an option!

cranberryx · 19/09/2018 17:26

I went back full time, straight away.
It was daunting and frankly quite scary because my managers hadn't kept in contact with me at all during my entire year of mat leave.

I think that the run up to coming back from maternity leave is more important than your first days back.

I made sure that DS had a few mornings with the childminder to get him used to, and excited to go. I also had my DF and my MIL who both did a day each to help lower the costs of childcare.

My childminder was brilliant. She texted me an update every half an hour for the first week, to let me know how DS was doing. Videos and photos.

I wanted to run out of the office and go back home on the second day. I missed DS so much, but unfortunately I just had to get on with it.

ItsJustASimpleLine · 19/09/2018 18:16

The thought of going back was a million times worse then actually going back. I worried I'd be thinking of my DC the whole day but when you're busy they don't play on your mind too much in all honestly. But you're totally ready to see the end of the day. Going back part time really suited our family and allowed me that extra time with DC on my days off.

Montydoo · 19/09/2018 19:07

After taking 8 months off from a very stressful job to have my baby, I know the lack of sleep, and new routine would make concentration and doing my job as well as I had done before I left was going to be very difficult. I went to see my Line Manager who was partially sympathetic, (he thought I would be returning full time) I negotiated a part time contract.
So my tips are, have a good amount of savings as a 'cushion' be honest with yourself, your mental and physical health, and your baby's welfare. You won't be part time forever, and there are more important than money, your career can be resumed when your family is ready. You cannot have those precious years back.

RhubarbAndCustards · 19/09/2018 19:53

Going back part time saved my sanity, although I had to battle with those who believed me to be less competent and committed due to my reduced working hours!! I also gave myself a break in that I recognised I needed time to get back on track with everything. KIT days were also vital in making the return less daunting.

SillyMoomin · 19/09/2018 21:12

Making use of my KIT days, keeping in touch with colleagues on a casual basis and going back part time helped to ease it back in nicely

helterskelter99 · 19/09/2018 21:18

Trust your childcare 100% if you don’t then change it so you do
Be kind to yourself
Don’t make any massive decisions until you have been back a year, things change growth spurts come and go and life settles but it takes time
Batch cook

More2Fly · 19/09/2018 21:20

Looks like part time work is the answer! Pity so many companies don't really offer it as an option.

CMOTDibbler · 19/09/2018 21:33

For me, the biggest thing is having a very frank talk with your partner about how life is going to run - who is going to pick up/drop off at childcare, who will get baby up, pack their bag, do dinner, washing etc etc. And how 'me time' will change - when you're fitting everything in, solo stuff should take a back seat to family and couple time

del2929 · 19/09/2018 21:42

going part time initially was great but then it got to apoint it wasnt working out.

torthecatlady · 19/09/2018 22:46


Failing that... Being as organised as possible. I keep lists of everything I need to get done in a day. If it's not on the list, I will forget about it and will become 100% stressed.

thanksamillion · 19/09/2018 22:47

I was fortunate to have a great maternity package that meant that the first 8 weeks back I only had to work 3/5 of my hours so either 5 short days or 3 days a week. It definitely helped.

NeverTwerkNaked · 20/09/2018 00:12

Staying in touch with a number of colleagues definitely helped. It meant I was aware of all the various developments and changes.

Staggering the return by taking some random days of leave here and there also helped ease me back in gently. It also helped that my daughter started nursery a couple of mornings a week from a few months before i started (because I was unwell and needed a rest) so by the time I was going back to work she was already very settled


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Toadsrevisited · 20/09/2018 02:04

Be ridiculously organised and buy stuff to help. I had all DS outfits laid out in Sunday night in drawstring bags, my clothes in outfits on hangers, packed lunch sandwiches made and frozen etc. Also make one lunch break per week house stuff, online banking, bills, emails, dentist appointments etc.

qate · 20/09/2018 09:18

I ultimately had to go back after 4 months, which I thought I'd find really tough, but wasn't as bad as expected. As others have said, going back part time was a major thing for me (although I know that it's not always an option for a lot of people) - and having good lines of communication open with my boss as to what worked for us both. Flexibility also helped a lot - initially I worked 12-6 every day as this allowed me to do baby classes and groups before work; but once DS got a bit older, I switched that to 8-2, so it meant I had the whole afternoon to play with him and take him to playdates which were more beneficial at that age.

Putting him in a nursery that we liked was key for us, as we didn't have to worry about whether he was OK.

voyager50 · 20/09/2018 09:26

If you are able to do a job that offers flexible working and/or allows working from home it can really help - this makes it much easier if you have a child off sick from school or you want to get back in time for parents evening etc.

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