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Tips For A Successful Returning To Work After Maternity Leave

Tips For A Successful Returning To Work After Maternity Leave

For over 25 years, I have worked in recruitment, and for the last eight years, I have worked specifically on supporting new mothers on their work transition back into work after maternity leave or a long-term career break with children. We are always adding and improving our advice on the return to work plan for maternity returners.

While I won’t lie to you and say the road is smooth and clear, as you approach your return date, especially for new moms. There is however a lot you can do to put the odds in your favour and get yourself ahead of the curve. Your network will be your best friend for your career ambitions, and you have so much time ahead to carve the future you want for yourself and your family. I hope this article helps you get there a little faster and avoid a few of those potholes on the way.

We surveyed over 1k mid to senior women returning to work within 12 months of maternity leave.

  • Only 18% of maternity returners felt happy and confident about work – having seen how previous maternity returners had been dealt with by their employer.
  • 37% felt so unsupported and isolated on their return that they wanted to leave.
  • Just 17% felt they received good communication and support through the maternity process.
  • 90% said no returner support was offered through returner programmes or one to one coaching – yet 92% said a dedicated returner programme could have been beneficial.
  • 60% were worried about their requests for flexible working being rejected, and 68% had concerns about the cost of childcare when going back to work.

Return To Work Top Tips For Success

As the calendar flips back to the world of work, and you are approaching the end of maternity leave, the prospect of bidding farewell to your precious new baby is a hard time for any new mom. The first day, the first week and months… it’s all a whirlwind of daunting “firsts” for new parents, sometimes with new priorities regarding their careers.

Yet, amidst these emotions, there lies a secret: you can find your rhythm and dance in this new routine. It’s not about adhering to the beat of someone else’s drum; it’s about composing your symphony. Stumbling is inevitable in the early days, but knowing what resonates with you can help fast-track your journey. Allow me to take you through the essentials.

What does success look like to you?

It is a seemingly simple question that holds the most important details of your happiness. 

I worked with a highly successful woman who was fast-tracked to a board role. Upon her return to work, her goals had shifted for her, and she wanted to spend more time with her baby and had the financials to do so. However, she was so unhappy as she had gone back to work full time as the pressure and expectations from those around her were to continue down this path as it was such an opportunity for career success, and she had done so well and held such a senior position.

But success for her was being at home with her baby for another year. By going with everyone else’s expectations, she found herself so unhappy. Once she realigned her goals and needs, she found the perfect route for her return. On the flip side, I worked with a lady who decided that she wanted to accelerate her career after her new baby. Everyone’s goals are different; everything is correct if you are working towards your idea of success and not someone else’s idea of what your success should look like.

It holds the key to your happiness and your children’s as only when you feel fulfilled and working towards your goals will you be happiest for you and your children. Before that tête-à-tête with your manager or HR, recognize the shift in your new situation.

Having a starting point is essential. Discern what’s non-negotiable, what you won’t compromise on, because this is about you and you alone, not others’ views or needs of you.

Once you have drawn up your career plan and requirements, list them for negotiable and non-negotiable so it helps you understand what you can negotiate on and what’s a no for you for the right work-life balance.

Once you have this look at the financials, what do you realistically need to bring in for financial security? Flexibility and compromise are essential but know what you can compromise and what you won’t. This makes a back-to-work meeting much more successful and more likely to get it right the first time.

Speak With Your Partner

After you have taken a moment to rediscover the facets that define you as above — a professional, a mother, a partner. What holds sway now in this newfound landscape? Engage your partner and family with your plan. This is a shared journey of evolving needs, and having this conversation with your partner allows you to set your needs and enable them to discuss their needs and if their goal has shifted.

You are a family unit and need to work as such. One person should never feel like they are sacrificing too much, and both of you must feel supported in your goals. Once in sync, extend this conversation to your family, which helps build a support network towards these goals.

Choose Your Childcare 

This is often the most challenging part of the transition for many women when returning to part-time or full-time work especially if flexible hours are not available in this new schedule. This is not your burden to carry alone; you should look at incomes and ensure both pay the same percentage of your wages towards childcare.

Depending on your needs, from nanny to daycare or family, you must feel 100% confident and happy in your choice during this emotional time. Ensure you also discuss everything from pick-up for sick children to childcare drop-off and pick-up. Make sure you are both on the same page with these essential items.

But beware, for the realm of germs awaits with nursery and a backup child care plan for those unforeseen 48-hour bans is a must.

The dynamics may shift with the addition of more little ones; costs and hours are variables. Even if a family member lends a helping hand, it’s a good idea for you both to talk so you can set boundaries. Swiftly securing this partnership alleviates any potential issues ahead when your family is also your childcare provider. 

Build Your Business Network After Your Maternity Return

The professional landscape can feel like the sands shifting in the wind during your time away. Swift reintegration into your network is imperative for helping you succeed and open doors again and regular check-ins with your new network will be well rewarded. Seek your tribe not just career advancement but insights, connections, and a wellspring of support, putting a simple note on LinkedIn that your back from maternity leave and looking to reconnect can bring a wealth of support and new connections.

Put time and effort into your network and you will reap the rewards not just professionally but in a great new friend base as well. A fortified network comprises allies who furnish advice, feedback, and open doors in your return.

Cut Yourself Some Slack On Your Return And Be Your Biggest Supporter

This juncture heralds a storm of emotions, some sleep-deprivation-induced. Each journey is unique, with emotions unfurling in unexpected ways. Please tune in to your needs, acknowledging them without granting undue faith to the inner critic. This transition is colossal, physically and emotionally. Grant yourself grace; you possess the wherewithal to navigate this new course. You did this once and you can certainly do it again and more, as they say you got this! 

Flexible Working Request

A rigid schedule may not align with your current reality and make you feel a long way away from your goals. Engage your HR department or line manager in a dialogue about flexible work schedules; adaptability could be the key to your new rhythm and time management will certainly be your friend. Consider part-time options and explore job-sharing opportunities; maybe you are still ready to return to work. If the prospect of returning to work feels premature, explore options for extended leave or modified schedules like a gradual return.

If It’s Time To Move On

If your employer’s needs are not aligned with yours, or your own needs have outgrown your employer’s, it’s not a failure to look elsewhere to find the right career path that defines success for you. Failure is staying in the same situation is the hardest part, knowing you are not moving toward your goals.

I hope this article has helped you if you’re approaching the end of your maternity leave and offered some new ways to approach your return to work. Its an exciting time with a great future ahead just makes sure it is you who is shaping the future and you’re not following someone else’s idea of what success is like.