The thought of returning to the office after maternity leave fills most new mums with dread.
Sure, getting back to work can provide welcome relief from the daily grind of life with a young child, but trying to juggle a career with a newborn is challenging, to say the least.
According to the Professional Association for Childcare and Early Years, nine out of 10 mums feel anxious about returning to work after having a child, with almost half saying they feel very anxious.
“With the increasing pressure on mothers to achieve the perfect work/life balance, feelings of guilt, anxiety and worry are all-consuming and separation anxiety is increasingly commonplace amongst parents and children,” says Penny Tassoni, PACEY president and early years expert.
Clearly, returning to work after maternity poses emotional conflicts – but according to Marsha Thompson, an employment solicitor at Slater and Gordon Lawyers, you need let go of guilt.
“You may feel guilty about going back to work and abandoning your little one, or you may feel guilty about wanting to go back,” says Marsha. “The reality is, going back into the workplace will be a challenge whether you’re a highly organised ‘super mum’ or a more easy going mummy.
“The only way to make the process easier is to plan ahead and mentally/physically prepare yourself for the return. Also, have a back-up plan in the event your baby or child care provider is sick.”
Another sage piece of advice is to go back to work midweek. That’ll make your first week back shorter.
It’s worth knowing, too, that if you plan to keep breastfeeding after returning to work, you’ll need to talk to your employer in advance. Ask about a clean, private room with an outlet for breast pumping.
Unsurprisingly, a common complaint among working mums is exhaustion - so get to bed early. Also, make sure your partner pitches in - after all, baby duties should be a shared responsibility.
Yes, being a working mum is all go, but you need to take care of yourself, too.
It’s no secret that when you look good you feel good, so if you put on weight during pregnancy, don’t rely on squeezing into old work clothes.
“Buy some new work outfits, why not? You deserve it,” says Marsha. “Do whatever you need to increase your self-confidence.”
Crucially, you should make the most of every moment you are not at work. So as well as keeping aside quality time for you and your baby, it’s important to have some YOU time. Just don’t feel guilty about it.
Throw on some comfy clothes, pour yourself a glass of wine, and kick back on the sofa for a box set binge. After all, you’ve earned it.