After giving birth to a child, you may need to make the decision to return to the workplace. Whether it’s for financial stability or a pure desire to work once more, it can be a difficult transition after spending up to 12 months on maternity leave.
Assuming you’re returning to the same employer, your employment rights are protected while you’re on statutory maternity leave, which means you’ll still accrue holiday, you’re entitled to pay rises and entitled to return to work. You can also ask your employer for flexible working hours if you’d prefer to go back part-time.
When you go back to work there’s the potential mental stress of leaving your child behind after spending a long time solely looking after them and establishing a mother-baby bond. If you’re currently breastfeeding, this throws another dilemma into the mix. Mothers breastfeed for an average of about six months, but if you return to work before weaning and can’t be there to feed, you can express your milk.
If you’re able to leave your child with your partner or a family member, top marks. This is the ideal situation as it’s free, you’re leaving your baby with someone you – and he or she – knows and trusts, and it gives you the most flexibility if you’re caught up in a meeting or stuck in traffic. Childcare is another option (Ofsted offers some useful advice for finding a childcare provider) and some workplaces offer childcare vouchers while others may have on-site child-minding facilities.
When you’re in the workplace there are further adjustments you’ll need to make to get used to 9-5 life again. Understandably, you’re going to be running on less sleep and may find it difficult to concentrate, or feel a little spaced out and groggy.
Try to schedule your most taxing tasks for the morning when your concentration levels will be at their highest. Come the afternoon you may experience a slump in focus so this time may be best used for admin and catching up with emails. If you’re able to have a power nap somewhere (in your car if need be), take the opportunity. Just 15 minutes will help you to feel refreshed and recharged. If a sneaky sleep isn’t an option, caffeine may help you to stay more alert, although it should be avoided after 4pm and approached with caution if you’re breastfeeding.
When it comes to office clothing, most high street shops and department stores now stock some great maternity options which don’t look dowdy and unflattering. They often mirror current fashion trends while helping you to stay comfortable and covering the extra baby weight. If you’re lucky enough to have lost any extra pounds, you may still need to invest in a few new wardrobe items. On this website you’ll find a range of options of office wear for women such as work blouses, smart dresses and ladies’ business suits.
If you need further information about returning to work, Working Families is a charity which helps working parents and employers to achieve a healthy work-life balance, and offers practical solutions and advice about benefits available, flexible working and more.