Making a ‘Mum-back’ to the Office – Returning to Work after Maternity Leave

…because ‘comeback’ doesn’t sound epic enough all things considering

I’m preparing to return to the office shortly. While I’m looking forward to getting back into the swing of things, the idea of being back at work is a little daunting. Making a mum-back to work is never easy after an extended period of time on maternity leave.

In this two part ‘mum-back’ series, I reflect on the things I wish I knew the first time around.

Click here to read Part 2.

You will feel guilty leaving your child

…and it will never completely go away, but it does become less intense after the first few weeks. Things can be especially hard if your child is clingy at day care drop offs and loses it when you leave leaving this gut-wrenching feeling with you until mid-morning.

I remember the guilt hitting me really hard a few days into my return to work after having my first. I called the day care centre between meetings and they reassured me that my son stopped crying after about 10 minutes and I was completely fine for the rest of the day. It’s the new norm and you have to learn to steel yourself in those initial days.

You’ll lose your style confidence

The realisation that I had “lost myself” in motherhood hit me the hardest when it came to my style. Gone was the woman who would browse through David Jones and spend her last penny on Russh magazine and full price Zimmermann. Somewhere between my second trimester and being eight months post-partum, I lost the joy that I got from fashion. My body had completely changed and my designer wardrobe no longer fit me.

This took some time to rebuild – and the process of finding my style confidence inspired the birth of this blog and my Instagram. I will dedicate a whole blog post to this soon but in short, I realised the importance of building a wardrobe of great quality classics.

maternity leave return to work

You’ll start to really enjoy adult interaction again

Do you know what’s one of the best things about going back to work? A conversation where you’re not discussing feeding, sleep patterns and developmental milestones. Hallelujah! Don’t get me wrong, I talk with my fellow mum and dad friends about all these things all the time – and find it important to as well – but it does get tiring when it becomes the sole focus of conversations… which can be often.  It can make you a little stir crazy after a while and I personally craved conversations with people who didn’t just see me as a mum.

The juggle is real

Gone are those flexible working hours where you message your partner to say you’re stuck in a meeting and you’ll be an hour late home. Day care drop offs and picks ups are shared between my husband and I so there is little flexibility to stay back a bit later to finish something off or if a meeting goes over.

When I returned to work after having my first, I became very efficient during office hours. Having the ability to log on from home also made this easier for me as I could leave on time but would log on remotely after the kids were in bed to finish off a few things.

If anything, having kids makes you more efficient both in the home and in general.

maternity leave return to work

You may feel the need to prove yourself all over again

Not the most encouraging of thoughts, but it can feel that you need to show your worth again and that you are pulling your weight. Workplaces have certainly improved in supporting women coming back to work and we have much to be thankful for to those women who have gone before us (I’m thinking in particular of a woman who was a senior partner at my firm with three young kids – M.L. – who was a leader in modernising the firm’s return to work, working from home and parental leave arrangements).

It can be a bit of a jolt to the system being back in the office but you need to give yourself a bit of credit for all the hard work that you have previously put in to get you where you are, and be confident that you’ll find your feet again quickly.

I really struggled in the first few days of my return to remain focused and concentrate on tasks. I essentially had to teach myself to concentrate again before I felt like my normal working self.

Having said that – don’t kill yourself trying. If you burn the candle at both ends, it’ll be that much harder to get back to your best.

It’s as much for you as it is for the family

Personally, I found being at home could feel relentless. Sometimes it seemed the results of my efforts each day weren’t as tangible as when I was sitting behind my desk.  In fact, if parenting and work were equated, sometimes having a shower and going to the bathroom undisturbed seems comparable to work worthy of promotion.

But as I type this, I know that being full time at home with my youngest is running out and I need to remind myself how beneficial it was for me to go back to work after my first. Work gives me an added sense of purpose. I personally find it very satisfying to use my law brain in the office – in turn making me a happier and better mum when I’m at home. If you’re anything like me, you busted your gut at university and put in those long hours at the office to progress in your career. So, it’s nice to feel like you’re pursuing that path again for yourself, as well as making a broader contribution for the family.

Click here to read part 2 of my ‘Mum-back’ series.


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