Transitioning back to work after having a baby

by Liz Marchant

Returning to work after having a baby generally comes with a range of conflicting emotions. While some new mums are excited to return to work, others may dread it. Regardless of your motivation or the amount of support you receive, the transition often comes with a side of guilt.

To top it off, there’s a whole new routine to navigate. For example, you (and your partner, if you have one) will have to combine getting ready for work with getting your child (or children) ready for their day as well.

Irrespective of how long your maternity leave is, returning to work can be daunting. However, there are some steps you can take to make the transition easier:

Make a plan

Your morning and evening routines are likely to be very different now that you have a child. Going back to work means your routines may need to be compressed or tweaked so you can get out the door on time. So, it’s important to think about how the mornings and evening may need to work, and then write a list of everything that needs to be done, when it needs to be done by, and who’s going to do what. It’s important to talk through responsibilities at home before you return to work rather than when you’re under pressure in the moment and everyone is stressed.

Whatever morning and evening routine you decide upon, do a ‘dummy run’ and try it before you return to work. This way you can check you have allocated enough time for everything and it is feasible. Make sure you do it on a weekday so you can account for traffic and other variables that could arise.

 Rebuild your confidence

One way to focus, get back on track with your career, and remind yourself who you are and what you do, is to spend some time thinking and preparing for work.

Catch up with a colleague so you know what is happening in the office. Read your industry magazines and newspapers whenever you can so you understand the bigger picture issues. This will help you to feel prepared for work-related conversations and be confident about returning to the business world.

Make the most of Keeping in Touch days

Keeping in Touch days are an opportunity to remain connected to your business and industry, and to upskill while on maternity leave. Under the Fair Work Act, these days let employees who are still on unpaid maternity leave engage with their workplace for up to 10 days during their maternity leave. These can be used as a part day, one day at a time, a few days at a time, or all at once.

While you don’t have to use them, Keeping in Touch days are a good transition support opportunity. Keeping in Touch days can be used after 42 days have passed following the birth or adoption of your child and should be paid by your employer.

Discuss your transition with your employer

For some mums, the transition back to work is easier when done gradually. This can mean you choose to work part time, work from home one day a week, or even use some annual leave to shorten the first few days or weeks back at work.

It’s important to plan this ahead and discuss how it will work with your employer.

For the best outcomes when you are talking to your employer about returning to work, it helps to focus the discussion on your role and how you intend to perform it to the best of your ability, rather than leading with how much support or flexibility you require. In a recent article, Mel Barret from Tandem Partners, said, “In your discussion, highlight:

  • the benefits of your proposed working arrangement
  • how you will handle any challenges such as a sick child (you can also read our article for more insights on this)
  • how key tasks will be carried out in practice.”

Enjoy the small wins

Finally, remember this is a transition period and will soon become your ‘normal’. Congratulate yourself on small wins and the fact you are doing your best. Most of all, enjoy small perks like engaging in adult conversation, or having a hot cup of coffee in relative peace.