Step 1: Feel part of it all again
Jennifer Liston-Smith, head of coaching, My Family Care (myfamilycare.co.uk)
“Many mums talk about a loss of confidence when coming back into a team that they were once part of after having a baby. But they also say that being a mum makes them better at multi-tasking, more assertive and hyper-organised. So don’t be shy – harness those new-found skills when you step back into the office.”
- Try and avoid a Monday return if you can. That way there’s less time until the weekend. Chances are that first week back could feel pretty tiring, so the shorter it is, the better.
- Avoid other changes that day. If you have the resources and scope to do so, start settling your child into childcare a couple of weeks before your return.
- Go for it from day one. If you’re keen to keep your career on track and stay in the running for promotion, make sure you have that kind of conversation with your manager when you’re catching up again.
- Be full of praise – especially for the person who’s been covering for you. This can feel tricky if you’re concerned about making your mark again, but this person can be a real ally. It makes for a win-win relationship when the hand-back feels positive, particularly if you’re suitably assertive about how you want to take it forward.
Step 2: Prepare your emotions
Admittedly, going back to work requires a little more thought than riding a bike, but that old chestnut about never forgetting how to do it is so true of making a post-maternity comeback. The truth is, you’re as good as you ever were and the language, skills and knowledge you need for work really do come back – especially if you’ve kept in touch during maternity leave. The trick is to feed yourself this message about skills lying dormant and to think about all the other valuable skills you’ve acquired on maternity leave, such as patience, persistence, organisation, negotiation, and how they link back to work. You haven’t been idly twiddling your thumbs for the last however many months, you’ve been working and developing yourself and another human being. This is invaluable experience for any person’s career, particularly someone who leads a team.
- Keep in touch. Most of the women I’ve worked with say Keep In Touch (KIT) days increased their confidence about returning to work and got them in the ‘right’ frame of mind for it.
- Get into the work mindset before you go back. It can be a great boost to your self-belief and reduce any panic you might be feeling about whether you’re up to it – but of course you are!
- Read any messages or information you’ve been sent by work, such as staff magazines or trade journals, and have lunch with a colleague or a friend who’s in the same line of work to get back in the zone.
Step 3: Dress the part
As a mum of three, I know that the thought of what to wear on returning to work starts to worry us as soon as we know our return date. And as a woman, your body shape changes during and after pregnancy. But I promise you can look amazing after pregnancy in your daily ‘mummy’ life, either at home with your baby or returning to work. You mustn’t pressure yourself to get back to your pre-baby weight too soon – there are styles of clothes to suit each body shape, to make you look and feel amazing.
- Highlight the good. Hide the bad. Don’t like your tummy? Draw attention away from it. A darker colour can be slimming and a piece of costume jewellery will draw eyes away from that area.
- Do your research. What are people wearing now? Is the office code smarter than before? You can find out with a quick email to a friendly colleague or on a pre-return to work lunch.
- Think small-scale, simple and plain. Getting dressed in the morning is easy when garments work with each other.
- Don’t forget your own style. The clothes you wear need to reflect your personality and your lifestyle, so please don’t forget to inject a little of who you are into your outfits.
“I really wanted to feel my best when I went back to work as a teacher after having my son Tom. I went all out with a facial and new outfit, and went to a gym the week before. Feeling well presented really helped me walk tall and feel proud to be back.”
Lucie Phillips, 33, mum to Tom, 2