Ask around at baby group and you’ll be hard pushed to find a mum who isn’t a bit scared by the thought of going back to work. “It can be incredibly emotional leaving your baby,” says Gillian Nissim, founder of www.workingmums.co.uk. “Some mums feel guilty about it and others feel less confident about being in an office since having a baby.”
If you’re about to head back to the working world, don’t panic just yet. With a little planning, it can be a breeze for all involved.
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The week before…
Do a dry run
It’s important to settle yourself, your partner and tot into the new routine before you head back. “Do a day as you would when you’re back at work, from minor details like what you have for breakfast to dropping your baby off,” suggests Antonia Chitty, author of Family Friendly Working (www.familyfriendly working.co.uk).“This will reassure you that you can manage your working week, and show you that your baby will be fine too.”
“It’s also a good idea to practise your route a few times, double checking your train times or any road works that might slow you down on your first day,” says Gillian.
“While sorting your baby out might be at the forefront of your mind before you start back, it’s also important to make time for yourself in your last few days,” says Antonia. “Hit the high street to stock up on a new work wardrobe. Since you were last in the world of 9 to 5, your figure might have altered so you’ll want something that fits and that you’re comfortable in.” Your boobs, in particular, will have changed shape if you’ve been breastfeeding or expressing milk, so it’s worth being measured for a new bra.
Share the night shift
If you’re normally the one that gets up in the night for your baby as dad has a day job, it’s time to start sharing. Before you go back, get your partner to do a few of the 2am feeds and changes so your baby gets used to seeing him during the night.
Plan for illness
Have a contingency plan ready in case your baby or childminder is sick. The last thing you want on top of a poorly child is the added stress of not knowing who can look after her in a crisis. “Call on fellow mums if you can, and ask any that aren’t going back to work if they could be your emergency cover,” suggests Antonia. “In return, make yourself available to help them at weekends, or offer to babysit once a month to say thanks.”
“If you’re expressing milk for your baby you’ll need to do it at work, so talk to your employers in the days before you get back to find out where you’ll be able to do it,” says Antonia. “They should set aside a room for you to do this in, and somewhere to keep the milk until you go home.”
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The night before…
Have your clothes ironed and laid out and get your keys, train tickets and baby bag stocked with bottles, nappies and toys put by the front door before you go to bed. This will save the ‘I’ve lost my…’ panics in the morning. Have your car seat fitted ready for the off too, so you can pop your baby in and get going without stress.
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Get some zzzs
Try and stay calm the evening before. Have an early night and make sure it’s dads’ turn to get up if your baby wakes. “Cut out caffeine and have a warm bath before bed,” says Antonia.
“If you find you’ve got a million and one things buzzing around your head, grab a pen and paper and note them down before trying to get to sleep so you’re not lying there mulling over stuff till the wee hours.”
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Be an early bird
Time will be of the essence on your first morning, and everything is bound to take longer than you think. Set your alarm to come on 20 minutes earlier than you used to before your little one came along so you’re not running around getting all stressed.
On the day…
Extra time for you
“If possible, get your partner to drop off your baby with the childcare on your first morning,” suggests Gillian. “Then you’ll have plenty of time for a decent breakfast to set you up for your first day.”
Get fully briefed
Arrange a catch-up with your boss when you get in to be brought up to speed with any big projects or major changes in the office. “Don’t be afraid to ask if you’re stuck or don’t understand something,” says Gillian.
“Talk to everyone when you arrive and if you find you’re at a loose end with your work, let people know, don’t just stay quiet,” says Antonia. “Communication is key.”
Strike the right balance
Just as you don’t want to bring work home with you, try not to bring the baby chat to the office, hard as it can be after months of being mum. “It can be so difficult not to stay in mummy mode when you’re at work,” says Antonia. “The thing to do is have the first day as a celebration, showing pictures and talking babies, but then cool it off and save
it for your fellow mum friends.”
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“After a year off with Max the thought of returning to work was scary, especially as I’m a flight attendant. Before I went back I met with one of my managers to sort out my working pattern and soon I was back onboard the plane and it was great. Returning to work and being able to be me again, not just a mummy, has been brilliant. My advice is to talk to your manager about any worries beforehand.”
Nicola Amis, 31, from Surrey, mum to Maximus, 23 months