Where to start
Talk about it
Firstly, talk to your boss. Companies are obliged to consider a request for your job to become part-time if you want it to. If it’s a viable option, you could negotiate an arrangement to work some of the time from home or a few days a week.
See both sides
Remember you need to be flexible. This isn’t about you going into the office and saying, “I’m a mum now so you have to accommodate me.” Take solutions not problems in to your meeting, and be prepared to discuss ideas on how it’ll all move forward.
Think through the options
Now you’ve had a baby, there are so many new options open to you. Think about what kind of mum you are. Could you work part-time? Could you set up your own business from home? There are so many things you could try.
Mums want more flexibility to work-part time
Preparing to head back to work
Routine is key
Yes, I say it every time, but mums, it’s so important to get into a good routine. Because when you do, everyone benefits. When you do everything you can for your baby or toddler you’re both happier and more relaxed. And you both have a good day, leading on to a happy evening together, sharing time and catching up.
Get your sleep
If you’re tired, everyone will suffer. When you know you’re returning to work, make time to look after yourself so you’re on the ball. Eat healthily and get lots of sleep so you can cope with the emotional and physical challenge ahead. Think ahead with tasks such as expressing milk and preparing food for your little one so you’re not rushing around in the mornings.
Plan for illness
Everything’s going well, you’re both settling into the new routine when suddenly there’s a phone call at work to say your little one’s ill. Stay calm – panicking won’t help anyone and certainly won’t portray you as someone whose mind is on the job. The answer is to think about how you’ll handle sudden illness before it happens. Hopefully your plan will include other people (such as your partner or another carer) who could pick up your child if it’s necessary.
How you may feel
Control your emotions
If you don’t feel like you’re coping, don’t bottle it up. When you go back to work your situation is less balanced than you’re used to, and that stirs up all kinds of emotions and reactions from your child.
Don’t beat yourself up
A lot of parents ask me, “Am I hurting my baby by going back to work early?”. There’s been a lot of press in recent months about babies needing their mums to be around for the first one or two years of their life in order to be the happiest they can be. But let’s be realistic – life often dictates otherwise. If you need to provide a home, that might include working to pay to run the home, that’s OK.
Try not to call
When mums come to me and say they miss their child and can’t concentrate at work, I ask them to challenge themselves, and to make that challenge ‘at the clock’. That basically means setting deadlines as far ahead as possible for yourself. Such as, “I won’t call home for at least…” and then set a time, such as another two hours, or lunchtime.
Dealing with overtime
There’s always going to be that one meeting you have to stay late for – or go in early to attend. That’s business. The time to speak up is when something’s really affecting your schedule. For example, if the meeting is once a week and always scheduled for first or last thing. Again, it’s about flexibility.
Suggest an alternative
Say that you want to be there, and it’s important to you, but ask if they’ll consider making it earlier or later. If you have a healthy working relationship with your boss, he or she should let you approach them with the suggestion. Ultimately, they’ll want you to be productive as possible.
The percentage of mums working with a child under 5 has doubled in the past 25 years.
I have a mantra when you’re choosing childcare. But don’t worry mums, it’s very easy to remember: “Ask, ask, ask, ask, ask”. There are never too many questions you can throw at a potential nanny, nursery, daycare centre or childminder. And if they’re good at their job, they really won’t mind answering them.
As well as going through their facilities and hours, ask them things like, “How do you deal with a tantrum?”, “What’s your approach to meals and snacks?’” and “What happens if a mum is late one evening?”. Give scenarios rather than questions with yes or no answers.
Find out if they’re registered, have an Ofsted report, have been CRB (Criminal Records Bureau) checked and ask for references. Speak to other mums and get their opinion too. You can never be too inquisitive when it comes to someone looking after your child.