It’s the day all working mums dread. It can be filled with fear, anxiety, stress, excitement and apprehension. For working mums, it’s a day we cannot avoid. It is a day that can come any time from 6 weeks to 12 months after the birth of our children. The day in question is the day that marks the end of maternity leave and the day you return to work. Today I’d like to share with you my 9 handy tips for mums returning to work.
If you have had your first child like me, you may have opted to take a year off. Due to a variety of reasons, other mums may opt for less maternity leave. But whatever your situation, if like me you choose to return to work after having a child, your first day back can be a daunting one.
I did a lot of research and read many forum posts by mums who had returned to work before me, looking for hints and tips to make it as smooth a transition as possible. From my own experience and often employing things I’ve read, these are some of my top tips to bear in mind as this day looms for you.
9 Handy Tips for Mums Returning to Work after Maternity Leave
Now, anyone who knows me knows that I like to plan. Plan, plan, plan. While yes, the best laid plans can be thrown out of the window at a moments notice, or you can veer off course, a good plan gives you a starting point and a course of action to try and follow. By starting to plan you can list things that need to be done or investigated, and you can often uncover things you hadn’t initially thought of. Formulating a plan can give you actions to complete or issues to resolve and a timeline to follow.
My own plan for returning to work loosely followed this timeline:
6 months to go: List local nurseries, call each and get details of things like opening hours, prices, what they provide and what you must provide. Do they have a waiting list?
5 months to go: Shortlist nurseries and visit them with BattleKid. Whittle down the ones I like/don’t like.
4 months to go: Register BattleKid with our nursery of choice.
3 months to go: Contact work regarding back-to-work, accrued holidays and Keeping-in-Touch (KIT – see Point 7 below) days. Agree everything in writing with my manager.
2 months to go: Contact nursery to agree settling-in procedure and sessions.
1 month to go: Attend settling-in sessions. Final contact with work regarding KIT days.
0 months to go: BattleKid into nursery and BattleMum starts KIT days!
For any mum definitely returning to work, this is by far the biggest decision you will need to make. Whether you are returning to work part-time or full-time, unless your partner is taking care of your child(ren), you will need to decide who looks after them while you are at work.
If you are one of the lucky few to have family living close by, you may have the option of having a grandparent or aunt/uncle step in and cover your childcare needs. However, if not and like me that is far from an option, then what ARE your options? I won’t go into detail into each one as many people have covered these, but you could choose
- Daycare or nursery
Your choice may also be dictated or influenced by my next point.
One thing mums need to balance is whether or not it is financially feasible to return to work. For some, there is no option. Returning to work will still bring in some much needed additional cash, even when childcare costs have been taken into account. For others, like me, it is more a question of a desire to return to work as you might genuinely love your job.
However, paying for childcare can be costly and you need to decide if returning to work will a) cover childcare costs but b) still leave some additional cash to make it worthwhile. If you have been off for a year you may have gotten used to Statutory Maternity Pay, and then nothing at all for a few months, and if returning to work will only cover childcare costs, then you need to think long and hard whether it is really worth it.
For BattleDad and I, nursery was the choice for us. And even there, costs ranged from reasonable to downright silly; £32.50 per day up to £50 per day (South Wales), whereas in London I’ve read day rates of up to £75 per day. £75 per day! Are you for real? That’s £1500 per month. Even on my fairly decent wage that wouldn’t leave a lot left for the month. On a 5 week month that would be my wages effectively gone! Thankfully I don’t live in London and our nursery is reasonably priced. But costs definitely come second to childcare in the things mums need to consider when deciding whether to return to work or not.
4. Work Hours
Once you’ve decided you want to return to work, the next thing to consider is whether that will be on a part-time or full-time basis. As mentioned, childcare costs may have an effect on your options.
Personally, I wanted to return to work full-time but you may only want to work part-time. Sit down and work out the finances with your partner and weigh up the pros and cons. Talk to your partner long before the day comes to speak to work. I thought returning on a 9-5 basis would be easy-peasy but it hasn’t been and point 5 below will explain why.
I cannot stress enough that you should really think long and hard about what you want and how your work hours may affect you. Also consider whether you would like to have flexible working hours and find out your company’s policy on this, as it may effect whether you return to work at all.
5. Journey to/from work
This can be an easy thing if you live close to work or your childcare is close to work, but by far this has been the most stressful part of my return-to-work to date. Let me explain.
I work 30 miles from home and chose to put BattleKid into a nursery close to home so that if I had a day off I wouldn’t be doing a 60 mile round trip twice a day to bring him to/from nursery. It also means BattleDad can drop him off and pick him up from nursery when he is working from home to shorten BattleKid’s day.
However, traffic on my route to and from work seems to have increased in volume since I left for maternity leave, to the point where leaving at 5pm had meant I was repeatedly getting to nursery after 6pm to collect him. As they shut at 6pm it meant I was incurring late fees on those days I didn’t manage to leave work at 4.56 or 4.57pm. 3-4 minutes meant the difference between arriving 10 minutes before closing time or being late. Mornings are not a problem as they do an Earlybird start and open at 7am for those availing of the service, including me! But they won’t stay open later than 6pm and who can blame them. It’d mean a 12 hour day for them!
As a result I’ve had to apply to work for flexible working hours, after already returning to work. Work finally approved my application to work 8.30-4.30 after 4 weeks of waiting. Had they refused I would have been forced to consider alternative childcare or finding a different job closer to home. I didn’t really want to do either as BattleKid is well settled and loves nursery, and I love my job. Those 4 weeks were the longest of my life, all the while being a complete stressball on the journey home to collect BattleKid.
So please, please consider your journey to and from work before you return to work, particularly if you are not using family as your childcare option. Consider doing it a few times before going back to see if traffic volume has increased or if the tube/public transport is harder to get on at peak times from your stop. See how any changes might fit with nursery/childminder opening/closing times. And then plan your return-to-work accordingly, especially if it means applying for flexible working hours before your return.
6. Company Policies
Another thing you might want to read up on before your return are your company’s policies regarding parental leave, dependants leave and unforeseen leave due to ill children. Let’s face it, children will get ill, that’s a given, especially in those early days of nursery if they attend one. But what happens if their illness forces you out of work to care for them?
If they get conjunctivitis, chicken pox, or something else that excludes them from childcare, will you be able to take paid or unpaid leave at a moments notice, or will your company force you to take this time off from your annual holiday entitlement? This is something you will need to consider. If you want parental or dependants leave, what is the company policy for applying for it? If you don’t have a copy of these policies, you could ask your boss or a colleague to get hold of them and post them to you.
7. Keeping-in-Touch days
Or KIT days as they are often referred, they can be a really useful way of easing yourself back into work and a way of catching up with colleagues and seeing if anything has changed since you left to have your baby. If so, you can get up to speed before coming back officially. You can do up to 10 KIT days, they don’t affect your maternity leave, and best of all, you get paid for them, handy when your SMP has ended if, like me, you opted to take a year off. KIT days are also a handy way of determining the next point I’ll go into.
8. Your Routine
If you get the chance to do some KIT days, you can test out your daily routine. I certainly did and it helped a lot once I was back full-time. My routine goes something like this:
- Wake around 6.20-6.30
- Make BattleKid’s bottle and bring it up to him. Wake him if he’s not already awake.
- After the bottle, I place him on the floor to play while I get dressed.
- Wash my face, teeth, brush my hair, then wash BattleKid’s face and teeth.
- Undress BattleKid, change his nappy, dress him and brush his hair.
- I prepare his pyjamas, dummy and gro-bag for the night-time before we leave his room.
- Go downstairs, pack my lunch and put the BattleDogs out.
- Put our coats on, grab our bags and out of the door by 7.20am at the latest.
- Drop BattleKid off to nursery and get myself to work by 8.30am, traffic allowing.
- Leave work at 4.30 and drive to nursery to collect BattleKid by 5.30 usually.
- Go home and either play for 45 minutes, or play for 30 minutes and then get us showered/bathed.
- Once we are dressed I get BattleKid’s clothes ready for the next day.
- We then go downstairs for his bedtime bottle, then it’s a story if he is still awake and bed by 7pm.
- I then washed BattleKid’s bottles, sterilise them and prep my and the BattleDog’s dinner. I also prepare my lunch for the next day too.
- I eventually sit down around 8pm. It’s usually bedtime for me at 10pm and I head upstairs to get my clothes ready for the next day.
- It’s sleeptime soon after, before the next morning arrives for this routine to be repeated.
I have to be organised as it’s only the two of us from Sunday to Thursday. Getting our clothes ready the night before really helps, as does getting my lunch ready too. Also, a big help in the evenings is leftovers! I always try to make extra portions when cooking things like lasagna, spaghetti bolognese, chilli or curry at the weekends, to have as either lunch or dinner during the week. It means I don’t have to cook an evening meal from scratch but still get something tastier than chicken nuggets and chips from the oven. Leftovers can be frozen once cooled and simply defrosted overnight in the fridge for the next night. Leftovers win in our house!
9. Some Other Useful Tips
Another tip I have is to employ the “delay timer” function on your washing machine if your model has one. This has been hugely helpful in making sure my washing is ready to be hung as soon as I’m in the door, and ensures I’m not still waiting for it to finish at 11 o’clock at night. I set it the night before, and usually have my little “helper” helping me when I hang it when we get home. It’s been a Godsend in keeping on top of the washing.
If you drive to work remember to fill your car at the weekend to save you having to do so during the week. That is unless you do more miles in a week than your tank holds. Do your grocery shopping online to be delivered on an evening when Dad is there to help put it away and preferably after your child(ren) have gone to bed. Saves you having to eat into family time on a Saturday or Sunday. Let’s face it, spending an hour or two dragging your little one around the supermarket isn’t anyone’s idea of fun or family time at the weekend.
With regards to housework, I’m afraid I can’t help you there as we have employed a cleaner to take care of that side of things so BattleDad and I don’t have to at the weekend! BattleDad was actually the one who pushed for this as he didn’t want either of us having to spend Saturday or Sunday cleaning the house instead of the three of us spending quality time together as a family. We get little of it as it is.
My only suggestion here comes from what I would have done had we not got a cleaner to help us out. Either spread the jobs equally between yourself and your partner, or let one of you entertain your little one while the other one gets on with the cleaning on a Saturday morning. Get it out of the way early in the weekend so that you can have the rest of the weekend to spend as a family.
If you have older children, allocate them “chores” to do on Saturday morning alongside Mum and Dad, and reward them with their allowance or wages (or whatever you want to call it) so that, not only are they helping out, they are also learning to “work” for their money. I certainly plan to do this with BattleKid when he’s older to help him learn the value of money as I discussed in a recent post.
These are my 9 handy tips for mums returning to work after Maternity Leave. I’m sure there are some things I have forgotten or have missed out, or some I haven’t even thought about, but these are the ones I have collated together from my own experience of returning to work.
Have you recently returned to work after maternity leave, or even a break? If so, have you got any tips to add to help make it as smooth a transition as possible for other mums about to go back to work? Leave a comment below, I’d love to hear from you!
Thanks for reading,