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returning to work after maternity leave

5 Tips for Returning to Work After Maternity Leave

By Charlotte (@power.of.the.parent)

Returning to work after maternity leave can be really daunting. Whether you’re excited to go back, disappointed or a conflicting mix of the two, you’re probably feeling a bit nervous. Mum of two, Charlotte, founded Power of the Parent to help support parents in the workplace. She coaches working parents as well as working with businesses to ensure that they are adequately supporting and retaining their brilliant team members – who also happen to have children! Here she talks about the things to consider when you’re returning to work after maternity leave.

Returning to work after maternity leave can feel like you’re navigating a whole new world with one heck of a dodgy map – if any map at all! I definitely felt like there were so many things I should have known but really didn’t, and I was nervous to ask.

With the (often) negative narrative that faces parents in the workplace, the last thing I wanted to do was draw attention to my rabbit-in-headlights state when I returned to work after I became a parent for the first time in 2014. So I bumbled through to varying degrees of success and failure, all the time banking the learnings without really knowing! 

In 2018, after my second daughter arrived the previous year, I ventured into the world of self-employment and established my business – Power of the Parent®. I believe that you don’t stop developing when you become a parent and that you continue to add incredible value to the workplace. You’ve got heaps of strength and insights that you bring to an employer – and sure, you need a different kind of flexibility, but who doesn’t want to go home/log off at the end of the day, regardless of their family set up?

I’m going to share with you some of my insights for guiding yourself through a Strong Return® when returning to work after maternity leave and some practical ideas that you could nudge your employer to help you with.

returning to work after maternity leave

Here are 5 tips for returning to work after maternity leave

  1. Ask yourself – what does success look like to you?

How do you want to feel in your role as both a parent and a worker? What’s your ideal childcare set up? What makes you happy at home?

There are SO many prompts for this one, but I don’t want to overwhelm you! The bottom line is, articulating what’s important to you is key. Not a corporate definition of success  – but one that comes from you first and foremost.

Career success is so frequently defined in promotions: bigger salaries, more benefits, the corner office, bigger teams.

Parenting comes with its own assumed milestones for what totally smashing it looks like: a child that sleeps through, walks by xx months, potty trained by xx years old, a talking dictionary before they hit pre-school…

Both of these (sometimes all consuming) parts of your life carry a narrative that has been designed and reinforced by so many before you. You can easily fall into the trap of comparison, pressure and feeling a bit depleted if you (or your child) aren’t keeping up with everyone around.

So take a moment – what will successfully returning to work after maternity leave look and feel like to you? 

  1. Get to know your new self

Who you were when you left for parental leave will be different to who you are returning as. That doesn’t mean you’re going back with less skills, ability or knowledge but you are a parent now. What you’ve been doing during your parental leave will have impacted you just as much as someone who has been in a business environment at the same time.

Start by making your own notes or drawings about what energises you and makes you feel great, then follow it up by figuring out what leaves you feeling drained – physically and mentally.

You’re curating your strengths and new-found priorities. These will be the foundation for recementing yourself into the team when returning to work after maternity leave.

  1. Strive for progress over perfection

‘Perfection’ is a dangerous concept no matter who you are, where you are or what you do.

I’ve spent so much time polishing things; striving for a faultless presentation; willing the kiddos to keep their outfits immaculate or eat what is put in front of them that I dread to think how much unnecessary stress and pressure I’ve put myself under.

I’m not a nice person when I’m aiming for perfection and I miss.

Progress has unlocked something for me though – a calmness, the ability to learn more and to know I can move forward without life having to be spot on 100% of the time.

  1. Craft a re-induction plan

I’m a big believer in the power of a re-induction plan. They can help ensure you feel reconnected with your employer and give you fresh insight into where projects are up to, who’s in the team and generally what’s been going on while you were on leave.

Lots will have changed and it’s easy to think that because you’re not new to the business you can pick up from where you left off. Here are some ideas for the kinds of meetings that you could ask to be set up in those first few days and weeks of your return to work after maternity leave:

  • How is the team currently working? Days in the office, home set ups, how are meetings working? 
  • Who’s joined since you’ve been on leave? 
  • Shadowing other team members virtually.
  • Time with stakeholders – what are the meeting platforms you’re using?
  • Handover time – if someone has been covering your role (or a few people!) then having a dedicated handover is a great way to get up to date.
  • If you work with suppliers or clients, ensure you have time with them in an appropriate way.
  • Any regular team meetings that need to go in the diary?
  • Ask about what training you need access to. Things move quickly and new systems, processes, leadership frameworks, competencies, performance expectations (and many more) are all things that will be essential to being able to figure out what’s expected of you.
  1. Set goals

We all like to know what’s expected of us don’t we? Even if you’re coming back to exactly the same role you left, it’s likely there will have been some changes in terms of the goals or performance indicators you need to be working towards.

Spending time exploring this and getting some clarity over things like your role remit can be an incredible influence on your engagement and overall wellbeing. 

If you’d like to find out more from Power of the Parent® you can head to the website where you’ll find the free Parent Support Hub with live events, downloads and videos. You can also find Charlotte on Instagram or LinkedIn.

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