Whether you are at the end of your maternity leave or you’ve taken a career break, returning to work can be one of the biggest decisions you make and confidence can play a big part in the decision-making process. Having children changes your life so thinking about returning to work and putting yourself first can make you feel guilty as a parent, but it shouldn’t. Returning to work can be liberating, fulfilling and can make you feel like ‘you’ – pre-children!
Being prepared will make it less stressful. So think about how you plan to work around your children’s routine considering what type of childcare is required and when. What are your options? Do you need to look into nurseries, childminders etc. Private childcare is very much in demand and can have waiting lists – so think ahead. What hours would be available, so what hours could you work to fit in with this? If you feel in control of what works for you, you will feel more confident about work.
Talk to other working mums – how did they feel, what are their tips? What companies do they know offering flexible working or who are particularly child friendly? You are not the only mum who has had to make such a life-changing decision so getting support from those around you will make you feel happier and address concerns you may have.
Having a baby may have adjusted your career priorities so focus on looking at what you want to achieve now and not your aspirations pre-children. Every mum is different so don’t compare yourself to anyone else as you may have a different focus and set of priorities. If yours is to work part-time think about what opportunities and companies are within your target search area. Some large businesses have childcare onsite. You may have the option to work from home – but you will still require childcare as it’s not realistic working and looking after children. Research is everything so think about what you want to do, what skills you want to use and what skills have you have learnt since you have been on your career break.
Transferable skills are relevant, but you need to identify them and think about how useful they will be in the workplace. Are you on a committee and have had to organise events or minute meetings? Write these down and think about demonstrating what you have achieved (as well as what you have achieved through being a mum) during your time off. Selling yourself in your CV and interview is really important so thinking about and talking positively about what you have done is crucial.
Be realistic. If you have been out of the workplace for a substantial amount of time its unlikely you will walk right back into your last or a similar level role. You may need to take a role with less responsibilities/salary. This is the same for anyone who has been out of the market for a while so don’t be too hard on yourself. Set short- and long-term goals. What you want now may differ from in five to 10 years’ time. Are your skills dated and do you need to refresh these? Groupon and other online discount vouchers are always offering training courses. Do you know anyone who could train you on relevant and up-to-date software? If you familiarise yourself with packages and programmes you will feel more confident about your technical abilities.
It could be an idea to speak to an agency about temporary work or think about your network of contacts to try and gain more experience. Could you get some work experience, or do something voluntary to increase your confidence and refresh your skillset? This will make the transition into long term employment easier.
You may want to think about starting the routine of leaving your child several weeks before you start your new role. It is going to be overwhelming and emotional and everyone reacts differently to leaving their child. You will find that first day back much easier and you can be focused on your work rather than worrying about how their first day went. A lot of nurseries offer settling in sessions so take advantage of this.
Do not feel guilty. Working again is about doing something for you and not just being a mum. Reward yourself for making that move forward – buy something new to wear for work that differentiates you from being in your mummy clothes. It’s nice to be able to get dressed professionally and have an uninterrupted cup of tea and get some shopping done during your lunch break!
Organise your time; think about the hours you are working and plan in those household duties. You also may need to delegate tasks so speak to your partner about this too so they are on board. If you are clear on what days you need to keep on top of your ironing or washing you will be able to plan more special time with your loved ones and you will appreciate it more. Don’t forget time for you. Don’t put pressure on yourself if you don’t get it done. Think about what stopped you so you can adjust and replan for the following week, but don’t feel guilty – it doesn’t matter if you haven’t mopped the floor for a week you have been holding down two jobs: working and being a mum!
Finally, it doesn’t work for everyone so remain open minded. Who knows until you try it whether it will work for you? It does take time to adjust back, though, and you may feel at first like you will never get back into work mode – you will, and any feeling of baby brain will soon disappear! Returning to work can be a daunting prospect, but with careful planning the transition back into the workplace can be less overwhelming than you think and also very rewarding.
*Emma-Louise O’Brien is a senior career coach at Career Transition and Job Search Support specialists Renovo and provides practical, tailored and supportive careers advice and job search techniques enabling individuals affected by redundancy, or those looking for a career change, to transform their lives. Emma Louise was awarded CDI Career Coach of the Year 2013. Emma Louise is also mum to Imogen. She has worked for Renovo for the last five years and works on a flexible basis. Renovo’s support is delivered through an innovative blend of personal career coaching and access to the latest in eLearning technology. It has a range of support programmes to suit individual’s needs and budget. Renovo delivers a free online workshop called “How to use Linkedin effectively” if you would like to join the workshop please follow this link for details on how to register.