Returning to work from maternity leave is a significant adjustment. Society often underestimates what a BIG DEAL this really is.
Come on, you and your baby have been in a little ‘cocoon’ for the last few months. Although it was probably a cocktail of happiness, sadness and exhaustion it was still just you and your baby. Now it is time to go back to work. THAT IS HARD PEOPLE!
Let’s not get started on when people ask how was your ‘break’? That is a whole other blog post on its own.
Anyway, we digress.
As I was saying, there are ways to make the transition back to work a little easier. I firmly believe that when we put effort into planning it can help a little.
Returning to Work after Maternity Leave – You, Your Baby and Your Rights at Work
Baby care arrangements
Way before you return back to work from maternity leave, it is essential to confirm who will care for your little one during the day. This could be a day care center, a nanny or family member.
Please do not leave this to the last minute.
It is stressful enough having to finalise your arrangements. And to do it in a short period of time is just asking for trouble.
TIP if you are considering a nanny:
Please see our post on how to ease the anxiety when leaving your baby with your nanny for the first time.
Build a flexible routine for your baby
Also, being on a flexible routine means that your baby is familiar with the sequence of events of their day and therefore are more settled.
For your baby to benefit from a routine, you need to ensure that your child’s caregiver is onboard and understand your expectations in terms routine.
There is no point in getting your baby on a routine and then your baby’s caregiver has no idea how to maintain it in your absence.
You may also consider working with a sleep consultant (e.g. Good Night Baby Sleep Consultancy) to help you settle into a routine if you need help.
Do trial runs of your new routine
It is vital to do a trial run before returning to work.
You really cannot leave your baby for the first time on your first day of work. You will be a wreck. Yeah, I said it!
Do little trial run it can HELP.
Example, if your baby is going to daycare, do a trial run of:
- what you will need in his baby bag.
- and how long it takes to get you and your baby done in the morning.
If you are leaving your baby with a nanny or family member in your home, allow them an opportunity to spend a little alone with your baby. A week or two leading up to your return date is doable.
If you are expressing, get into the habit of keeping track of your output. Also, reach out to your employer to confirm which space your employer has designated for expressing (which is required by law). Which brings us to the next point.
Expressing at work and your Rights at Work in South Africa
It is essential to engage your company to understand where you will be able to express. The BCEA allows mothers at least two 30 minute breaks for pumping breast milk.
No specifications are dictated in terms of what the space it should be, although it should be: lockable, clean, and have basin for hand washing and cleaning up.
Therefore, it is recommended you confirm the set up before your return to work.
Figure out your own routine as a mom
We are all different.
Some mothers want to start working flexible or reduced hours immediately. Others maintain their work hours and work in their flexibility through coming in earlier etc.
What will you outsource?
It sounds terrible but you need to decide what things you will do yourself and what you will ‘outsource.’
As a parent working outside of the home you simply cannot do it all.
Example, bath time is important to me, so as parents my husband and I will do 99% of baths. I also maintain cooking for my family and I am in charge of that. However, other things like picking up my daughters from school is done by our ‘support network’ – that we pay.
Whatever you do to settle into your new work routine, always be kind to yourself.
There is no way to be a perfect mother, but a million ways to be a good one. Jill Churchill
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