Becoming a parent is a very unique and transforming experience. For career focused individuals that go through the process of becoming parents it’s an even more dramatic change that enters their life.
I’ve met many hardworking and career oriented professionals that have gone through the becoming parent’s process and emerged as completely transformed individuals. The Joy of holding your child in your arms and the strong emotional experience often realigns the priorities of the most career minded professionals. This is even harder on women because the physiological changes in them are even more dramatic.
A woman who has just given birth to a child and planning to return to work faces lots of dilemmas.
Should I return to work or not?
Who will take care of the baby while I am at work?
Will I be able to cope with work and bring up a child?
There are always a ton of questions and answers are not very clearly in black and white.
Between changing the nappies, dealing with the post hormonal changes in the body and the mood swings, the last thing on the mother’s mind is getting back to work. While few women decide to quit their working careers completely after the pregnancy, many continue to do multitasking and admit that initial months of work post pregnancy are very challenging. Recent studies say that on an average mothers need four months to adjust to this change at work, to get back into the scheme of things. This coping time period is different for different individuals and also depend on the maternity leave policy of the organizations. A large number of organizations allow pregnant women to work as close to their delivery date as doctors may allow and take a majority of their leave post pregnancy. The coping abilities are required primarily after the delivery since the baby will occupy almost every waking hour of the parent. Let us examine different aspects related to this and go through some suggestions to help mothers get back to work.
Mom’s Guide to Returning to Work After Maternity Leave:
1. When you think of returning to work, do not feel guilty:
Returning to work after maternity leaves can be emotionally conflicting for most women. You might feel guilty for not being with your baby, especially when the child needs the most attention and the most comfort can be provided by the mother. As a new mother you can never completely eliminate the guilt. You can reduce it by reminding yourself that by going outside and working while leaving the baby at home, you are contributing to the family and making the future of the child secure and safe.
2. Keep the baby in safe and cared for environment:
People who have children’s grandparents at home, help care for their child feel that it is the safest and best bet for working mothers. Parents staying in a nuclear families are at a disadvantage. However, with trusted and skilled baby sitters, support staff or even good day care centers can help take care of the support activities.
Its often very easy to think that you can take the best care of your baby. While that is true, there are many things to learn about bringing up kids from other parents and care givers instead of discovering them yourself. These could be simple things like getting the baby into a routine of sleeping at night, or simple tricks of getting babies to adapt to easier methods of eating food or keeping them engaged.
3. Plan for the future:
Before you join the office, start planning at least a few weeks in advance. Start organizing your daily routine and start getting the baby into a series of habits. Relating to work, get in touch with your colleagues and get yourself updated on the things taking place on the office front. Make a list of the tasks to be done at home to take care of your child and and divide the work along with your spouse to help you get upto speed at this.
4. Try flexi hours at work:
Everyone needs time to adjust to parenting and settle in the “parent” mode gradually. Many workplaces nowadays offer flexible working hours. If yours do, opt for it. Organizations will be supportive and you will be far more at peace with yourself where you can start work late or take breaks in between to nurse the child. Read through your organization policy on flexi hours or maternity related sections before you dive straight back into work.
5. Get the confidence back:
Ease yourself into work. If you have stayed at home for long, far from the office sittings, it can be daunting to get back into things and be disciplined about getting work done. Having a new born child introduced into your lfie can be daunting and it does turn priorities upside down for most people. Once you return to your working environment your might feel a little out of place as your normal interaction groups may no longer exist, or you may be assigned to a new project with members you may not have known before. So, talk to the HR department and opt for meetings with the colleagues. Try and meet them or have lunch with them. Get to know them so that you don’t feel new to the place again. You will get to know what is happening in the team and feel a part of it.
6. Update your CV:
If you feel that your organization may not be able to support your requirements of flexi hours or other demands on your time, you should consider a new job that does. If you are looking for a job after a much longer gap after your maternity leave then it might be time to update your CV. Update it and list the dates clearly when you did not work and what you did in that time. You can contact a few consulting agencies as they can help you find out what you can do. Keep in touch with them and send your resume to them. It will help you in re-entering the force and not feel out of place, out of work and out of job.
7. Network, network and network:
Motherhood and networking are not exclusive things and can be done at the same time. Staying at home doesn’t means that you have to be out of touch with your professional work. You can stay in the league by reading on the happening through newsletters, through internet and others. Stay in touch with your officemates and colleagues. When you are ready to re-apply, ask your colleagues about what positions are vacant and what can you apply for, keep yourself informed about what is happening in the organization. They will be your best sources for such leads. Also, keep yourself in the loops for information about company buy-offs, mergers, movement of senior management personnel that help you spot opportunities on which companies might hire.
8. Find mentors at work:
Its very important to have mentors at work. Most organizations may not formall designate a mentor. Mentors should never be underestimated. Have a mentor who can be with you throughout, even during breaks and advise you on the best time to foray back in the workforce. It could be anyone, your boss, your colleague, a senior person or even a person you have met through your women group and not related to your office at all. They are the best source of your guidance and motivation when you plan to get back to work
9. Reward yourself:
During and after pregnancy, it is important to take care of yourself and your well being. Appreciate yourself once in a while. When the baby is sleeping, calm down and loosen up after the hectic day at work. Cut down on superfluous commitments and build an optimistic attitude towards work. Only then will the transition be smooth and easy.
Flexible hours and maternity leaves are a very well prevalent concept but in the rush to get back to the working environment many women tend to over commit or overestimate their ability to cope. Many women who take longer breaks after maternity often find that corporate mindsets and HR policies are often not geared to welcome women back to the workplace and value their skills. Every year corporate word loses a huge chunk of talent because of maternity breaks. If women make an effort to not lose touch with their work and keep themselves updated, it becomes easier to return. Some professional fields are more amenable to returning like media, creative works like designing, writing, and merchandising. The fields of technology and electronic media pose a few barriers as they need a different set of skills and the rate of obsolescence is high and even a few months or a couple of years can make the skills outdated. However these are the very skills that also allow people to work from home or work remotely as desired.
Based on your profession, plan for your return beforehand and update your skills even when at home. Stay connected with the work place ecosystem and you will have an easier path back into the workplace.