Coming back to work after experiencing life at home as a parent is undoubtedly one of the most difficult challenges you will face. However, most of the challenges can be anticipated in advance with a little thinking and advance planning. Start with discussing these top 5 with your other half, family members, friends and colleagues:
- How much money will I earn after childcare and how much do we need as a family?
This is a fundamental first step but one that many of us don’t take – how much is your childcare (and your travel if you have a long commute) and if you are considering reducing your hours on return – how much will your pro-rated salary be? You can’t really make any plans until you know this so work it out the sooner the better. You may find this drives your return to work decision in terms of when to return, if to return and how to return.
- What do I like and dislike about my job/company?
Sometimes our feelings about work can be driven by how we felt during the last few months before leave. If this was negative in any way, it could be influencing how you feel now. Similarly, hearing things whilst on leave ‘through the grapevine’ could cloud your objective judgement about your role and your company. Take time to reflect on this and make a list (or chat to someone) about all the positives and negatives – do they still matter? Are they still valid? (things change quickly!)
- How strong is my support network?
Even if your primary childcare plan is sorted, you will need people to help out if your childminder or nanny is sick. What is your plan if/when your baby is ill? Think about how you will first manage between you and your partner and then look to extended family and friends to ask them if they will be your contingency. At work, find another happy, optimistic parent who you can chat to if things get tough.
- How am I going to achieve family-time and me-time?
We get so caught up in the logistics of work, routine and house-jobs that finding time to do something we love doing is hard. Yet it is essential! What did you love doing for yourself before you became a parent? How can you slot this into your weekly routine?
Identify what small daily or weekly things you need to do to make you feel like you are being a good parent. Focus on the quality of the time in short, regular slots (which are easier to stick to) and find simple things like bath-time, reading, one-to-one time.
- What would a successful first year back look and feel like to me?
If trying to set solid goals is too much too soon, try identifying how you want to FEEL in a year from now – many people find it easier to imagine feeling ‘more confident’ or ‘calmer’ – and then work backwards to identify steps you could take to achieve that.