Tips for Returning to Work After Having a Baby

Have you had a baby recently and find the prospect of returning to work daunting? Perhaps you’ve failed to find adequate childcare; you’re worried you’ll miss your child; or you think you’ll no longer perform as well as you used to?

These are legitimate fears. In fact, an international report found that 42 per cent of women who had given birth felt nervous about the impact children might have on their careers. 

Luckily, there are steps you can take to ease the impact and make the process of returning smoother says Jen Crawford of Doulacare Ireland.

1. Choose the right time 

“This is one of the most important things to consider when returning to work after maternity leave,” says Jen. “Every woman is different. Some can’t wait to get back to the workplace, while others can’t the thought of it. Try not to feel pressured by either your employer or society. If possible, wait until it feels right.”

2. Plan ahead

Woman minding baby while trying to work

“Have all your ducks in a row,” says Jen. “Childcare for example is obviously crucial, so don’t leave it too late. Start enquiring about crèches or child minders in your local area, months ahead if possible.” Talking to other parents with babies in your local community is also a good idea. “Find out how they’re coping and it might help you,” says Jen. 

3. Be flexible

Increasingly, parents are asking for more flexible working hours. It could mean starting and leaving earlier, working remotely a few days a week, or doing four days instead of five.  “Don’t be afraid to ask, even if it isn’t company policy,” says Jen. “Think about your working week and structure it around your needs. A lot of the workforce are parents and most employers are understanding.”

4. Know your rights

If a child is sick you may be entitled to take time off or if you’re breast feeding for example you should be allowed time to pump your milk. There should also be somewhere to do it and a place in which to store it.

“You have rights as a parent and it’s important to know them,” explains Jen. “Talk to the HR department. Many companies offer help and guidance on juggling parenthood with careers and there could be services on offer that you don’t know about, like counselling for example.”

5. Prep on your days away from work 

The working week will be so much easier if you prepare as much as possible in advance. Jen suggests planning your wardrobe and the baby’s wardrobe. “Lay out the clothes and pack a baby bag with everything you need for the crèche,” she says. “All this will save you time and limit stress.” She also suggests preparing meals in advance and batch cooking them or storing them in slow cooker bags. “You can freeze the bags and put them into the slow cooker in the morning before you leave. You’ll come home to a ready-made meal.”

6. Check in on yourself

Woman holding mug and reading a book

We’re expected to work like we’re not parents and parent like we don’t work, and most find it stressful. It’s so important therefore to take a little time out each day and check in on yourself. “Self-care is so important,” says Jen. “Even sitting down with a cup of tea and a book, taking a relaxing shower, or going for a brisk walk counts. Let’s face it, it’s a stressful time for all mothers so you need to look after yourself in order to look after your baby.”

7. Go easy on yourself

Being a mother is a job in itself and being fully employed means that you’re doing two jobs, so go easy on yourself. “Some days are going to be hard,” says Jen. “That’s completely normal. The trick is to accept it and realise you’re the same as every other working mother.”