There’s no way to fully prepare for your first mat leave, especially if you’re about to have your first baby or motherhood experience. There might have been a little send off lunch or an office baby shower and you leave your workplace excited and nervous. You know you’ll be back in year or so and you’ll be somebody’s Mom, but it’s difficult to grasp what that re-entry will actually look or feel like.
Upon re-entry into the workforce, Moms are sometimes treated like we’ve been on vacation for a year. In our absence the wheels at the office have kept turning while we’re posting playground pics and singing Wheels on the Bus. But we’ve been WORKING, different work yes, but we’ve been healing our bodies, keeping a tiny human alive, expanding our skill sets to things like breastfeeding, existing without sleep and learning nap schedules (none of which are easy.)
Natasha Jeshani is President and CEO of Career Contacts and the author of The HR Insider; how to land your dream job and keep it.
So many working Moms feel like they’re alone in that struggle when they return to work. I was treated like a different person,” she explains. “Working moms are not a new challenge; we’re not going to stop having kids. Moms have been returning to work for decades and organizations should have the process figured out. Employers have a responsibility but so do we as moms.
Natasha is mom to an 8 and a 5-year-old. She built her company, Career Contacts, when she became a mom herself and realized that there was work to be done in creating safe spaces, opportunity for growth and respect for women as they transitioned back from maternity leaves. Here are her five tips to set yourself up for a positive return to work.
Five tips for returning to work after Mat Leave
- Make a plan – Talk to your employer early on, don’t wait until the weeks before you’re due back. Engage them in the plan and ask for flexibility so if you need it, the option is there. Discuss your role, your expectations and theirs. Get a heads up on upcoming projects. Have conversations early on so you’re all on the same page for your return.
- Gradual Entry – Use the kindergarten model and enter gradually. Gradual entry helps kids ease into unfamiliar settings and you might need that too. Offer to come back one week earlier than scheduled, but on your own terms. An hour the first day so you can say hi to your boss and colleagues, set up your desk. Day two spend two hours to meet with your team, complete any required paperwork, go for lunch with colleagues, etc until you’re ready for that full first day. As much as we demand, we must give. Give that week of your time.
- Don’t Compare Yourself – It’s okay to struggle. Everyone does. Moms that they look like they’re doing it all are struggling too. Don’t compare your childcare to someone with a full-time nanny, or grandparents watching kids if that’s not your situation. Don’t compare your un-ironed top to someone’s wrinkle-free silk shirt, find your YOU-niform. Seek out champions that remind you you’re doing a great job, because you are.
- Know your worth – You’re not the same as you were before you went on mat leave which is not a bad thing! Remind yourself what you bring to the table professionally, review past professional achievements, focus on work you feel good about. Make a list of all the skills you had before and then add your new skills. Be your own cheerleader – you are amazing!
- Set boundaries – If you have to leave at 4 pm to make daycare pick up, leave at 4 pm. Create non-negotiable boundaries early, communicate them and stick to them. Don’t apologize for meeting your own needs and your family’s needs first. Once you create a routine around your schedule, the consistency will feel natural but get those boundaries in place on day one.
Have you read? Pro tips for returning to work after Mat Leave
Jenn Wint is a writer, communications strategist and a public relations specialist. She is passionate about storytelling and community. Jenn lives in East Vancouver with her husband, 3yo son and 1yo daughter. You’ll find them hanging around Vancouver’s playgrounds, water parks, coffee shops and anywhere that bakes fresh cookies in-house!