With the magical months of maternity leave coming to an end, your back-to-work date might be looming. Even if you love your job to bits, joining the rat race once more – and leaving your little one in someone else’s hands – isn’t exactly a piece of cake. From balancing your 9-to-5 with baby’s irregular routine to choosing the right childcare, here are some top tips to managing the transition.
keep in touch
When you take maternity leave, you don’t need to quit work cold-turkey. You’re legally allowed up to 10 ‘keeping in touch’ days throughout your leave, which you can use for a variety of things. Tie up loose ends on any old projects, pop in to learn about new changes or complete some important training before your triumphant return.
With your baby turning life upside down in more ways than one, returning to work after maternity leave seems like a big leap. After all, your routine looks a little different these days! Why not ease yourself in by reducing your hours after maternity leave? Have a chat with your employer or HR department a few weeks before your back-to-work date to make a plan that works best for you.
Start with three or four days per week to get both you and baby used to the new system. There will probably be some new faces in the office to get to know, too, so consider sending an email round to suggest a lunch date with everyone to help you settle back in.
Once you’re back at work, it’s well within your rights to have a chat with your employer about flexible working after maternity leave. Flexi or part-time hours can be a real help – later starts mean more time to spend feeding and preparing baby for their day. Is your little one particularly hungry in the afternoons? Finish at lunchtime to keep to your feeding schedule. Lots of mums with older kids arrange to leave at 3pm to make the school run, too.
help is at hand
Of course, baby will need looking after while you’re at work. Ask for help from family members if they live nearby – it’s hands down the cheapest option. Nursery school is ideal for socialising your little one early. Just make sure you have time to settle them in, since all the new sights, sounds and faces can be a little overwhelming.
It’s also a good idea to look into your company’s childcare benefits. Some offices have crèches, so you can check in on your breaks. If your budget is tight, there are still many ways you can get childcare support. Have a look at the different options on offer for working parents with childcare costs – from tax credits to subsidised childminders.
If you signed up to the childcare voucher scheme before 4th October 2018, you’re still entitled to all the perks, benefits and savings. The government has now introduced tax-free childcare to replace the vouchers, so have a look to see if you’re eligible to apply.
get in the zone
If you’re a freelancer or are self-employed, you might not have to travel very far when it’s time to get back to work. That being said, it’s still wise to take advantage of childcare options if you work from home, so you have some (precious) peace and quiet to focus on the 9-5.
Create an area in your home that’s just for working – an office or even just a desk in the spare room will do. Working from home with baby is all about creating a routine: mark off productive hours on your schedule and try to stick to them if you can.
Of course, one of the best things about working from home just after your maternity leave is having your little one close by. Take a little time between those official Skype meetings to play and cuddle with baby: just make sure to end the call before the giggles begin!