Maternity and paternity leave can be a joy, but it can be hard to go back in to work. Pediatrician Dr Tamara would like to give the 5 essential support systems that every parent needs when returning back to work.
A patient manager:
Having a baby will bring new demands to your energy and focus. Sleep deprivation, childcare schedules and the mental energy it takes to coordinate everything in the morning before arriving to work may affect how you choose to reorganise your tasks in a day. Alert your manager that you may need to keep your work load initially low while you test out different patterns of working, identify areas you would like a retraining in and responsibilities you may like to prioritise or delegate. Make sure to point out that your return after a period of absence will allow you to give them a fresh perspective of several projects happening in the department, so your period of wading into work slowly can be a win-win for both sides.
The colleague looking to up their game:
The reorganising required for a transition cannot happen in isolation. Communicate openly and share your thoughts with team members as you reorganise your priorities. Not only does this prevent any grudges and hostility, but some colleagues may be looking for a chance to demonstrate more responsibility and gladly take on tasks that you want to offload. Instead of feeling threatened, see this as an opportunity to mentor them in the new task them and demonstrate your own leadership skills.
A human resources expert:
Many parents return to work with guilt from having had to take time off, and a lack of confidence as they relearn their job. Some sly managers may use this to gently pressure returning parents into working patterns and responsibilities that are unsuitable. Speak to Human Resources to gain insight into your organisations policies. The heads of diversity and employee engagement or a female member of the HR team are likely to be the most useful people in terms of practical advice. Seek independent advice outside your organisation through organisations such as Maternity Action (www.maternityaction.org.uk) and Working Families (www.workingfamilies.org.uk) who will provide impartial advice to help you understand what your rights are and how to present them to your team.
While information about the transition process may be in plentiful supply there is nothing like speaking to real people who have gone through the same transition in either your organisation or a similar field. Meet up with other parents, get their advice on how best to navigate this challenging time and practice the difficult conversations you are likely to have with your managers.
Your childcare provider:
Learning to trust your child care provider is a tormenting process all parents go through. In the first three months of your return, it is normal to see some regression in the child’s sleep, toileting, eating habits or mood as they try to understand this new change. This is a time that children will also get lots of minor illnesses as they encounter new viruses for the first time. Having your child looked after by someone who is experienced, trustworthy and flexible can relieve you of a lot of anxiety allowing you to focus on your transition.