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September 20, 2019

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Returning to Work After Parental Leave

**This piece was written prior to #COVID-19 but the advice still rings true for any new parent.

 

My daughter Eliza is now seven. I desperately wanted to be a mum and went through gruelling IVF and fertility treatments to have her. I was one of the lucky ones – it worked for me, I loved being pregnant and I was excited about the new chapter of my life that was to come.

 

 

 

Despite throwing myself into being a mum, signing up for every baby class going, and making a new group of mum friends, I will be honest – I found maternity leave tough. 

 

Eliza cried A LOT and woke up every hour. She didn’t sleep through the night, crawl, walk, play the violin, or say “mummy and daddy” at three months, as all the competitive mums kept telling me their babies were already doing.

 

I had always known I would go back to work – I’ve been in the marketing and advertising industry for over 20 years and I love my job. I am incredibly proud of the fact that I grew up in social housing and despite all odds am now in a job I adore at a company I admire.

 

Despite knowing I was making the right decision, when I told my new group of mums that I was returning to work after ten months’ maternity leave, I didn’t always get a supportive response, and leaving Eliza at nursery was the hardest thing I had done.

 

Once I saw all the fun she was having, it reassured me I’d made the right choice for both of us and I was so excited to get back to work and feel like “me” again.

 

Except it wasn’t quite the same. Working for a fast-moving tech company, I felt I’d lost my confidence and had a serious case of imposter syndrome – something I’m sure lots of you can relate to. I went home after my first week back at work crying to my husband out of frustration. I couldn’t understand why I couldn’t be a mum andhave a career – I felt I was failing at both.

Luckily, I had a great boss who regularly checked in on how I was feeling, while giving me space to get back into my groove, and seven years later, I know that personally I am a better parent because I work. I treasure the time I have with Eliza and feel lucky to work for a company that has been nothing but supportive.

 

It’s not always easy, but the experience has 100% made me a better manager and leader. 

 

For any fellow working parents, here’s what the experience taught me:

 

Stay in touch

 

This does not mean you need to read all the emails! Keep in touch with your team, go along to the social events – your return will feel much less scary if you’re going back to a group of familiar faces.

 

Take your time

 

I was my own worst enemy. I thought I had to be the perfect parentandgive 100% to my job on day one. The truth is that the first few weeks are about finding a rhythm so give yourself the time and space to work out your commute, pick-up times, and generally adjust to the new normal.

 

Talk about how your feeling

 

…and that feeling is often guilt! Guilt that you’re not going to the pub after work with your team as you want to get home, guilt that you didn’t bake for the school fair, guilt that you don’t have enough time for your friends. We’re all in the same boat and sharing with other working parents really does help.

 

I’d love to hear about your experience as a working parent, and if you have any advice for someone going through the same thing?

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