There are a lot of conversations on social media and in the workplace about preparing for maternity leave, but I noticed there weren’t many discussions about what it was like to come back to work. For some, this is the biggest challenge. And supporting women’s return to work after taking leave is an essential challenge to overcome if we are to have a truly gender-equal workforce at all career levels.
I hope my journey of returning to work after my second period of maternity leave will inspire others.
Five tips that helped me successfully get back to work:
Jump right in. It’s normal to feel a mixture of excitement and guilt at coming back to work. Remember the emotions you felt on your first day back to school after summer break? The butterflies in your stomach, seeing classmates you hadn’t spoken to recently and playing ‘catch up’? Adults can experience the same combination of nerves, excitement and even guilt when returning to work after a leave of absence. It’s all normal; just jump right in.
Set aside time for family. Make sure family time is quality, device-free time. Try not checking your laptop or mobile too often. Guilt comes from both directions, unfortunately. You may feel guilty when you return to work and see your team, who have been hustling in your absence, and you may feel guilty to leave your family at home to go to work. For your family, what’s essential is that you make the most of the time you have with the kids outside work. You’ll miss them during the day, so when it’s the evening or the weekend, set clear boundaries and focus on that precious family time.
Don’t expect a smooth ride. Things are not going to go perfectly smoothly; children—and parents—are unpredictable. We try to prepare for all scenarios, but sometimes issues cannot be foreseen. Expect even the most perfectly laid plans to get messed up, and you’ll be less stressed when they do.
Communicate. Have a chat with your manager when you come back. Set expectations up front, and make sure you have some flexibility over the first few days or weeks while you’re adjusting.
Stay positive. It’s all definitely worth it! And achievable. If Jacinda Ardern, New Zealand’s first female prime minister can do it, you can too.
Accenture is dedicated to creating a culture of equality. Join us March 8 on International Women’s Day when we reveal our latest Getting to Equal research and discuss the actions we can each take to champion a culture of equality.
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