10 Things you should know if you are intending to go back to work after a baby (Part 2)

Following on from my last blog, below are my remaining 5 tips. I hope you will find them useful.

  • Communicate with your partner. This is very important as you will be feeling all sorts of emotions while you are pregnant and after your  have your baby. You will feel guilty for deciding to go back to work and letting someone else look after your child. My husband was extremely supportive. We had a very open mind and decided to just keep on trying until we found a solution that worked for us. Initially he did the drop off at nursery which allowed me to get to work early so I could finish early to pick up our son. This worked for us for some time until he could no longer drop off in the mornings because of new work commitments which was where an aupair was useful for us.Forgetting about school runs for a minute, let’s consider household chores! A wise person once told me that you need to begin everything as you intend to continue. So when baby arrives, involve your husband or partner in taking care of your child. From bath time to feeding to bed time. Remember that he is the father of the child and so the chances he will knowingly do anything to harm your child are slim. Let him learn how to take care of your child in his own way. This will become helpful in the long run as your child will become used to the love and comfort of the both of you, as opposed to just you. This means that on some evenings, after work, you could ask partner to do the bath time and bed time while you make dinner. This saves you time and I find that it makes us feel closer to each other instead of me secretly resenting him because I feel like I am doing it all by myself! It is never too late to find a balance with your partner, start now and ask nicely. Good luck!
  • Effective childcare! I can’t emphasise this enough. If you do not have effective childcare you cannot be effective at your job. We all know nursery is very expensive, yet a number of us put our children in nursery. It is tried and tested and I guess it is relatively safe to say that the chances of going wrong with a nursery is slimmer. However, one thing to note is that nurseries have very strict rules. For example, if your child has three loose stools in a day, you will be called to pick up the child within an hour and the child would be excluded from nursery for the next three days. The same applies if the child is running a high temperature. In our nursery, any time my son ran a high temperature I was told if they adminster capol or nurofen to bring down his temperature then I will definitely have to be there within the hour or they will call the ambulance to take him to the hospital. The only way to circumvent the three days exclusion rule is to provide the nursery with a letter from the doctor saying  whatever your child has got is not contagious. Of course these exclusion periods means that at no notice at all, you have to take time off work.I have on a few occasions been in the same shoes. I even went to the doctor on one occasion because I was convinced my son’s loose stool was as a result of his teething. The doctor told me she couldn’t provide me with a letter without testing his stool and by the time she takes a sample, send it to the lab and get the results, it will be a week, by which time he would be back at nursery anyway. So you see, there is really no circumventing. If you know how, please share. It can be a very frustrating time especially as your child is potentially ill, coupled with the fact that you may be in the middle of an important meeting or have a deadline. You literally have to drop everything you are doing and go and pick up your child. I have cried several times because of this because of my relatively conflicting responsibilities.

    I think there are two solutions to this. The first is to accept that this is temporary and as the child gets older, the instances of you being called to pick them up will be far and inbetween. It is very hard to be effective at work in such situations. If you are unlucky, certain projects at work will pass you by because you may be tagged as the unreliable employee or even if that doesn’t happen, you begin to wonder how you are coming across to your boss.

    Notwithstanding the above, the stress of it all may just begin to get to you. I was speaking to a colleague at work recently who confided in me that in the three weeks her daughter was at nursery before she came back to work full time, she was perfectly fine. However since she resumed a week and a half ago, she has been called twice to pick up her daughter and so has barely done any work. She had to call her mum to come and help temporarily. She asked me how I cope and make everything look easy and this is where the second option comes in, seek help!

    If you are lucky enough to have a good support system or reliable family members living not very far away, for example retired parents or family members who work shorter hours than you do, enlist their help. They can help you pick up your child while you make you way back home to assess the seriousness of the situation. You may then ask them to help with look after them while you go to work and keep loose tabs on them or aim to finish at work early. This gives you some time to tie up loose ends. This is not suitable for everyone, but after three months of erratic attendance at work and working after I put my son to bed, I broke down and realised I just couldn’t do it. I couldn’t be effective at my job in this way. My job is very technical. It involves late hours on some days but not always. I discussed this with my husband and we decided to try enlisting the help of an au pair. For us, what we really needed was help with school runs especially on days when I have to work late. We decided to reduce the days he goes to nursery to make it more affordable for us to do both. I have to emphasis that for you decide to go down this route, it is important that you interview your prospective aupair thoroughly, ask the right questions and try to read between the lines.

    We were lucky that our first aupair was very good. She made or lives very easy and our son loved her. Our second aupair has only recently started but she seems to be effective as well. If you can afford it, you may decide getting a nanny may be the right route for you. Another option could be to enlist the help of a local childminder who will do the school runs for you and then you can pick up your child from the childminder’s place on your way back for work. Once again, it is imperative that you undertake your due diligence on whoever’d help you enlist in looking after your child. I appreciate that no one can look after your child better than you, but as the old adage goes, it takes a village to raise a child.

  • Set short term goals. This is particularly important if you want additional children, or at least, while your children are babies/toddlers. This is because they are in what I like to term the ‘unpredictable’ phase. As I have highlighted above, children are more susceptible to illness as babies/toddlers so you may have to leave whatever it is you are doing at work to go and attend to them. I find that short term goals are more realistic. You feel a great sense of achievement when you achieve one of your goals within a few months and it gives you the drive to look forward to the next few months. You can tick things off more quickly and some may thrive under the temporary pressure of getting things done now instead of falling into the procrastination trap and finding you underestimated the amount of time you required to meet that goal. With short term goals you are more likely to rectify mistakes in the interim and ultimately meet your long term goal without even realising it and with less pressure.
  • Use up your holidays. You don’t have to go on expensive holidays or travel to a tropical island. But time off work either spent abroad or in the UK gives you quality uninterrupted family time to spend with your child(ren). For me,  I find the week or two I take out of work invaluable as I bond with my son and he gets to see me round the clock. I also notice the new skills he has acquired that I may have missed as a result of rushing out for work everyday! The truth is the will always be a price to pay regardless of the decision you take. If you chose to work full time, you will miss some aspects of your child’s development but you need to be sure you can make your peace with that or somehow compromise, otherwise you will not be happy.
  • Finally, do not compare. There is a likelihood for mums to either compare themselves or their children with others. Not only are you not comparing like with like, you are setting yourself up for disappointment. We are all different and we all thrive differently when faced with the same situation. In addition, we all have different access to resources but I would like to think we make the best of what we have. Comparing will make you miss out on what really makes your own child special. Provided you are giving your child the best you can afford and making the best use of the resources you have, you are doing a great job.

I hope some of these tips will come in useful.

Goodluck!

10 Things you should know if you are intending to go back to work after a baby (Part 1)

Please note that these tips are tailored for those in the UK.

There are a number of things to consider if you intend to go back to work after having children. I have summarised here the top ten tips I found to be invaluable to me and some of my friends when we were preparing for a baby with the intention of going back to work. I hope you will find this as a useful guide to help you put things in place (including your mindset) when you decide to commence on your parenting journey. For those who already have kids, some of this tips may still be relevant to you too. Please feel free to add any additional tips that has helped you to transition from maternity leave to going back into employment in the comment box below.

An overriding factor is to ensure you are ready mentally before commencing on this journey. Your life changes when you have a child and you are suddenly responsible for another human’s life. I hope the tips below will contribute in helping you to prepare mentally.

I have split the blog into two as I realised it was a very long read. The first 5 tips can be found below and the next 5 will be published in my next blog.

  • Read your company’s maternity policy. This so important and even more so if you intend on changing jobs before you start trying for a child. This is because some companies have caveats in their maternity policies that requires you to have spent a minimum amount of time working for them before you are entitled to the full pay benefit. You may however still be entitled to the statutory pay, but in most cases, this is significantly less than receiving your full pay for part of your maternity leave. In addition, being familiar with your maternity policy will help you begin to consider how long you can afford to stay off work. For example, the maternity policy of the firm I work for provides 18 weeks of full pay, which is the equivalent of four and a half months of full pay, after which I only received statutory maternity pay for another four and a half months. My friend on the other hand works for a company that provides nine months of full pay. Maternity leave policies vary depending on who you work for. Won’t it be useful if companies published their maternity policies publicly?
  • Look around you, there is at least one working mum somewhere in your workplace. This reassures me all the time as there is precedence all around me. It tells me it is very possible to work and be a mum at the same time. Don’t feel shy, embarrassed or like a slacker when you find out you are pregnant. I felt all of these emotions at some point during my pregnancy. Thankfully, I soon abandoned the feeling and embraced the new me. In some cases, people will begin to treat you differently, either to overcompensate for you being pregnant and try to make life ‘easier’ for you, or they may even begin to start making plans for your absence, months before you are due to go on leave. This can be very disheartening, especially when you have worked very hard on a particular project and all of a sudden you can no longer see it to completion or someone else takes the glory for it because you are on leave and make it sound like they are doing you this huge favour! I don’t think I have any hard or fast tip for this one. You just need to condition your mind that there will never be a right time to leave your work to have a baby. You just have to press pause temporarily, and come back to another project that would get you equally excited. I must however say that the firm I work for are relatively good in this area. Largely, I didn’t feel like I was being kicked out before I left for my leave. Instead, I wanted to see the conclusion of some of my projects. It soon didn’t matter though, because I had the bigger more rewarding project of pushing a baby out of me to look forward to.
  • No two pregnancies are the same! A friend may have confided in you about how difficult or beautiful her pregnancy was, or you may have read about this somewhere. Unfortunately, there is no certainty that you will have the same experience. It is not unusual for a woman to have varying experiences with different pregnancies. For example, I know of a lady who had a relatively smooth pregnancy with her son and while she was pregnant with her daughter,  she found it more difficult. I have also heard of people who found the second pregnancy a lot easier. I would encourage you to stay positive but to have an open mind to adapt as the circumstances may require. Do not be disheartened if your pregnancy is not as you expect it to be. Speak to your doctor and your midwife and ask them for tips if you need any. Failing that, there are a number of baby groups designed for expecting mum. My favourite of which was the Baby Centre birth boards. I must say you get a mixed bag on forums like this but it is generally very useful to see that other mums are going through similar experiences and in some cases, worse, which could make you count your blessings.
  • Don’t feel hurried to take the decision as to whether you want to go back into work full time or part-time. For those who are resident and work in the UK, by law, you are entitled to 12 months of maternity leave and you do not have to give your company notice of when you intend to go back to work, if you intend to go back at the end of the 12 months period. However, if you intend to go back to work prior to the 12 months elapsing, then your company will require 2 months notice. Your company is also not permitted by law to ask you whether or not you are returning and on what terms you intend to come back. I implore you to enjoy your maternity leave and use the time to connect with your baby. You may find that after this period of time you have no desire of going back to work or to go back part time. If that is the case then so be it. Just make sure you are taking informed decisions considering all facts of the circumstance as opposed to emotionally lead decisions. I say this because, I have had two types of conversations with people who gave up work for their children. The kind that are happy with the decision they made so many years ago (most of whom went back to work part-time) and the kind that wish they made a different decision and wished they at least went back to part-time employment because the children are now at university and they don’t have a lot to fill up their free time now. This is not to say that there aren’t people out there who are glad they did not go back to work. Decide what type of person you are and what will make you happy and do it.
  • If you intend to go back to work full time, make use of your ‘Keeping In Touch’ (KIT) days. Generally, maternity policies in the UK will include up to 10 days of KIT days. This is to enable the employee to work without bringing to an end their maternity leave. They could use the days to attending team meetings, conferences, training and so on and they would generally be paid for the KIT days. It is important to note that employers are not obliged to provide KIT days and employees are not required to use them. However I recommend that you ask your employer if you intend to use your KIT days before you leave on your maternity leave. One thing to consider is the fact that you will most likely need childcare for the days you go into the office to ‘work’. It is however a good way of keeping in touch with work while you are on leave. It is something to consider but may not be right for everyone. I used 9 of my KIT days because in my firm, as an assistant manager (the position I was when I was on maternity leave) you were entitled to an intensive training which took place for three weeks a year for two years. I attended the first training and i did not want to delay the second training so I used my KIT days to attend two out of the three weeks of training and then completed the training when I went back to work full time. It was invaluable to me particularly because my line of business, tax, is very volatile and we have new rules in the UK all the time. Using my KIT days helped me to stay on top of things.

To be continued….

About ‘Just do it mum’

I became a mum three months shy of two years ago and it has been the most exciting, interesting, fulfilling but yet challenging time of my life. No one could have prepared me for a life of motherhood. However, ploughing through the internet and finding articles or blogs that were relevant to whatever my current situation was, has been invaluable. As working mums, the challenges we face is endless. From finding appropriate childcare to balancing your life at home and at work while being effective at both (not even aiming for perfection). 

To this end, my aim is to contribute to this growing resource with the hope that someone some where will be inspired by my experiences and that of other mums, which I will also be sharing on this blog. My aim is to encourage all women reading this blog to give them that additional push we sometimes need to move on to the next level of our aspirations. In doing this, I know I will also be inspiring myself. 

To any man reading this, you also have a role to play so don’t close this page just yet. Our blogs will give you a snippet into what matters to some women and how our minds sometimes work. I am also hoping that this blog will give you the tools you may need to encourage a loved one, be it a friend, wife, mum or daughter. 

In my short few years on earth,  I am yet to find someone who does not want to be successful. Success isn’t always defined by how rich you are in monetary terms. I use successful in the above sentence to mean what success means to you. In my experience, I have found that there is a big team behind every successful person and the most effective of which are not on your ‘payroll’. That is, your biggest cheerleaders are often spurring you on because they love you not because they have to. This ranges from our families to friends and colleagues (sometimes). This is not to say one shouldn’t be cautious or to let your guard down. As with everything, wisdom is required. 

In addition,, as a Christian who tries to live her life as Christ would want me to, a lot of my beliefs are based on the bible. On this note, please note that I will not knowingly promote anything that is illegal, immoral or unethical as a way to get ahead. 

I should end this post by saying I do not claim to know it all. I currently live my life aiming for success as defined by own criteria, excelling in some cases and making mistakes in other cases. However, one thing is certain, I learn from my mistakes (eventually!). I still have a whole lot to learn and this is what makes everyday exciting to me. I hope you will share your experiences with us as well via your comments.

Cheers to years and a future of good motivational blogs.

‘Just do it mum’