"For the first few days, just take in all of the changes, and tackle the tasks before you one by one. Once you've been back for a week or so, you'll find your feet properly. Arrange regular meetings with your line manager to discuss any issues that arise, like workload issues, training or competency issues, and any admin issues. Personally, try not to feel guilty - your child will be absolutely fine in the childcare you have arranged! He or she will be benefiting from new experiences in new circumstances, which will help his or her development. Also, don't be surprised if sleep patterns change when you go back to work. When you change a child's routine, it can often take a while to adapt and adjust, but he or she will soon settle down again with the right childcare. Try to separate your life at work and your life at home - you can't be in two places at once, but you can make sure you are giving 100% to the place that you are."
Where possible, have a back-up plan in place for ill children or problems with childcare that could arise in the first two weeks of your return. It's helpful if you can agree with your partner or another close adult that he or she will step in to care for your child(ren) if things don't go according to plan so that you can focus on your return. You might want to look after your child if he or she is unwell but remember it's not selfish or unkind for you not to be the one staying at home.
"If using a nursery, do not have the settling in days the week before you return to work. Your child will get bugs and need to be off so best get that over with while you are around. If you can, make sure you and your partner/extended family are a team for dealing with childcare when you return. Just because you have taken maternity leave does not mean that you have to be solely responsible on your return. If possible, in those first few weeks do not be responsible for pick-ups, meal preparation, housework and being the emergency contact. You will have enough on your plate. If you can afford it, get a cleaner!"
"Be realistic but balanced. You are no longer going to be able to stay in the office until 7pm, but don't sprint out the door at 5pm leaving a mess in your wake. Work smart. Have good solid logistics in place for looking after baby and, if they are in nursery, be aware that, at first, they will get sick and regularly be sent home at the drop of a hat. Try to think about how you will deal with that and use any support mechanisms that you have (grandparents?). The more you are in work, getting on with your job, the easier your return will be."
"Make sure you have strong contingency arrangements so that you don't need to take leave to look after a sick baby and are available to travel to meetings or stay away overnight if this is required as part of your role. Be enthusiastic and keen to take on work and meet clients and attend firm events so that colleagues and clients are aware that you have returned to work. Speak to your boss and IT team in advance to see whether it's possible for you to be set up to work from home in the event that you need to do so. Give it 110% to show that you are committed and can continue to carry out your role."
People who engage in strengths-based coaching with a coach skilled in career transitions report feeling more confident, better able to manage upwards and clearer on the steps they can take to facilitate a smooth return to work than those who don't. Where once coaching was seen as remedial, it is now viewed by many as evidence of a company's belief in, and willingness to invest in, staff development (Skiffington and Zeus, 2003). Does your organisation offer comeback coaching or outplacement/redundancy coaching? If they offer the latter but not the former, you could make the case for investment in coaching of returning employees being more commercially savvy than coaching for staff who are leaving. If your company has a reverse mentoring scheme, you could opt into this as a way to a) help senior members of staff grow their understanding of the challenges associated with returning to work after an extended leave and b) share your fresh perspective on the business.