Cut back on any unnecessary extras both at work and at home to give you and your family plenty of breathing space in the first few weeks. At home, this might mean lowering your domestic standards even more or simply doing less. Professionally, the relationship-building activities such as client networking and socials with colleagues can be gently ramped up late. And remember, there's always the option of popping along to socials for one or two key conversations (even if it's just to flag that you're back) and heading off after less than an hour.
"I was away from the office for 18 months and therefore knew that there would have been a lot of changes in my absence. I therefore decided to set myself fairly low expectations in terms of how quickly I would get back up to speed. Spending much of the first week back concentrating on the mundane tasks like familiarising yourself with the IT systems, reconnecting with colleagues etc, as well as reading up on changes in the law, was a good way of setting myself up to start client work properly the following week."
Research by the author of the book Mothers Work! into emotions when returning to work found the following percentages of feelings experienced by the 132 women asked: happiness = 53%; guilt = 74%; valued = 65%; free = 74%; dread = 35%; anxiety = 64%. Whatever emotions you're feeling, they're probably normal and will shift to something stable and positive within a couple of months. Some key thoughts:
- "I found the first few weeks a real struggle and I came close to resigning. However, I got used to it and appreciate it all the more now."
- "I have returned to work three times and each time it's been hard initially but after only a few months I am settled and I'm sure it's the right thing for us. No harm in trying it, you can always do something else if it doesn't work out as you'd like."
- Hang in there at least three months - it takes time to get used to the new routine."
- What stands out for you? What's worth sharing with your line manager?
- What action points will go on your to-do list? Who can support you?
- What's the first thing you're going to do?
- Breastfeeding at work - a useful guide for employers and employees on what the law says and best practice
- Case study of 'transition time' at law firm Morrison & Foerster LLP
- Chapter seven 'Prepare for a smooth return' in Mothers Work! How to Get a Grip on Guilt and Make a Smooth Return to Work by Jessica Chivers (Hay House, 2011)
- Shared Parental Leave FAQs