Take a pre-baby pause
This is a good time to reflect on what is important to you. This is your lull and if you feel it isn’t the lull try and seek out even the smallest lull you can find.
When you are working and pregnant you have a lot on. When the baby arrives you are focused on the baby, so now is your time to consider, think, take time out and ask yourself some questions you might not normally have considered:
- Do you know what it is about work that keeps you doing it?
- What is your measure of success?
- What will you have achieved when you can sit back and think "ah I have done it"?
- Do you think that moment exists?
The reason this is a good time to consider this is because your measure of success will be an influencing factor in how you feel about returning to work.
Compatibility with motherhood
Many businesses expect excessive face time. They need to see you at your desk to feel secure you are present and working hard. If your company is like this, have you considered how that will impact your plans to have a family and a career? There is an increasing pressure on women to be able to balance both, while ensuring they put in enough face time to keep their company satisfied.
When you are feeling exhausted it is far more difficult to think rationally and remember the times before you had the baby, which is why this is the time for you to think and consider whether you will be achieving your own personal success factors and whether those objectives will remain the same when your baby arrives.
Ariana Huffington in her book Thrive talks about a person’s eulogy and comments on the things we remember people for. Being at your desk because you have a presentation the next day when you could be tucking your baby into bed may be too much of an emotional stress. To be at work, you are going to have to reeeeeally want to be there.
Think about the things that make you tick at work. Remember those days when you went home feeling like superwoman. Remind yourself what will have happened that day for you to get that rush of excitement and pride inside for the work you achieved.
Are those days compatible with how you see your life as a mother?
your Company's responsibility
It is on some level the responsibility of the company to engage its employees and encourage them to grow with a business. As an HR professional we spend time reviewing our employee engagement levels through measurements and networking feedback meetings. We didn’t always get it right for everyone as each person is different and expects something unique that will fulfil the bit inside that shouts ‘I’m doing a good job’.
What is it for you?
In the ideal world you will have some time at home before the baby arrives to have your pre-baby pause. This may be a week or it could be more than month. Depending on how early you have decided to finish work or how late your baby decides to arrive you will have some time at home if things work out that way.
It isn’t too early to start thinking about your finances. Depending on your length of service with your employer and their maternity policy you will know what you are earning when you are on maternity leave.
There are a lot of women who go it alone when they have a baby either through choice or their relationship has broken down. I am not suggesting those situations don’t exist, but for now, let’s presume you are in a relationship with a partner who earns.
You may have already talked about this at length but if you haven’t this is a good time to nail down the financial arrangements for when you are on maternity leave. It is likely you as the mother will be taking home less than normal.
Sit down together one evening and review your joint income, consider how much you think you will need and agree how you will work together to financially grow your family. Some women just use a shared account, others take an allowance and some women manage it all themselves from their own income/savings.
There is no right or wrong but it is important to think about it. Now.
The reason this is important now and the reason we are discussing this is because childcare costs money and needs thinking about in advance. You may be reading this way after the baby is born and you are ready to go back. Whenever you are thinking about the logistics, the cost is a biggy. We will talk about different types of childcare later, but for now, pre-birth, consider your finances, how you are going to manage while on maternity leave and for how long.
Reconfirm your return to work date
This will more than likely reaffirm to you the length of time you think you will be absent from work. Your employer will probably have asked you the question and you will have set in your mind an expected time to return.
Get a specific date and use that date to plan.
Things might change later but it is good practice to start with a firm plan. It will allow you to have some measure on how long you will be away from your job and for some women means the unknown and anxiety of this new chapter is lessened. With a plan, you have some idea of how long this period of being at home with your baby might last and will mentally ease the adjustment in your mind of returning to work.
Going it alone
I said earlier that lots of women go it alone. If you are one of those, this thought process still applies to you. Consider your financial position and budget accordingly. You may be receiving some financial support from the father but you may not. Either way, it is essential to think about how you are going to fund this time before you return to work. Financial worries will be a stress you can ill afford to add to exhaustion and changing nappies!
Remember your 'you' plan
When you have got your financials in line, take some to remind yourself about the things that are important to you. We talked about in the pregnant and working section, and you will have written a list with a star next to the absolute ‘must haves’. The reason this is a good time to think about this is because when the baby arrives you might find it’s quite tricky to remember.
A baby throws you a whole set of curve balls that have you reinventing yourself on the spot on a daily basis. But underneath it all, you are still you.
Remember your CAREER HIGHS
There will be days when you have come home from work and felt like a superstar. You may have presented to people, ran a meeting, and signed a new contract, done a new deal….
It doesn’t actually matter what you did but will have had days when what you did meant you felt confident and strong in your career. Those days will more than likely disappear from your mind when you find yourself undertaking a Mummy career which comes with no manual, no training, and no build up. In your career you will have worked your way up, learned as you went and become more and more knowledgeable. It is a normal career path regardless of what the career is.
You have a career that you have created, you have succeeded in, a career that makes you happy and you have achieved brilliant things. You wouldn’t be reading about going back to work if those things weren’t important to you.
Take this opportunity to think about the must haves and consider, even if it is one thing a week, when you might schedule and plan for the one thing that will help you remember the you that was the one before you became a Mummy. If it is a trip to the gym, can you plan for your husband, partner or mother to commit to the same time every week to allow you to get out, be on your own and leave your baby behind?
Why is this helpful?
The reason this is worth considering now is that when you want to return to work it will be helpful and significant if you have evidence of how you managed something important for you after your baby is born. It does not necessarily have to be in the first week, but set yourself a target to do the one thing that is important to you in the first 8 weeks.
Going from career woman to Mummy and back to career woman without factoring in some overlap in the middle can prove to be more difficult. The shock of returning to the office and leaving your child for the first time when it is a few months or even a year old can be a huge emotional wrench.
If you can have even a short one hour burst away from your child early on and retain the very best version of you, you are more likely to find the build up to going back to work easier, and the same goes for your child.
Separation anxiety can be worse for the mother than the child! Top tips:
- start early; and
- have your baby cared for by someone other than you.
This will all help when you return to work.
The thing about your new baby is there is no training, no working your way up, just one day this little person arrives and you just have to know. Your instinct will help of course but you will face tons and tons of unknowns.
You will have moments when you don’t know the answer, there is no expert next to you who has worked with your baby before, and although you can read books, get tips and ask your friends, you will still be finding you are faced with lots of ‘I don’t know what to do moments’. This isn’t the case for all women, but many career women find this tough sometimes. If you are used to knowing your job, knowing the answers and being the expert in your area, this new baby may have you feeling uncomfortable and out of your depth.
It’s completely ok to be in this position and worth considering it now, before your baby arrives.
This really is the only career in the world where within a 24 hour period you will be going from one career to another without training….
- Return to work date: Get your diary out the write the date you plan to go back to work. Write it in your diary and put a smiley face next to it. Plan for it to be something positive not negative.
- Financial plan: Write down exactly how you plan to manage financially. Give yourself a weekly and daily budget. Plan it over the number of weeks you will be on maternity leave.
- Your career: Write down the reasons why your career is important to you. Write down how it makes you feel and what your career gives you in your life, as you, the person you are.
3 things to remember
- Write your return date to work in your diary
- Create a financial plan for your maternity leave
- You are your own person and the baby will be a brilliant extension of you and you are still you