If only parental leave lasted indefinitely.
Personally, I loved hanging out with my little one, and could not be happier pottering around the kitchen, taking my child to the park, cafe and other people’s houses, and even cleaning occasionally.
Sadly, parental leave is not infinite. And there are plenty of us who, fiercely as we love our children, could not think of anything worse than dropping out of the workforce.
So, whether your child is two weeks, two months or two years old, there will come a time when getting back into those work clothes becomes a must.
Going from slow, calm (hopefully!), baby-time to frantic work-time can be very jarring to the senses. It is amazing how quickly you can lose connection with the atmosphere at your once-familiar workplace.
Things that occupied your thoughts pre-baby are likely to seem much less important now and your new identity as a parent will have you thinking and prioritising in very new ways.
Here are five tips to help you make the transition back into the working world as trouble-free and enjoyable as possible.
Think about who you are now. Becoming a parent changes you, how could it not?
Now is the perfect time to reconsider your previous career goals, to think about whether you really are in the right field and what you would change if you could.
You may decide to remain at your current job while you get used to working again. Perhaps you intend to have more children soon, and don’t want to make any big changes until that’s all done.
But then what? Do you want to retrain? Start your own business? Push to the top of your career? Focus on what you want now and think about how you’re going to get there.
Get in touch with someone you trust at work. What changes to direction, policy or management have taken place while you were away? How has the office atmosphere changed? This will help you to mentally prepare and not to be caught off-guard.
Set up an appointment with your immediate supervisor and discuss a plan for your transition back to the workforce.
Although your seniority and pay is protected by law, your company does not have to return you to your exact same position. So find out exactly what your boss has planned for you.
Hear what they expect and make clear what you expect, so that everyone is on the same page. Do this with plenty of time to spare so that negotiated changes can come into effect before your first day.
If you haven’t already done so, find out now exactly what flexible working arrangements are available.
Even if you return to work full time, you will always have to be ready to collect your sick child from child care, or take time off to get immunizations and checks done, or a host of other child-related distractions which you never had to factor in before.
Find out now how your boss feels about this and what options you have to be as productive as they need you to be. Can you work from home? Work extra hours some days and then take a day off?
Can you bring your child to the office in a pinch? Is job-sharing available if you don’t want to return full time?
Months before you return to work, organise child care. You want to be confident you’ve found a good provider, and sometimes places can be very hard to get.
Get your child into care one or two days per week so that they become accustomed to the new experience.
This will free you up to buy some work clothes, prepare your freezer for the exhausted evenings to come when cooking will not be an option, and generally get into work mode once again.
The most important thing for your future happiness at work is to know what you’re getting into and to be prepared for it.
The unexpected pressures of leaving your child and no one around you really caring, and a fast-paced, long work day are stressful enough, without adding nasty surprises to the mix.
Make your job work for you, assert your rights and focus on your future dreams. Good luck, parents!