Nicola Conville body and soul
Returning to work after maternity leave is a big change for any mum and bub.
The good news: there is plenty you can do to ease back into the working world.
Regardless of your reasons for returning to work, try to avoid feeling guilty – this is just one of many adjustments your family will make over the years, and after a few weeks, things will settle down as a new routine gets established. Here's our advice on making the transition all the more easy.
1. Stay in touch
Don't disappear off the radar when you have your baby. Stay in touch with your boss and colleagues while you're on leave. Depending on how relaxed or conservative your work environment is, you can bring bub in for a visit, or just send an email once in a while to ask how everything is going. Request that any important workplace updates be sent to your home email account while on maternity leave. This helps avoid any big surprises when you go back.
2. Know your rights
Find out what policies your employer has when it comes to being flexible and family-friendly and speak to your union rep about your entitlements. Under Australian law, an employee returning from parental leave is legally entitled to return to the same job they held prior to going on leave. If that job no longer exists, they are entitled to return to a position that is similar in pay and status. For more information, visit www.fairwork.gov.au.
3. Be clear about what you want
It sounds simple, but many people (women especially) shy away from being direct when it comes to work. If you want to work part-time or from home to start with, say so. Speak to your boss about expectations too – if you worked 12-hour days pre-baby and you now wish to leave at 5pm on the dot, make this clear. Ask about carer's leave as well for when your baby gets sick.
4. Managing breastfeeding
You may wish to keep breastfeeding when you return to work, and how easy this will be depends on how organised you are; how old your baby is (a three-month-old needs more feeds than a 12-month-old); and the facilities available to you for expressing and storing milk. You may wish to feed your baby in the morning, leave expressed milk for their carer to give them, and either express at work or wait until you get home to feed your baby (bring breast pads with you as you may have to deal with engorgement and/or leaking). Many employers now provide a dedicated room where new mums can express. Go to a breastfeeding organisation such as the ABA for more tips on this topic.
5. Consider your childcare options
The earlier you start to think about childcare options the better, as waiting lists can be long. The main options are to have your child cared for by a friend or relative; long day care; family day care; and a babysitter or nanny. Ask friends about their experiences, do your research and make an informed decision based on what will be the best choice for you and your family.
6. Rest up
Despite going back to work in increasing numbers, a recent British study found that women still do three times as much housework as their partners. With so much on your plate, it pays to be as organised as possible to make life easier for yourself. Whether that's roping your partner into cooking a few times a week, going to bed an hour earlier each night or hiring a fortnightly cleaner to give yourself a break from the domestic duties. Because if mum is happy, everyone is happy!
Read more parenting advice at bodyandsoul.com.au