Returning to work after a prolonged absence

This week has been my first week back to work after having had a year off on maternity leave. The first week, especially the first day back, is always the toughest. It is tough because it means the end of a period of your life, that if like me, you especially treasured. I loved my time off to bond with my baby and also appreciated the extra time I had with my eldest before she starts school next year.

I don’t know whether it is the personality of my second born, or whether having an older sister that wasn’t stressed, helped, but my baby girl was actually upbeat and happy the first and second morning that I had to return to work.

Normally a baby that loves to sleep in, she must have sensed something was up on my first morning, as she was awake about one minute before my alarm went off. I have no idea how she knew, but once she was awake, there was no getting her back to sleep again. I allowed extra time in the morning to  feed her and cuddle both girls. Even though she was awake, I was actually glad for it. I even got a happy wave from both girls before I left. The morning was so peaceful and lovely. It actually came as a pleasant surprise.

With my first born, it was a different story. My first day back, she too woke as my alarm went off (how do they know?), only she wasn’t happy, she was devastated. She knew something was up and that possibly we wouldn’t be together. She spent the whole time I was getting ready, sobbing great, big tears. I believe I cried all the way into work. What a great look that would have been as I walked back in to the office!

It is with relief, that the second time around has gone off almost smoothly. I say almost smoothly, as today, being my second morning, would have been perfect, had my baby girl not hit her face, from a fall, trying to wave goodbye to me. She is just learning to walk, and has reached a clumsy phase of step-step-fall.

Things that I have been grateful the second time around, returning to work, has been:

Grandparents

Having access to grandparents that genuinely love my girls is an absolute relief. The times that the girls are with them, I know in my heart that they are well looked after and are loved. Grandparents are also brilliant at sending regular updates throughout the day. I love that I am able to check my mobile, and see videos or photos of my girls playing and having fun. It really helps me to settle in at work and not feel any distress.

Transitioned my baby into childcare 

As mentioned in a previous post, I transitioned my baby girl into childcare, a month prior to going on leave. Doing so was great not only for my baby girl, but also for me. I actually wonder if parents feel separation anxiety more than their babies. Sure, babies definitely hate being away from their parents, but it surprised me, that I too, hated being away from my girls. I think it is because, as a parent, you worry about anything happening to your child when you are not around to protect them, or that they might need you and you are not there to comfort them. Having time to transition my baby girl, gave us both time to learn to be away from each other, and to realise that other people can care for them too.

Great place to work

Returning to a workplace that you know, and feel welcome, can make a huge difference when returning from a long absence of leave. I have been lucky in that aspect, as I have always liked where I work. I’m passionate by nature, so only ever want to work where I am happy. As much as going back to work was a shock to the system, at least going back to somewhere that I actually enjoy, was something to embrace, rather than be stressed out about.

One of the loveliest things about returning to work, has definitely been all the new toys I was greeted with. Working in technology, I always love playing with new things. I loved that I was able to use things that had never been used by anyone else. It actually felt like a fresh start.

Having a year off, it seems that change is inevitable. Working with technology, I understand that change happens regularly. Software applications are always changing, and new features are forever being rolled out. I am used to change in the workplace, so have been prepared for it, but I haven’t been prepared for all the changes on the way to the workplace. Simple things, like train ticket machines at my local train station have recently been implemented. A passenger must swipe their ticket before entering the platform. A simple change, but for someone, like me, that is always running for a train, and only ever barely making it, this is a significant change. Train timetables also were different since I last boarded a train. Once again, not a big problem, but if you are also like me, and you calculate exactly what train you need to be on, to ensure that you get where you need to at exactly the right amount of time, this can actually come as a shock.

If you are heading back to work after a prolonged absence, then my advice to you is:

  • Check and double-check any changes that might have happened on your route back to work. Roadworks could delay your trip in, as could newly altered train timetables.
  • Get up earlier than you need the first couple of weeks until a routine forms. As difficult as it might be to wake up early, it will be a lot more enjoyable, getting ready when you are relaxed, then when you are stressed and trying to get out of the door as fast as possible.
  • Try to get enough sleep. Sleeping, the night before going back to work, was near impossible for me. I think a mix of adrenaline and not wanting my leave to end, were keeping me awake up all night. I felt tired on my first day. A better sleep the next night, and I felt so much better the next day.
  • Keep positive. If you have small children that you are leaving to go to work, the more positive you are the better. I don’t know how they do it, but children seem to be able to pick up on a nervous vibe. If you are stressed, they will be too and it will just make leaving all the more harder.
  • Prepare everything the night before. I have found already that having everything prepared the night before really makes it so much more quicker and easier to get ready in the morning. I would rather be reaching for my second coffee, or cuddling my girls for the fiftieth time, than deciding which outfit I should wear.
  • If you are catching transport, than make the most of your ‘me time’ and do what you want to do: read a book, play a game on your mobile, learn a language, or write a post for your blog.

Returning to work is tough. Over time it will settle down and you will feel like you are back in control. The best thing you can do is be kind to yourself.

You’ve got this!

 

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