As a new parent, I’ve benefited greatly from increased working from home, flexible hours, and initiatives like shared parental leave. These have made the infamous juggle of home and work responsibilities more manageable on my return to work. But returning to work is still a big adjustment. One thing that has surprised me is how little we actively talk about our challenges. Luckily, I’ve been helped by the advice and wisdom of colleagues across the industry. Here is the guidance I found the most helpful - and hopefully, you will too.
1. Define your working rules
Catherine Allen, senior account director at Definition: “It was a shock to the system going back to work after 12 months off and realising I couldn’t work the way I did before. With a little one in the picture, I’ve learnt to portion my time and be stricter with myself. When I log off for the day and my son is home, I put my laptop away so I can focus on being a mum. Then, if I want to do something later, I feel a lot better knowing I wasn’t trying to answer emails with one hand and do jigsaw puzzles with the other! Going back to work after parental leave is the time to examine the best way for you to work and, importantly - to stick to it.”
Sam Crown, director of agency services at Markettiers: “It’s imperative to have open and honest conversations with your employers and to manage and understand expectations from the beginning, so you all know where you stand. I’m lucky to have had (and continue to have) supportive employers throughout both mat leaves. However, it’s still a constant juggle, so don’t be afraid to ask for help and don’t compare yourself to anyone else. You’ve got this!”
3. Take time for you whenever you can
Tom Pallot, communications manager at Codat: “Make the most of your commute. As a new parent time suddenly becomes an incredibly scarce resource. Time alone even more so! Whether your commute is half an hour or 90 minutes, it’s a golden opportunity to get some you time before the evening shift when you get home. Catch up on your podcasts, grab some sleep, or even scroll mindlessly - whatever helps you reset.”
Heather Baker, CEO at Definition Group: “I found returning to work after having children very hard. I had completely lost my confidence, I was exhausted and suffering from postnatal anxiety. I struggled to find meaning in my work, I couldn't fit into any of my work clothes, and I had to make time to pump three times a day. But I gradually found ways to make it work for me: I had to put firm boundaries in place to manage workload; I met friends for lunch during the work week; and every now and then I took a day of holiday just for me. On these days I would do something I loved like go for a massage, do yoga or meet a friend for a long walk.”
4. Home life and work life aren’t at odds
Matthew Robinson, junior client services director at Definition: “It can be tempting to keep your parenting life and your working life separate - even to the point of not talking to your children about your work. I’ve found that doing the opposite has been beneficial. I recommend actively talking to your children from an early age about your work - what you do, why you do it and how they need to behave while you're working. Sticking to a consistent routine helps a lot here - as the kids always know when I'm about to start work, when I'm on calls, and when I'm finished for the day (and ready to play!)."
Written by Katy Bloomfield, managing director at Definition
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