Tips for moms returning to work after maternity leave

Robin Altman shares some of her tips to help moms thrive in this new chapter of their lives.

Starting a family is one of the most significant life transitions a woman can go through. And although it’s a wonderful opportunity to experience life in a whole new way, it can also challenge a woman’s view of herself and who she is in the world – especially for mothers going back to work. Robin Altman shares some of her tips to help moms thrive in this new chapter of their lives.

Remember that you are still the same person: Remember who you are when you’re at your best. You’re still that same person you were before, with the same intelligence, strengths and personality. Reflect on previous peak experiences. These are times when you were in flow, operating at your best, when you were completely engaged and focused on the activity or task at hand, feeling challenged and fulfilled by it. Identify the strengths, talents and styles that you used in this experience. What were you passionate about, what was important about this experience. These elements make up the conditions at play when you’re being your best self. Look for alignment with these conditions and work opportunities. (This point is to help the person regain their confidence – it has been said that confidence is the top issue that women struggle with at this stage of their life.)

Remember that you are not the same person:  This may sound like a paradox from the previous point, but it’s not. While your personality hasn’t changed, as a mother, you’ve probably discovered a new part of yourself you never knew you had. The world looks different, and things that weren’t important before are top priority now. These priorities represents some of your new values in this new chapter of your life. Acknowledge that some of your core values may have changed. What are they now? What’s important for you about work, now? (Money might be the main reason but you’ll need more than that to sustain yourself.) Look at each of your values and ask yourself, “What are the conditions that will allow me to honour this value?” As you plan your new path, stay true to yourself and your values.

Self-reflection is the first step. Once you know who you are, you can start looking at what you want.

Get clear on what you want: Many women get caught up in all the choices. For example, are you going back to a previous employer, do you want to transition to a new job, a new company, a new career? Are you looking to start a business? Others get overwhelmed with what family and friends are telling them to do. You’re your own person, and you need to create your own unique path. Think about what option would suit you, your needs and provide the greatest fulfillment at this stage in your life. The more you know about yourself and what’s important to you, the clearer and more confident you will be on what you want. This in turn will lead to success and fulfillment. Remember who you are when you’re at your best, leverage your strengths and transferable skills, identify your passions and values, and anything will be possible.

Prepare: Once you know what you want, it’s time to look at the more practical aspects of getting it. Do your homework and get up-to-date on current realities. Then you can have the appropriate conversations and anticipate new requirements. If you’re going back into the same company and position, it could be as simple as identifying any office culture changes, fashion changes, business changes, and so on. if you’re looking for a new direction, it can require more learning and skill-building. Do your research, gather information, and network with people you trust to get their guidance.

Choose to be positive: While your “inner critic” may say things like, “I’ve been out of the workforce for so long,” or “I don’t remember what I have to offer,” or “I’m worried about work life balance,” these statements aren’t meant to stop you in your tracks. Rather, think of them as invitations for reflecting and planning for your success. Write out the statements and then find rebuttals that lead to action. If your statement is, “I’ve been out of the workforce for so long,” then your rebuttal can be something like, “I’ve run my household, cared for my newborn, volunteered and completed some home projects, all while I was on mat leave. I used core skills and strengths that are as applicable to those activities as they would be in business.” Then list them, and look forward to opportunities that match. The point here is that we always have a choice of how we see things. We can see the negative and get stuck, or we can look for opportunities and move forward. Choose to view this part of the process with enthusiasm, and explore all the possibilities.

Going back to work as a new mom can be a very exciting and invigorating time. Remembering who you are, and embracing your unique qualities and values are key to having the success and fulfillment you’re striving for.

Additional tips:

1. Don’t try to be a superwoman: Get help, whether that means hiring a cleaning lady, hiring a nanny or getting your Mom to come over once a week. Tell your husband specifically where you need help, and if he can’t help you out then hire someone to do it. It’s not worth the nagging and the fighting.

2. Simplify your life: Chores such as grocery shopping can be done online through Grocery Gateway or meals prepared by SupperWorks. Yes, it’s more expensive but the time savings is priceless.

3. Allow yourself some personal time: Whether it means going out once a week, going for a workout or whatever. Get away from the house and the family for yourself – everyone will be happier for it.

4. Set clear expectations: Make it a point of letting your employer know…on the first day back, through your actions, that your family comes first. What does that look like? Leave the office at 5pm. It doesn’t mean you’re not flexible. You can check emails after kids go to bed, but you don’t have to work on weekends.

Compartmentalize. In other words be present and in the moment with everything you do. When you are at work – be a leader. When you’re playing with the kids, don’t answer emails. When you are with your husband try to talk about a subject other than the kids. Decompress before walking in the door – don’t bring stresses of work into the household (easier said than done).

Courtesy Robin Altman