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10 tips for re-adjusting to work after maternity leave

There’s nothing else that will turn your life upside down – in the most rewarding way possible – than having a baby.

Returning to work after you’ve had a baby – for whatever reason – can certainly be an emotional and stressful time, and this normally involves an enormous amount of planning and consideration.

To help make the transition as smooth as possible, Real Insurance has assembled these 10 tips for working mums.

1. Organise childcare early

Depending on where you live, day care centres and even preschools can be extremely hard to get into – and waiting lists for reputable centres can be long. While it may sound ridiculous, it’s wise to do plenty of research into suitable centres, and then book your baby in for childcare shortly after he or she is born. Ask around, and read reviews online to see which centre you think will work best for you and your family. It’s also wise to meet with the centre director and pop by to make sure you like the look and feel of a place – preferably before your baby is born.

By getting on the waiting list early, it’s far more likely that when the time comes, you’ll be able to send your baby or toddler somewhere you’re really happy with, rather than having to simply take whatever is available.

Of course, if you don’t think your baby or toddler is ready for a childcare centre, there are plenty of other options available. As well as relying on family or friends, a nanny provides great flexibility and one-on-one care, and sharing a nanny with another family can also make it more cost effective. Check that your nanny is registered, so you can qualify for childcare rebates.

2. Know what your rights are

Before you actually start back at work, it’s important to be aware of what you are legally entitled to. In Australia, once you return from maternity leave, your employer is required to provide you with the same job that you held before going on leave – or if that job doesn’t exist anymore, a position that is similar in pay and status. You can visit the Fair Work Australia website to find out more.

3. Make sure you’re ready

While it’s normal to feel anxious about going back to work, it’s important to feel that you’re ready to go back. Chat to other mums in the same position – perhaps in your mother’s group, if you joined one. Read about how other mums have managed the transition. Perhaps you can even chat to colleagues at your workplace who have returned after maternity leave. If you work in a physically demanding role, it’s also particularly important to have a check-up with your GP or obstetrician, to find out if you’re physically ready to return to work, and if there are any special precautions you need to take.

4. Work out a feeding plan

If you’re still breastfeeding your baby, work out a plan for how you’re going to manage being away from your child for long periods of time. Importantly, returning to work doesn’t necessarily mean you need to stop breastfeeding. The Australian Breastfeeding Association offers plenty of tips and advice on how to combine working with breastfeeding.

5. Practice your new routine in advance

It’s a wise idea to start practicing a new routine for at least a week (preferably more) before you actually go back to work – so that when the time comes, both you and your baby are familiar with it. For instance, you may wish to start your child at their new day care centre – or with their new nanny – a week before you need to go back to work. This will help minimise stress for both of you. It’s also important to help your baby adjust to having another carer feed him/her or put him/her to bed. If you want to switch your baby to the bottle, you may wish to make the transition a few weeks before work starts, as it can sometimes take a while.

6. Work out what’s right for you

Think carefully – before you return to the workplace – about how much time you’re prepared to spend away from home. Depending on the age of your child, and if your employer is flexible and open to the idea, you may want to consider going back part-time at first, with a view to becoming full-time when you’re ready. Or your employer may also be open to you working from home, or working different hours (starting early and leaving early, for example) to work around childcare hours. It’s very important to clarify what you want, directly with your employer, up-front.

Even if you’re self-employed and able to work from home, it’s important to think about how much work you’re able to do – and try to put some basic rules in place that will help you manage your work/life balance in the best way possible.

7. Be open and honest with your employer

Before you come back to work, speak with your employer regarding your plans, and any particular conditions or levels of flexibility that you will require. Ensure that you are both open and honest about what you expect, and across what you need in order to minimise stress and ensure you are able to do the best possible job. It’s also important to think about how you’ll manage possible overflow of work, and communicate with your employer about this.

8. Prepare to be tired!

Being a working mum can be hard work! Even though you may be going into an office for a portion of your time, all the physical and mental demands of motherhood still exist – especially if your child is still waking up throughout the night. While you’re transitioning, be careful not to overcommit to social responsibilities, and be realistic about what you can and cannot manage. Assume you’ll need extra sleep, and try to go to bed early rather than spending your night time hours in front of the computer or doing anything that’s not completely essential.

9. Don’t be afraid to ask for help

There’s absolutely no shame in acknowledging the fact that going back to work – with a young child – is very demanding. Be open with your partner, and don’t be afraid to ask friends or family for help wherever possible. Hopefully you’ll be able to reciprocate the favours when you adjust to your new routine – and as your child gets older.

10. Don’t forget ‘me’ time!

For many mums who return to work, it’s easy to focus on work and being a mum, and relinquishing time for yourself. As impossible as it may seem, it’s important to find time to exercise, and to look after yourself. Perhaps you could allocate in some time on the weekends when you can have some time to relax, or do something that’s just for you.

Real Insurance is an award-winning provider of income insurance.

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