Maternity leave and returning to work – survival for mothers (and employers)
A couple of weeks ago I was sitting on my commuter train to London – smartly dressed and gearing up for another day in the office. I then realised I had two Peppa Pig stickers on my cardigan, and one on my dress. 20 minutes ago I’d been ‘mummy pig’ in the playroom with my two young daughters.
Similar slip-ups will be recognisable to thousands of mothers (and indeed fathers) around the globe who return to work after having time off for children.
I have been lucky to have significant time off for both of my children and to have been able to enjoy the early months without the worry of work. But there definitely comes a time when ‘the return’ starts to play on your mind and with it a host of modern-day dilemmas – how will I possibly juggle everything? Is it worth the money? What should I do about childcare? Does my brain still function? Will I fit in to any of my smart clothes again? Will my peers have catapulted up the ladder beyond me? Will my children ever forgive me?
It’s not easy returning to work, but there are certainly ways of making the transition a bit smoother. First and foremost, expect it to feel a bit strange. You probably won’t just pick up where you left off, it will take you a while to get back into the swing of things. It’s a new routine and you need to give yourself and your employer a bit of time to get used to it.
Here are my top tips:
– Get organised the evening before, the morning will always be a rush
– Whilst you are on maternity leave try to keep your eye on the wider world – watch the news and read the papers whenever you can
– Set yourself realistic goals – don’t try to achieve everything you did pre children
– Having childcare that is as flexible as possible will be a massive help
– Be open with your employer – if it’s too much just say
For employers it can be a thorny issue as well – statutory rights for both maternity and paternity pay and leave are now very much a reality – but does this place an unfair burden on business? In the recent VMA Group maternity / paternity survey, 74% agreed with Nick Clegg’s recent proposal for reforms which allow both parents to share leave.
But how do organisations fill the gap? 70% of employers who had used an interim manager or freelancer to provide cover said that this was a successful solution. 85% of interim managers described it as an enjoyable and rewarding experience. So the gap can be filled very successfully and it can be an opportunity to get some fresh talent in to an organisation.
As for the ‘returner’ – it can be daunting, it’s most certainly a juggling act, but the chances are that you will feel great satisfaction from being back in the ‘real world’ and that you’ll pick things up again quickly. Your new found multi-tasking skills might even make you a more efficient employee and you may have a renewed motivation to succeed and progress.
Your handbag might be full of baby wipes and old rice cakes, but no-one needs to know. Just check for stickers…
By VMA Group
VMA Group and The Counsel House will be publishing a detailed study ‘solving the maternity / paternity leave gap’ in August – keep an eye on www.vmagroup.com.
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