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From teething to timesheets: easing back into work after a baby

Tags: relationships, baby, parental leave, maternity leave, paternity leave, going back to work

After having a baby, going back to work might be the last thing you want to think about. But the better prepared and supported you are, the easier the transition will be.

That doesn’t mean you have to start thinking about it before you’re ready, of course. In fact, having a baby can directly affect the way you feel about your work. [1]

When you become a parent, you may find that your focus shifts away from work entirely. One study showed that mothers in particular tended to let go of work-related goals as their interest in family-related goals increased. [1]

This may not be the case for you and, even if it is, it won’t necessarily be forever. By the time children are nearing school age, many parents start to take more of an interest in work, and often reconnect with old ambitions, with as much vigour as they had before becoming a parent. [2] Some parents really look forward to going back to work after round-the-clock baby care.

Going back to work after having a baby is a significant life transition. Rather than just seeing it as part of the overall experience of having a baby, try looking at it as its own event. On a purely practical level, having a baby may mean that your working patterns have to change. You might go back to work on a part-time basis, or work from home more, and this can be more long term. [3]

You’ll also have to figure out how to balance your role as a parent with your role as an employee. These two roles can sometimes get in the way of each other – an unreliable childminder may mean you have to work from home, or a shift that overruns may mean less time at home before your baby goes to bed. [4]

Talk to your partner about how you’re going to manage work and family life. There’s going to be a period of adjustment as you adapt to any changes that have been made at work while you’ve been away. This might include changes to organisational structure, meeting new colleagues, or getting used to a different way of working. [3]

But it’s not all bad news. Becoming a parent means you have to learn lots of new skills and these skills can be useful in your work life – not so much changing nappies or mashing apples, but the unrelated skills that come with your new role as a parent, like time management, patience, multi-tasking, and being super-organised. As you add the parenting string to your bow, you may find you get better at dealing with the stresses and strains that work throws at you. [5]

The three most important people in supporting your transition back to work are your manager, your partner, and yourself. Your manager should offer support such as ‘keeping in touch days’ and flexible working options, and your partner can provide valuable emotional support. Finally, give yourself the best chance you can by making a plan for how you’re going to return to work. [3]

Have a think about your job and what you want to get out of it, bearing in mind that even if success at work is not your immediate priority, this may be temporary. Ask yourself what you want from the role and go back in with clear goals in mind. The transition will be a little smoother and you’ll soon get into the swing of this next phase of your life.

 

References:

[1] Salmela-Aro, K., Nurmi, J. E., Saisto, T., & Halmesmäki, E. (2000). Women’s and men’s personal goals during the transition to parenthood. Journal of Family Psychology: JFP: Journal of the Division of Family Psychology of the American Psychological Association (Division 43), 14(2), 171–186.

[2] Evertsson, M. (2013). The importance of work Changing work commitment following the transition to motherhood. Acta Sociologica, 56(2), 139–153. http://doi.org/10.1177/0001699312466177

[3] Wiese, B. S., & Heidemeier, H. (2012). Successful Return to Work After Maternity Leave: Self-Regulatory and Contextual Influences. Research in Human Development, 9(4), 317–336. http://doi.org/10.1080/15427609.2012.729913

[4] Perrone, K. M., Wright, S. L., & Jackson, Z. V. (2009). Traditional and Nontraditional Gender Roles and Work—Family Interface for Men and Women. Journal of Career Development, 36(1), 8–24. http://doi.org/10.1177/0894845308327736

[5] Barnett, R. C., & Hyde, J. S. (2001). Women, men, work, and family. An expansionist theory. The American Psychologist, 56(10), 781–796.

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