I was recently asked to contribute to Forward Ladies #BackToWork series about returning to work from maternity leave and how to manage life as a working mum. Forward Ladies are well aware that returning to work after maternity leave can be a big challenge and they are passionate about passing on lessons and inspiring other women who might be worrying about the return to work – whether they are employed or run their own business. Their #BackToWork series provides tips and advice for mums who are about to return to work or are currently navigating the daunting waters of being a “working mum”.
As I specialise in locum recruitment I speak with a lot of candidates who are returning to work and are faced with the prospect of returning to a role offering little flexibility and the daunting reality that, in some instances, being a working mum is extremely hard. Locum roles provide the flexibility that many working mums need in order to continue their career whilst balancing it with the commitments of family life. As well as being a very lucrative career, locuming offers flexible working hours and days, providing working mums with the ability to balance working and family life. I am finding that more and more returning to work mums are looking at locuming as a career path for when they are ready to return to work as it enables them to have the best of both, managing their career as well as being able to get home for bath and bedtime every night.
My advice in terms of returning to work is to be realistic, both with what you can do and what you want to do. This is something that I wished I had known before I went on maternity leave when I was making plans to return on the same basis that I had worked pre-baby – working five days per week putting in the long hours that I used to.
Don’t expect to be able to work the same long days in exactly the same way that you did before baby, that is unrealistic. No matter how much any of us love our jobs, and I genuinely do love what I do, you will always love that little person at home more, and the pull to get home before bedtime is hard to ignore. Time management will become crucial to you, you have to make the hours that you are at work count. Don’t over promise and under deliver, if you don’t think that you can commit to working five days per week as soon as you go back, then don’t. In these days where flexible working for parents is very much in the public eye (I think that Anna Whitehouse (aka @Mother_Pukka on Instagram) is speaking a lot of sense about flexible working at the moment so I would recommend having a look at her blog) it is becoming easier to return to work on terms that suit you and your family. Don’t be afraid to ask for flexibility when returning to work
I was very lucky in that because Temporis is my own business and I have an amazing, supportive team, I could pretty much choose when and on what basis I wanted to return. Granted, as a business owner I had to return to work a lot sooner than most, returning after 4 months of leave, but I chose to initially work on a 3 day per week basis. This meant that the transition period for me and my little boy was a lot easier. He got used to being with his grandparents during the day and I got used to being back at work and being a businesswoman again. It also helped us as a family to get into a good routine in terms of drop offs and pickups so that when I then increased to four days a few months later we barely noticed the difference.
When I’m at work I’m at work. It may sound impossible to some but I honestly believe that by focusing solely on my work during my working day it makes me a much more effective recruiter and manager and enables me to focus on being the best mum I can be to my little boy when I’m at home.
That’s not to say that my little boy’s care providers don’t contact me if they need me, for anything at all, that obviously goes without saying. But other than that my work time is for work and my home time is for home and I try my best to not let the two overlap.
People say that we can’t have it all, but I honestly believe that we can, as long as you are honest with yourself about your capabilities and are prepared to be realistic!