Unfortunately, there is no magic wand to wave or science to follow that makes going back to work after parental leave effortless – or even remotely easy. It is at times jarring, often overwhelming and always physically and emotionally draining.
However, there are things that I have done and continue to do in order to achieve some semblance of work life balance. Below are some tips and recommended products, that both my husband and I swear by, to avoid choosing between our child, social life or careers.
Book a babysitter
Whether you are opting for nursery, a child minder or family help as child care for work, a trial run before D-day is essential. Getting used to leaving Toby with other people before I actually had to, meant there were a lot less tears (from both of us) at drop off, making the overall transition much easier. More importantly, it gave me vital headspace and me-time to prepare for life after maternity leave weeks before it was even over.
Ask for a work warm-up
Going back after parental leave can also make you feel out of the game. Like you’re starting a completely new job – but one that everyone expects you to be brilliant at from day one. Booking in a session with your boss and other people on your team before you go back, can turn that overwhelming feeling of starting again, into something that feels more like starting afresh.
Freezer food (but the good kind)
Before I launched pots for tots, Monday meal-times especially, meant reaching for a bowl of Special K, while I boiled Toby some of Sainsbury’s finest ravioli pasta. Both options are just fine, but neither were giving us the nutrients or energy we needed to survive those first weeks back after maternity leave.
Now of course, Toby – almost exclusively – eats Pots for Tots meals. From freezer to fork in five minutes, I can ditch the ‘mum guilt’ knowing that he is eating nutritionist approved, home-made toddler meals that I don’t have to spend hours cooking when I walk through the door.
If I had my time again, I would also stock up on frozen meals for us as well. There are a whole host of brilliant businesses that give working parents the same access to healthy and nutritious meals – ByRuby & FieldGoods are the best quality and the tastiest too.
Fail to prepare, prepare to fail
It might seem obvious, but even if you used to be the type of person who packed your gym bag and meal-prepped the night before – it takes a completely new level of preparation to make those first few mornings back after parental leave bearable.
Preparation in the evening is everything. Once your baby is in bed, make sure that your outfit is picked out and laid out. Plan what you’re having for dinner the next night, pack a lunch, your work bag and your baby’s bag and always, always check your calendar for early meetings in case you do get held up at nursery – saves a lot of stress.
Let go of always being the primary caregiver
If it is you that has spent months on parental leave – while your partner’s at work – it’s likely you will have been taking on the lion share of the household responsibilities.
But when you are both back, this may no longer be possible. Trying to uphold all of the responsibilities you took on during parental leave, while looking after your baby and going back to work, is likely to affect your relationship or your career.
It can be hard to let go – and maybe you can do it all – but I certainly couldn’t have gone back to work, and built the company I have, without the support of my family & friends and of course my husband, Charlie.