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How to Manage Your Expectations on Your Return to Work

Updated: Dec 21, 2022

Returning to work after maternity leave can be a time of mixed emotions. Women often feel overwhelmed as they start to think through their new reality; will they be able to juggle it all, will they still have the skills and the knowledge to perform in their role? Navigating this time of transition and successfully achieving a smooth return to work can be tricky.

In this blog, two Maternity coaches Sarah Turner and Laura Duggal have collaborated to share with you some of their experiences when working with women returning to work after maternity leave.

If you take one message away from reading this blog post it is this: manage your expectations of yourself as a mum, partner, work colleague and employee. Your identity and your life have gone through a period of transformation, and the version of you that is returning to work is not the same as the one who went off on maternity leave.

Of course, the professional you is still there, but becoming a parent brings in a whole new dimension and purpose to your life and your identity. Finding your way as you adjust to being a working parent is an ongoing journey and lowering your expectations of what you are capable of in those first few weeks back is the kindest thing you can do for yourself.

What do we mean when we say lower your expectations?

  • Consider a phased return so that you gradually build up to working full-time (if that is what you wish to do).

  • Manage expectations with your line manager and colleagues about your working hours (e.g., when you will need to leave to pick up your child from childcare).

  • Ask for help from your partner, family, friends, and colleagues. This might include sharing the drop-off/pick-up with your partner, employing a cleaner, asking your family to help with batch booking meals or seeking support from a colleague on the background to a project you’re working on.

  • Create space and time for you to adapt to the change. Try and get sleep where you can. Get outside into nature for a walk or other form of exercise or ask your partner to do bath and bedtime so that you can catch up with a friend one evening.

  • Don’t compare yourself to others. No-one has this completely handled. Take it one day at a time and make changes where you need to. Everyone will approach their return to work differently.

  • Manage the work you take on as you return. Let people know you are back but be wary of taking on too much. One, or perhaps two tangible pieces of work that you can deliver in the first few months will boost your confidence and ease you back into work.

Maternity coaching is a form of coaching specifically designed for women returning to work after maternity leave. If you are interested in finding out more about how we support working parents and the organisations they work for, please get in touch there are links to both our websites in the description below.

About Laura

Laura is an EMCC qualified and accredited coach with a background in HR and Recruitment. She has 15 years experience of coaching individuals around their professional and personal development. Her own experience of returning to work after having her daughter highlighted that there was a need for more robust support through this transition which lead her to specialise in maternity return coaching. Clients share that they find her to be warm and down to earth, giving them a renewed sense of self belief, motivation and tools to cope in a fast paced and often challenging world. Her coaching approach is grounded in Positive Psychology focussing on mental health and well-being. She see’s her role as providing a safe and calm space for those facing uncertainty and making big changes in their lives.

About Sarah

Sarah is an Executive and Maternity coach with a background in HR, Diversity and Inclusion and Occupational Psychology. A mum herself, Sarah has experienced maternity leave and she has coached numerous women and working parents as they navigate their own journey into parenthood. She brings compassion and empathy to her maternity coaching, priding herself on offering a supportive but empowering space where her clients feel heard and able to find their own way through this stage of their lives.

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