Returning to work after maternity leave can be a big challenge. We are passionate about passing on lessons and inspiring other women who might be worrying about coming back to work – whether they are employed or run their own business. Read about how to go back to work plus the top tips from women who have come back to work in the last 2 years.
- Katie Mallinson
- Managing Director, Scriba PR
- Working hours: working full-time hours, 3 long days in the office and other hours from home.
Katie Mallinson is a self-confessed ‘word nerd’ and technical PR specialist who founded Scriba PR in 2013. Since then, her niche public relations agency, which now boasts seven employees, has focused on providing comms support to technical B2B companies, who often think their story is too complex to tell! Katie has also recently come back from a maternity leave, and here is what she has to say...
Firstly, it may help me to set the scene a little…
I prepared extensively for my maternity leave as it felt that by having my first child I was turning my back on my other baby – my business. But our small, close-knit team spent the majority of the nine months planning ahead so that we had everything in place when the time came to go on leave. Colleagues knew they still had my support even if I wasn’t physically in the office, and we upskilled everyone to ensure there was no impact on the level of service delivered to clients. Colleagues really seemed to embrace and thrive on this added empowerment.
Still, my maternity leave was perhaps not typical of many mums’ – but then again, there’s no such thing as ordinary nowadays, which is brilliant! It was always going to be a short period of time off, so that I could share my parental leave with my partner. I was away from work from January to March, and he’s now off until the end of June.
My thorough planning was met with a bit of a curve ball when I fell and broke my back when my daughter was only 7 weeks old. Every emotion was magnified by what felt like a thousand percent. But what choice is there in such a situation, than to find a way to make things work?
So, my top tips are:
- Talk to people about what you want your maternity leave and return to work to ‘look like’ – it’s a special time and people can’t guess.
- Plan ahead – I, thankfully, had thought about different eventualities so, even though I could never have guessed I would have a serious injury to contend with, it was something we were able to accommodate after the initial shock
- Make the most of the technology that exists to keep in touch with colleagues (or clients) during the return phase – it can really aid communication. But, don’t allow the ease of being able to keep in touch, to creep into the special time off that you deserve with your family.
- I’d be looking for advice to cover the planning to go back, logistics, legalities, emotional and psychological support, regaining confidence, work-life balance, childcare, workplace schemes experiences using parental leave, impact or your career negative or positives.
As a very new mum, I feel like a bit of a fraud trying to offer advice to others. But, based on what I’ve learned to date I’d say…
- Don’t underestimate the logistics of childcare. I am lucky that we have family close by who love helping out by looking after our daughter, but we’ve looked ahead to ensure we have a plan that everyone is happy with. This includes my partner taking shared parental leave, grandparents offering much-needed support, and nursery in a few months’ time. So many options exist, so don’t be afraid to mix them up!
- I allowed myself some time to completely switch off from work in the earliest part of my maternity leave. I knew it was always going to feel extremely short so I owed it to my daughter to not let work consume my thoughts. But when I felt the time was right to ease myself back in I let my colleagues know where I was happy to be looped in on things.
- Say thank you, along the way, to everyone who helps you be you. In so many aspects of modern life, thanks is no longer given.
Whatever I do in my life, I try to give it my all. I work HARD and I see friends and family as much as I can. I rarely have downtime because I want to be the best I can be for everyone that has a part in my life. I, therefore, struggled for a few weeks with the feeling that I was only doing an average (at best!) job of everything. I felt like I was being an average mum, an average colleague, an average employer, an average PR consultant, an average partner, an average friend. I was extremely hard on myself for about a fortnight. But I had two confidants – one in my personal life and one in my professional life – who I spoke to openly about how I was feeling. This ability to speak up was crucial for my psychological well-being – and sanity! It’s, therefore, my biggest piece of advice to others (even though it is the hardest to heed!) – remember you’re only human but know that if you’re trying so hard to be all these things to all of these people, chances are they will see what you’re doing and believe you’re doing a great job!
This article is part of our #BackToWork series, read other stories HERE.
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