How to ease back into work after maternity leave or sabbatical
Leave the guilt behind
Getting back to work after maternity leave is not a cakewalk — even if you’re Serena Williams, one of the greatest athletes of all times. Speaking after she secured a spot at the US Open quarter-finals yesterday, the tennis player admitted: “Coming back from a baby is really hard, harder than I thought… I think society puts it out there that you’ll just kind of snap back and that’s just a myth. I feel like it’s important for women to know that it doesn’t happen like in that Instagram world.”
Bouncing back after a maternity leave, or even a sabbatical dedicated to raising your child, can be tricky. Your body changes so much after giving birth, it almost feels surreal. Moreover, juggling responsibilities at the office and at home requires some serious multi-tasking skills. “It is natural for new mothers to be apprehensive about joining work post a maternity break. Chalking out a proper plan and seeking support from your family and community will lay your worries about your infant’s well-being to rest,” says psychologist Harsheen K Arora. Here’s exactly how you can make the transition to a world full of formal meetings and power lunches easier.
“If you’re joining a new office, familiarising yourself with the space in the run up to your joining date will help reducing the anxiety,” Harsheen says. Once you resume work, first and foremost, give yourself a window to get used to the grind. “It’s an emotional rollercoaster. Typically, you will need a month or two to adjust to the change. It won’t happen right away. I see a lot of women in the quest of being a superwoman. But there’s no such thing. It’ll only lead to performance anxiety,” says clinical psychologist Seema Hingorrany.
Guilt about leaving your baby at home is a feeling all too familiar to working women. “Make sure that when you spend time with your kids, you disconnect completely from work and give them your full attention,” says Harsheen. Simple practices like calling home at lunch time or tuning in to the CCTV camera of your child’s day care a few times a day will help. There’s no rule that says home-makers are better parents,” Seema points out. “Also, set clear boundaries at work. Don’t take on more responsibility than you can handle. Balancing is the key here.”
Even with all the prep in the world, be ready to face a few hiccups along the way. And when it gets overwhelming, Seema recommends having a candid discussion with your colleagues or boss. “Don’t suppress your feelings. It’s common to experience confidence issues or feeling like you’re way out of your comfort zone, but voice those thoughts. Talk to your partner as well about it and let them support you,” says Seema.
Another key aspect is not letting day-to-day stress turn into chronic stress. Put some self-care protocols in place — they’re more important than you think. And we’re not talking about taking a couple of hours off to unwind at a spa — we know you’re busy AF. We’re saying, instead of mindlessly watching Netflix before bed, meditate or doodle. Even if it’s just for 10 minutes. Find a fun stress-buster and make it work for you.