PARENTING

Tuesday Tips: Going back to work

emilie walmsley_back to work

A few people have asked lately for tips on going back to work following the birth of a baby, because let’s face it —  leaving the baby bubble and heading back into the real world is a challenge for EVERYONE (I defy anyone who says that they did not have even the smallest bit of anxiety about this).
I went back to full-time work after my first daughter turned one and again after the second was one year old, and both times it was such a big change that came with its own set of new challenges.  (I am an animation producer during the day and do my best to write for Babyccino at night ;)). I am happy to be back at work; I enjoy my job and I enjoy earning my living and working with interesting and inspiring people. I did have to make some compromises, especially in the first few years, but in the end, I managed not to literally combust, which I am quite happy with!  So here are a couple of things that worked for me:

1. Be organised.  I am possibly the least organised person in the world but dealing with kids and work has made me (moderately) more so. Spending Sunday night planning out dinner for the week and making sure that everyone has a stack of clean underwear (including me) makes the rest of the week so much easier. Basically it eliminates a lot of stress.

2. Don’t try to be perfect.  Don’t worry about things not being perfect. Good enough is often absolutely enough. If you have forgotten to get wrapping paper and you have to wrap a present in newspaper, no one is going to care or suffer. If the flat is sometimes a bit messy just because you don’t have the energy, it is not going to have any long term damage on your kids.
Roll with the punches and don’t be too hard on yourself. I have decided that it is all about marketing: if you come home and announce that tonight is going to be super exciting because you are going to have cereal for dinner, kids will feel like it is a treat not a let down.

3. Stick with what you know (at least for a wee bit of time). Going back to work is going to be stressful, so if you can, it could be a little bit easier if you can go back to a job you know, with people you know and a routine you know. You will not have to prove yourself as everyone already knows what you are worth and it just take a bit of pressure off you.

4. Take it easy on yourself.  In my case, I started working full time when I was 25 and had my first child at 32 and the second at 34. Considering that I will be working until 65 (possibly longer) I still have the biggest part of my career ahead of me. So I decided not to stress for the first couple of years and take the foot off the gas a tiny little bit. If that means my career stagnated a bit when my children were small, then so be it – there is still a lot of time ahead of me.

5. Surround yourself with a good network. Again this varies so much from person to person, but if you have family you should not be ashamed of asking them for help. In my case, I live in a city far away from my family, so I worked hard to build up a strong base of babysitters and friends. Sharing a babysitter with friends who have kids the same age works for us; it’s cheaper and if one parent is late someone else can help out. With older kids, having someone who helps with homework is key and if you can, you should think about having a cleaner. There is nothing better than coming home to a clean house and clean children. Basically whatever works for you is good, but the network needs to be trustworthy and strong. It needs to survive the unexpected!

6. Don’t feel the need to over do it. A lot of women (myself included) feel like they have to compensate and almost prove that having a child has no impact whatsoever on their working schedule. Unfortunately that is not true, so it might be better just to own that than to try and make everyone happy. Sometimes it is inevitable when a deadline looms, but often people are happy enough to postpone a meeting or conference call if it concurs with your children’s pick up time or dinner. It will mean that you will be less frazzled and more concentrated and everyone is a winner. Chances are your colleagues have similar priorities.

7. Treat yourself. Be it a manicure, driving or walking to work with music on at full volume, an espresso in the bar around the corner, or an hour of yoga at lunch time – find sometime that gives you a chance to relax and re-tank. I go to the cafe around the corner from school after school drop-off and have a cheeky coffee or two. Mornings in our house are hectic and so it gives me 20 minutes to gather my thoughts, talk to friends and get on my way. It is a small thing, but it is enough to give me the energy to move on and conquer the world. ; ) I think us woman have a tendency to forget ourselves with all the demands from work and family. The key it to scrape out one little moment that has nothing to do with work or family and is just for yourself – it is all part of self-preservation.

8. Above all, do not feel guilty. Here is the thing: in most countries at least 60-70 % of mothers work, for all sorts of different reasons, but mainly to support their families. My theory is that women since the dawn of time have been working, so there is no way that that you going back to work is going to mess your children up. (Conversely staying at home is also not going to mess them up). Of course you will miss them and they will miss you but you being happy is, in the long run, going to make your family happy. If you don’t impose your guilt on your children the chances are, they are going to be fine (possibly after a bit of a readjustment period) and so will you! Let yourself enjoy being back at work; it is not hardship, but something that defines you as much as your relationship, your family and your friends.

These tips are just based on my personal experience by the way, so they might not work for everyone! Would love to hear if you have any insights, because there definitely cannot be too many! As I mentioned in a previous post, there is no right or wrong way of approaching going back to work or indeed deciding not to go back, for everyone the right choice is a different choice!

– Emilie


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Comments (39)

February 24, 2015

Hi Emilie,
thanks for that great post!!! I really enjoyed reading it SO much! I am going back to work next week (it´s a new job, after two kids and a long time at home). I studied from home last year, so I am super excited to start a new, great job.
“…prove that having a child has no impact whatsoever on their working schedule.” – Thanks especially for that sentence, this is so me and I know, that I have to relax in that point a bit… 🙂
Thanks again, Emilie!
Have a great week!
Vera xxx


Federica
February 24, 2015

Dear Emilie,
what a great post! I’m a working mum too and have two children. All your tips works for me too. And I find that the most difficult thing for me is to not feel guilty…unfortunately I’m feeling very, very guilty! I know I’m not the only one, and I know that I need to work so I try not to make it too much importance, but it’s not always easy.
Have a good day! and…I love the picture of you in this post!
Federica


Chloe
February 24, 2015

Hi Emilie, great article thank you. I also have 2 kids under 5, work full time, live in France (away from my family in the UK). We are here for my job so it was inevitable that I would return to work after both kids. I was lucky to be able to return part time initially and then after around 6 months increased to full time again. My husband works too and he leaves the house before the kids wake up and returns home just before bed time so it’s tough to keep on top of everything as I have around an hour after the kids have gone to bed to get the washing, prep school bags, unloading the dishwasher etc before I’m ready to sleep. It sometimes feels like I literally do not sit down. However, I decided to use my project management skills at home too and here are my tips.
1. Get up early, before the kids, shower, hair, make up done then put PJs back on until the last minute to avoid wearing breakfast to work.
2. Meal planning over the weekend is essential for me, even making food like soup, lasagne etc and storing it.
3. We have a lovely fresh market on Sundays in our town so that’s our family ritual on Sunday mornings, fresh ingredients for the week ahead. That way the supermarket is usually a quick stock up of milk, yogurts etc, making it less of a chore.
4. If possible, work from home. My company are quite forward thinking and have great policies in place for working parents including flex schedule, remote working etc. they don’t offer child care but compensate for that by having such great flexible working hours. If you are returning to work and looking for a new job, make sure policies like this are on your wish list for your future company.
These are my 4 things that make our life that little bit more straight forward. Looking forward to hearing more!
Chloe x


Emilie in Paris
February 24, 2015

Great tips, thanks Chloe x


Eve
February 24, 2015

I love the tuesday tips series already!!
Great post Emily, thanks. It’s great getting somse perspective from time to time, I especially love the newspaper-wrapping and cereal for diner-remarks. No one will suffer. 🙂 Thanks!


Krissy
February 24, 2015

This is such a great post – a perfect combination of inspiration and real life tips that make a difference, thank you!!


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Lauren
February 24, 2015

Emilie, I can’t thank you enough for writing this.
x


Amanda
February 24, 2015

A very well written post, Emilie. I love #7!!!!!!! Good for you. And thanks for taking the time to write this piece.


February 24, 2015

Great tips. Thank you very much for sharing. This will be me in May and I am feeling quite apprehensive, even though it’s only going to be part time to begin with.


Katie
February 24, 2015

Great advice Emilie, thank you. I go back to work in two weeks after baby number two, and right now I feel like someone will have to pry her from my arms as I get on the train to work, I’m just not ready to leave her!


Hilde
February 24, 2015

Great advice and inspiration! Very good advice about “it is all about how you marked and wrap” your reality! I truly believe that being a good mum has nothing todo with weather you work or not.As I am from Norway where I would guess 90% of all mothers work it is interesting to read your blog from the point of view that it is an option not to work! Most of my friends work full time, and those who don’t actually have to explain why they don’t. However, I guess our society has been adjusted to this, and after school activities are at school so you can pick up your kids there at 430,and it is accepted to leave the office around 4 pm.. I guess if u can put in the hours at night if needed!


Federica
February 24, 2015

Hi Hilde, I think you in Norway are very lucky! I live in Italy, I asked to work part time but my company say no. I go out of office at 18,00 and all the activity at school finish at 17,30…and I don’t finish too late!!!!
Have a great day and enjoy your lucky! 🙂
Federica


February 26, 2015

I think most other European countries should be modeling their family policies on Norway to be honest. I have the feeling that the equilibrium between men and woman and the possibilities for families in Norway are right for the present times, while a lot of other countries are lagging severely. We are in 2015, not in 1964 anymore!


Nicola
February 24, 2015

Gosh didnt appreciate you work full time on top of Babyccino! I strongly agree with having a cleaner… I only work part time, but my weekly clean is worth every single penny and more. I also second getting organised on a sunday night – I have a little ‘Task’ notepad where I write down all the kids activities / clubs plus mine and husbands commitments for the week ahead. Even if I don’t look at it again for the rest of the week, at least I start the week feeling organised!


Emilie in Paris
February 24, 2015

You are absolutely right, having a cleaner has been a life saver for me too!


Penelope M.
February 24, 2015

Thank you for this positive, empowering and inspiring post! My first is three years old and my second baby is approaching four months. I’ve been thinking about these issues quite a bit. I think the anxiety of re-entering the work force again is the thing that’s most scary. What would I even WEAR??? It feels like it’s been 100 years since I wrote a professional email or had a meeting with adults. Thank you for giving me lots of great things to think about!


Emilie in Paris
February 24, 2015

Ha, yes, it is like riding a bike. You might be rusty at the beginning but writing a professional email and holding meetings is something you never forget how to do! x


Jess Clayden
February 24, 2015

Thanks Emilie such a great post with good tips for working mums. What an interesting job you have too! I currently work part time and feel very lucky to go from full time to part time after my second child. I think not putting pressure on yourself is so important when us Mums and Dads have to juggle so much and finding some ‘you’ time is very important as well. I always plan meals and do a big shop on a Sunday which helps, plus I tend to lay out the kids clothes the night before ready for the morning. I probably have a dozen reminders on my phone too, so I don’t forget activities, appointments etc.


February 24, 2015

Great post Emilie. I also work full time (as does my husband) and project management skills feel absolutely essential! The other thing which makes my life much easier is my work emails on my work iPhone so I can work on the commute in during the morning & evening – as does sharing the nursery drop off (so the person who does the morning one doesn’t have to do the evening run).

I would also add that I don’t feel guilty about working at all – I love my job – but, I used to feel guilty about not feeling guilty! I worried that I should be missing my daughter whilst I am at work. Truth is, I am too busy to think about her (much) during the working day. Now I just try not to worry either way – all feelings are normal.


Sarah
February 24, 2015

Great post. I love the ‘age’ comment that you still had ‘x’ number of years to work or be successful. I never thought of that, but it really puts everything into perspective. Thank you!


Estelle
February 24, 2015

Great, post. I think we put ourselves under a lot of pressure when we return to work to make things exactly the same as before. The fact is they’re not. I too like the idea of stepping back at bit, at least for the first couple of years. I declined a few opportunities I would otherwise have jumped at, because they would have compromised my home life too much. I don’t regret it. Rachel’s point about sharing the school/nursery run is also a very good one. I do drop off and my husband gets into work early so he can pick up. We also do a lot of work in the evenings to catch up. Not ideal, but it gives some flexibility and doesn’t affect the children as they’re fast asleep!


Uschi
February 24, 2015

Indeed, a great post, but one that makes me feel a bit sad… I also have two kids (3 and 1,5) and started working when they were both only 3 months old…at the time, it broke my heart and to be honest it still does. Since one year now, I started my own business and days have become even more hectic. I know I need my job to be a happy mum, but every single day I feel guilty when dropping them off. It is a real struggle I must admit. It is, like you say, that we have still so many years ahead of us to work and go for our careers, whilst those baby years will never come back…


February 24, 2015

This is a beautifully written post! I’m currently a stay-at-home-mom and I sometimes stress at the thought of re-entering the workforce. Thank you for sharing your thoughtful tips.

xx.
Sarah


February 24, 2015

The not-feeling-guilty part! It’s so hard!!!


Kate
February 25, 2015

I have just headed back to work as my son turned 9mths. This article was perfectly timed! I have tried for a couple weeks to maintain the same standard of work AS WELL AS the same impossible standard I set myself as a mum and homemaker. Something has had to give or my sanity was going to. Thanks for the reassurance.


Betty
February 25, 2015

Thanks for sharing! I agreed with you. I have two small children and was able to work part-time for a year after they were born. My husband and I also have flex schedule so that I am home on Mondays and he’s home on Fridays.


Néomée
February 25, 2015

Quelle belle photo inspirante Emilie!
Bravo at being able to juggle being a terrific mum for tes belles filles, having an interesting & creative job + blogging!


Claudia
February 25, 2015

Really enjoyed this post! It feels good to hear even though we know a lot of this it is difficult to stick to (especially the ‘not feeling guilty’ part’), this motivates me to keep going and take it easy on myself.


February 25, 2015

Hi Emilie,
These are such great tips. As someone that’s done the return to work twice, everything you’ve written is bang on. Oh the guilt, the rushing, the fear of keeping up to the pace you had before…no wonder we’re all exhausted! I particularly agree with ‘#3 stick with what you know’. I’ve recently started my own business and having the cushion of my old job for a while as I got my head around what was important now and wanting to do my own thing as well as getting the kids settled in to the new world was really helpful. Also having colleagues that were familiar and knew the ‘old’ me. We’re potentially working until we’re in our 60s so having some time to gather ourselves before we launch on the world is OK! Sending you an email, Steph


February 25, 2015

Hi Emilie,
Thanks for a great article. Especially love the ‘don’t try to be perfect’. And I never thought about I have my bigger career part ahead of me! I could go on what else I like but these two were essential. Overall really good tips 🙂
Thanks, Nina


February 25, 2015

Hi Emilie-
Thank you very much for writing this post. I have a 3 1/2 year old and 1 1/2 year old and run a business with my husband. Since my first was born I’ve been on and off again juggling working at home/naptime/night time, with the mindset that I want to be home with my babies. In the past few months for the first time, I have strongly felt the desire to get out of the house and be at the office. I feel like I’ve been doing the stay at home mom thing and now I’m just feeling worn out and ready for a better balance, which leaves me feeling a bit guilty. I appreciate you writing this article, as so often a bit of support from other women, and the telling of how other mothers go about organizing their lives is extremely encouraging and helpful to hear. I hate asking for “help,” yet am getting to the point that perhaps I no longer need to prove I can do it all myself? I know I don’t need the okay from anyone to finally hire that cleaning person, but it’s also helpful to hear. Your article gave some great supportive advice. Thank you for sharing.


Jen
February 26, 2015

You’re an excellent writer, I love reading your posts. Thank you!


February 26, 2015

Hi Emilie, this was such a great post. Thank you for sharing your experience with us. I thought of something that I would add to your list which is in relation to our spouses. For some reason, when my husband and I got married, we unwittingly drifted into traditional roles of husband and wife and I ended up doing the cooking and most of the cleaning. When we became parents, this system became unsustainable so I had to ask my husband for help all the time until I realized that I shouldn’t need to ask him to help me because I didn’t have to do everything. I realized that we were a team and we both needed to do a certain amount of things to make the team succeed. It doesn’t sound like that big of a revelation but it kind of was. When we shifted the labour so that it was more equal, I think my husband became aware of how much I did when he was at work (those little things like cleaning the toilet or refilling the olive oil cruet or ironing nametags on all my kid’s clothing) and he realized how much more housework I was doing compared to him. Now, he truly is my co-partner. He does as much as I do and I never forget how I could never do everything without his help. I have no idea if my experience is universal but I thought it would be worth mentioning just in case it helps someone.


February 26, 2015

So true! My husband work seven days a week and often until late. But if he has the time inbetween or finishes early, he gives a hand with the dishwasher, picks up the kids, cleans the toilets or even cooks us dinner. It’s so much worth not having to do everything by yourself all the time! I couldn’t go back to work without his help. And yes to not having to ask for everything all the time. I think we still have to learn that.


Louise
February 26, 2015

thanks for this article Emilie. I’m returning to work full time in June and the anxiety is already eating away at me 🙁


February 26, 2015

Thank you all for your lovely comments! So interesting reading each one of them and everyones experiences. Personally I think everyone rocks and just tries to do their very best. The overriding feeling of guilt seems to be predominant, which is such a shame. I sometimes have the feeling guilt come with being a mother, not necessarily a working mother.


Valerie
February 27, 2015

Emily, thank you so so much for this post. It is one of the best, most honest, and most relevant list of tips that I have every seen on the matter. I have returned twice to work, every time after six months, after the births of my two boys and your list summarizes my experience to a T. in my experience the first year is the hardest, things get better after that. Taking the foot off the gas is also absolutely key in my experience. It sounds completely intuitive, but it is hard to execute I found. While I crave spending more time with my kids, it was tough for me to carve out a reduced work schedule at 80% for myself with an employer who is everything but child-friendly. My female managers (mothers themselves) warned me of “clear career implications”. Of course this creaed a lot of anxiety for me, in an environment where you truly feel lucky to have work you enjoy and value. I believe that we still have a long way to go to reconcile work and family in today’s societies and couldn’t agree more with the comment that we can learn a lot from the Scandinavians in that respect. In particular also with regard to the role fathers play in raising their children and how employers truly encourage gender equality in that respect.


Suzie
March 10, 2015

Emilie, I just read this post and it really resonates with me. Especially the bit about good enough sometimes being absolutely enough. I just started doing a little bit of work after being a full time Mum for TEN years . I have one preschooler, three at school ,and as yet no childcare to speak of. It’s been quite a juggle, and the one thing I really noticed the first week was just how much I had to LET GO a little with the house. I simply can not do it all, and the thing that’s fallen to the bottom of the list is housework The house is messier, meals are a bit more ad hoc, but actually, I don’t think anyone but me has even noticed, let alone worried about it. I’m actually enjoying the perspective a new focus is giving me. I need to sign up for all your words of wisdom. Keep them coming! xxx


March 18, 2015

Really nice post! I feel much better now! I have a very hard time getting used to the thought that I have to bring my child to a kindergarten and go to work! It’s been 2 years staying home and raising the child! Thanks for the post! Greets, Erith Carpet Cleaners Ltd.


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