Back to Business: Navigating the return to work after maternity leave

Back to Business: Navigating the return to work after maternity leave  Listing Image

Becoming a parent is a life-changing experience, and for many, taking an extended maternity leave is part of that journey. While spending quality time with our baby is undoubtedly rewarding, returning to work after an extended maternity leave can be both exciting and, let’s face it, a bit overwhelming. I have just embarked on this journey myself, so let me share my experience with you.

My story 

There I was, going a million miles an hour, having a career, meeting deadlines, socialising with work colleagues, then ‘Bam!’, this tiny human entered the world and became the centre of my universe. Suddenly, everything changed and in this bubble of parenthood, old schedules of work and social life were replaced with new ones—sleepless nights, feeding schedules, baby groups and hours of staring at this wonderful little being. 

Then, all too quickly, it seemed my maternity leave was coming to an end and for many like myself, it all felt too soon. 

That’s when the big question came, ‘Can we make this work if I don’t go back to work?’ For our family (and I appreciate we were in a very fortunate position to be able to make this decision), my husband and I decided that I would continue to stay at home with our baby. 

I then resigned from my job, which felt huge for me at the time as I was effectively making myself unemployed, and that really took some getting my head around! Once I’d made the decision though, there was no looking back and I honestly wouldn’t change that decision and the time I was able to spend with my little one for anything, including the highs AND the lows. 

Fast forward 2.5 years and our little baby is now an adventurous toddler with boundless energy. It was in recent months, as I watched him grow and change, that I realised that he might be ready to take the next step towards a bit more independence and that I was feeling ready to start exploring my own career again.

An emotional rollercoaster 

That’s when I got on the emotional rollercoaster. After such a long time away from the workplace (3.5 years for me, thanks to the pandemic) the thought of returning to work was both exciting and overwhelming. The questions started to fly around my mind. Can I do this? Is it too soon? Will my little one settle at nursery? Am I still relevant? Do I still have the skills needed? The fear of the unknown was a massive hurdle which had to be given space.

I talked it through with my husband and family, and had some initial conversations with my soon-to-be employer. I was eager to find the right childcare setting for my little one before committing to a new job. Once this was in place, I was excited to secure a position with Ambitions Travel Recruitment & Training, working alongside previous colleagues which I really looked forward to and also alleviated some of my anxiety over returning to work. It was then full steam ahead! 

We agreed on a start date, which was a couple of weeks after my little one started in his new nursery to make sure he was settled. That also gave me time to get myself organised and have a bit of breathing space before going into my new role. During this time, I felt a lot of emotions. This little bubble I'd been in for 2.5 years was about to burst and both my baby and I were about to embark on our respective new journeys, which was both exciting and—if I’m honest—a tiny bit scary. 

It was the end of the baby era and my little boy was going out into the world without me. We were both ready for this new adventure but the realisation of how quickly time goes really struck me. Before I knew it though, our previously slow mornings became a flurry of alarm clocks, hurried breakfasts, packed lunches and drop offs.

The journey so far 

Fast forward a couple of months and so far, my transition back into the workplace has been really smooth. 

Our managing director, Fi, is passionate about great work life balance and also providing training and development to help us to excel in our roles. As part of my onboarding back into the workplace, I accessed the FREE eLearning course ‘Successful Working From Home For Travel Employees’, which helped me to devise a plan to work effectively. The tips and advice within the lessons are all in place at Ambitions Travel Recruitment and Training. As a result, I feel supported, motivated and never feel isolated. 

My little boy is for the most part loving the time he spends at nursery and I am loving having a bit of ‘me’ back. Yes, it’s a slightly different version of me; parenthood does that to us, doesn’t it? I was out of the workplace for a relatively long time, so finding the right position in the right company has been key to successfully easing myself and my family into this new chapter of family life.

Our advice for returning to work 

Here at Ambitions Travel Recruitment and Training, we’re proud to work in partnership with Back in Time for Bed support network to help working parents across the travel industry. Together, we strive to create a positive impact in our community.  in creating a supportive community for working parents and guardians whilst helping advise employers on how to implement/improve their policies. 

Created in partnership with Back in Time For Bed, we’ve created a FREE guide for employers called ‘Empathetic Paternity Leave’, giving companies best practices to help ease the transition of new parents in the workplace. 

We truly understand the importance of family time and that returning to work after maternity leave or extended maternity leave is a significant transitional period that comes with its share of challenges. However, with careful planning, emotional support, and practical considerations, it can also be a fulfilling experience.

When returning to work, DO; 

  • Consider the practicalities such as realistic work schedules, financial goals, budgets, childcare costs, etc.
  • Find reliable childcare that aligns with your proposed work schedule and consider back up options.
  • Take the time to find the right employer/position. Are there flexible/hybrid working options? Do you feel like they are family friendly?
  • When searching for travel jobs, use a reputable travel recruitment agent like Ambitions Travel Recruitment and Training. They will be able to tell you about the workplace and culture and help you to negotiate working hours and locations to suit your back to work needs.
  • If returning to an existing workplace, stay in touch with colleagues. This will help you feel connected and reduce anxiety about returning.
  • Manage expectations with your employer. Remember, your work-life balance will be different than before. Be realistic about what you can achieve and don’t overcommit.
  • Plan ahead. Do you need to update your skills or refresh any knowledge prior to returning? Ambitions Travel Training have 12 free eLearning courses available
  • Keep an open and honest communication with your employer. Discuss your needs, including any necessary accommodations or changes in your schedule.
  • Plan your day; time management is crucial. Create to do lists, use tools to help you stay organised.

● Be kind to yourself! Understand that it's okay to make mistakes or feel overwhelmed at times. Give yourself permission to adjust to your new role as a working parent gradually.

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