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The experiences of working mums and how employers can help their return to work

Returning to work after maternity leave invariably requires a period of adjustment for women

Some women will settle back into the work environment and their particular role quickly, whereas some may need a little more time. This change in their daily routine may initially feel a little like being on holiday, as looking after a new baby is certainly not easy.

Settling back into working life – having some structure to a day with a set lunch break and not having to tend to the needs of a small person at all times – may provide a woman with a much needed break; however, it is also completely normal for feelings of guilt or concern to creep in.

No matter how secure and reliable the childcare arrangements, it is only natural that a woman will spend time wondering how her child is responding to such a big change in their routine.

There are other worries that come with having a child. The cost of childcare can be enormous and put a strain on finances. Establishing a routine where the child is safely dropped off and the woman is able to get to work on time can be complex. A woman may also worry about needing to take a day off work if her child is unwell, or be concerned about how tiredness will affect her ability to perform at work after a sleepless night.

The stress working women feel can be huge. They have already been feeling the pressure to be perfect mothers and can now feel that they have to excel in the workplace as soon as they return. Confidence can be a big issue; as such, it is vital that women get the support they need.

In the time they have been away, the workplace may have changed dramatically; for example, there may be new clients and projects they are not familiar with or new members of staff they need to get to know. Women may also worry about whether they still have the right skills to do their job properly. New practices may have been brought in, or they may have missed out on training opportunities that the rest of the team has been given.

With all these concerns, it is important to know that a large percentage of women feel anxious about re-joining the workplace. Studies have shown that two-thirds of women do not feel confident about going back to work.

Although women may have been absent from the workplace for up to a year, it is essential for employers to remember that they have learned and practised many new skills during this time.

Women are able to establish routines, they have practised their time management by increasing their productivity when their children are asleep, and have undoubtedly had to improve their negotiation skills. Children can be stubborn and getting them to do what you need them to do can sometimes feel like an impossible task.

These skills should be recognised and acknowledged by employers, as working mothers have a lot to contribute to their team and the work environment a whole.

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