Wor­ried about re­turn­ing to work af­ter hav­ing a baby? Fol­low our sim­ple steps to ease the tran­si­tion

Mother & Baby (Australia) - - Work Matters -

For many mums, the last few weeks of ma­ter­nity leave can be a daunt­ing time. If you’re go­ing back to work, you are prob­a­bly fo­cused on the lo­gis­tics – start­ing your baby in day care, hav­ing a busier morn­ing rou­tine or per­haps a longer com­mute. But there’s an­other con­sid­er­a­tion, too. What if you’re feel­ing less con­fi­dent about do­ing your job?

The re­al­ity is, you’re still you, only more ca­pa­ble than ever, and now you are a whiz at multi-task­ing. This is all about self-con­fi­dence.

Ac­cord­ing to re­search by Aus­tralian web­site Ca­reer Mums (­reer­mums., a lack of con­fi­dence is con­sis­tently fea­tured in the top three bar­ri­ers women face when go­ing back to work. It is very com­mon for mums to ex­pe­ri­ence a lack of self-con­fi­dence when it comes to their ca­reers and the prospect of re­turn­ing to work, and hap­pens sim­ply be­cause they have been re­moved from the work­place for a pe­riod of time.

“You’ve been out of do­ing what you do, so it’s nat­u­ral to think ‘Can I still do this?’” says ca­reer coach Jes­sica Chivers, au­thor of Moth­ers Work! (Hay House, avail­able on­ “You’ve been away, and the rest of the team has been there work­ing. Feel­ing vul­ner­a­ble in that sit­u­a­tion is very nor­mal and very hu­man.”

Women have a ten­dency to dis­miss ma­ter­nity leave as time off, when it’s any­thing but. In fact, it’s a pos­i­tive en­hance­ment to your skills set. “We need to think about chang­ing our think­ing from ‘I’m on the back foot, I’m rusty’ to ‘I’m fresh, I’m an as­set, and I’m com­ing back with ideas and per­spec­tives that ev­ery­one else doesn’t have, be­cause they’ve been here for the last 12 months’,” Jes­sica ex­plains.

Ac­cord­ing to the Aus­tralian Bu­reau of Sta­tis­tics, in Novem­ber 2011, 53 per cent of moth­ers with a child un­der two had re­turned to the work­force, so rest as­sured if you’re go­ing back to work af­ter hav­ing a baby, there are hun­dreds of thou­sands of women do­ing the same thing!

Here are some ways to pre­pare your­self emo­tion­ally before you re­turn to work.


Choose five words that de­scribe who you want to be at work – how you want your boss and col­leagues to see you. Then close your eyes and vi­su­alise your­self do­ing the things that per­son would do. Pic­ture how you would speak, walk and move. Vi­su­alise your­self in a meet­ing and imag­ine your boss con­grat­u­lat­ing you on your work, then keep run­ning through the scene – just as pro­fes­sional ath­letes im­prove their per­for­mance by imag­in­ing them­selves on the win­ner’s podium.

“Re­search shows men­tal re­hearsal is al­most as ef­fec­tive as phys­i­cal re­hearsal in terms of im­proved per­for­mance,” Jes­sica says. “Think about who you want to meet in your first week back and what you want to say and ask. For in­stance, if you want to be seen as knowl­edge­able, ask some­one what they think about some­thing that’s hot news in your in­dus­try right now. Make sure you share your opin­ion and how you’ve come to your view.


Write down ev­ery­thing you did well before you went on ma­ter­nity leave. List your achieve­ments and your strengths, mak­ing it as de­tailed as pos­si­ble. Now read it back. How does that per­son look on pa­per? Like a high-per­form­ing em­ployee – some­one the em­ployer is look­ing for­ward to hav­ing back! You may for­get your PC pass­word on day one, but the skills that en­abled you to achieve all of your suc­cesses go deeper than that, and they haven’t gone any­where.

“When you re­turn to work, make a note of three things that went well that day, why they hap­pened and how th­ese things could have a pos­i­tive knock-on ef­fect,” Jes­sica says. “Writ­ing them down, rather than just think­ing about them, means you will linger for longer on the ex­pe­ri­ences, and em­bed them in your mem­ory.”


There’s a lit­tle voice that many of us hear from time to time – the one that says ‘You’re not good enough’ or ‘You’ve for­got­ten ev­ery­thing’. The trick to deal­ing with this negative self-talk is to name it and chal­lenge it.

Ask your­self if your thoughts are based on facts or just your own in­ter­pre­ta­tion? What’s the worst that could hap­pen? And will it mat­ter in six months or a year? The quick­est fix is to im­me­di­ately fol­low a negative thought with ‘Well, is that re­ally true?’ The an­swer in most cases is a re­sound­ing ‘No’.

“In­stead of fo­cus­ing on po­ten­tial prob­lems and cat­a­strophic fan­tasies, ask your­self ‘What’s the best that could hap­pen when I go back to work?’” Jes­sica says.

“When we think about the most ex­treme pos­i­tive pos­si­bil­i­ties, we sit up straighter, walk taller and feel more re­source­ful. The grem­lin voices sound less cred­i­ble when you’re in that state.”


A key con­fi­dence-boost­ing trick is to think about a time when you were ex­celling at work. “Bring to mind a time when you were per­form­ing re­ally well,” Jes­sica says. “Think ‘I was ca­pa­ble of that, I can do it again’.

“The next step is to ask your­self what strengths were you us­ing there? What con­di­tions were in place and how can you re-cre­ate them? Then ask your­self, how do I re-cre­ate the con­di­tions that en­able me to have com­plete fo­cus?

“You need to be re­ally clear with your man­ager about what they want from you in the first six weeks you are back, then knuckle down and get some quick wins,” Jes­sica says. By re­mem­ber­ing that you per­formed well when you were fo­cused, and cre­at­ing the con­di­tions to be­come fo­cused, you in­crease your con­fi­dence and abil­ity to per­form well again.


Re­mem­ber, you’re even more ca­pa­ble now you’re a mum. Fo­cus on the im­por­tant and use­ful skills – such as pa­tience, team­work and del­e­ga­tion – that you’ve honed while you’ve been away from work, car­ing for and bring­ing up your baby.

“Think about those skills you have learned to do well and how you can bring them to bear in the work en­vi­ron­ment,” Jes­sica sug­gests. “When we are on ma­ter­nity leave, we learn so much about em­pa­thy and re­ally un­der­stand­ing some­one else’s needs. Team­work is also a re­ally pow­er­ful skill, be­cause we re­alise that we can’t do ev­ery­thing our­selves.”

A key con­fi­dence-boost­ing trick is to think about a time when you were ex­celling at work.

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