The end of {maternity} leave

And just like that I’m in the final week of my maternity leave {blub}.

How has {nearly} 9 months passed already? It literally feels like yesterday that I was happily mooching around with a huge pregnant belly, preparing to welcome our new baby and turning my brain to “out of office”.

Am I ready to go back to work and leave my little family? Do I want to go back to the same job/working hours? How are we going to organise childcare? Can I continue to breastfeed? Is P going to cope? Are my boobs going to cope?! Have I achieved everything I wanted to during my time “off”? {Ha!}

Maternity leave this time around has been very different. Living in the new baby bubble has been somewhat sporadic balancing life with two strapping {then} threenagers. I thought I would go back to work with the house “sorted”, my life “sorted”, baby weight lost, probably living an incredibly impressive fit and healthy lifestyle and totally nailing motherhood. #winningatlife

Looking back it would be easy to think I’ve failed. I’ve not achieved any of those things. But what I have achieved is a very happy {loud} baby and lots of quality time with my very boisterous {also loud} boys. We’ve had pjs days {weeks}, spontaneous trips out, made a mess, cleared up {a bit} and learnt a lot along the way. I also managed to squeeze in launching this blog which is something I desperately wanted to do for so long {go me!}

As usual I underestimated the difficulties which laid ahead thinking I’d sail through and everything would simply work it’s self out. To some extent it did. To some extent it didn’t. I had a plan. I’d done it before. I was confident I could nail the old maternal instincts second time around. But that’s a story for another day.

Anywho. Now that {probably my last} period of maternity leave is coming to an end it’s time to get organised, figure out our next steps and attempt to dust off the old brain ready to get back into work mode.

I knew quite early on that I didn’t want to return to the exact job I left last summer. I knew I wanted to do things differently but I didn’t know how. I’m happy to work. I love my job. But I knew it no longer fitted in with how I saw my life {and career} progressing. Stepping out of a secure mould is scary. Attempting to start something new and having the confidence to ask for a different working arrangement may seem impossible. Or maybe it’s time to try something completely different. What better time to have those conversations or think about a change in vocation than now?

Twintastic tips:

  • Practice days: These were key for us. P has pretty much always been with me and I was keen to soak in as much baby time as possible. Childcare settings will usually offer settling in sessions and we did a few solo mornings of Grandma and daddy practice during my final couple of weeks at home to help everyone adjust. Plus they gave me a chance to get organised and buy new bras {!} Our first attempt at leaving P was right in the middle of her 29 week separation anxiety period {see Wonder Weeks} which in hindsight probably wasn’t great timing. It also turns out she was reacting to the formula I was attempting to give her {see CMPA page for posts coming soon} and all in all it was pretty disastrous which didn’t do wonders for anyone’s confidence. But we waited a few weeks and tried again with me lurking in the rafters {as it were} with much more success {phew!}
  • KIT days: Make the most of keep in touch {KIT} days offered by your employer. In the UK you have the option of working up to 10 paid KIT days {check your employer’s maternity leave policy}. I’ve opted for two mornings which have really helped my transition back to work, mean I won’t be starting back completely cold turkey and can have a practice doing drop-offs and pick-ups.
  • Feeding: P is purely breastfed {with weaning foods} and I was keen to continue feeding her myself as much as possible. I did toy with the idea of reducing breastfeeds and transitioning to formula but {for us} it just didn’t work out {partly due to her CMPA which I prefer to manage through my diet}. So for now we’ve found a way of me continuing to feed her when I’m home and I’ve invested in a manual breast pump so she can have expressed milk when I’m away from home all day and opted for oat milk if she needs/wants top-ups in between. Luckily she’s happy to drink from a bottle, sippy cup, open cup and even a bowl as well as breast…. so that’s been easy enough! I’ve realised it doesn’t have to be as complicated or black and white as I originally thought. I’ve not got a plan as to when to end our breastfeeding journey but we’ll figure it out as she takes in more solids and naturally reduces her feeds. For now we’re both happy to continue {although when she gets teeth that may change!}
  • Communicate with your employer: Think about how you want your working life to look when you go back. Do you want to return full-time? Do you want to request reducing your hours or building in some flexibility? Try not to be afraid of having those conversations with your employer even if you’re unsure of exactly what it is you want {key phase – review period}. And don’t feel guilty if actually you can’t wait to get back to your professional life and would happily work 6 days a week! Could your first week back start midweek? Can you start with mornings and work up to a full day? Can you take every Friday off as annual leave for the first month? Finding a balance which works for you {and your employer} can really help ease your transition back.
  • Look for a silver lining: The thought of returning to work and leaving your baby can be incredibly sad. I know it made me borderline depressed. I went through a roller coaster of emotions including guilt, jealousy and even anger that I had to return to work. It helped to think of my return to work as more of a new start rather than the end of this lovely period of time with my young family. Think about the things you loved most about your maternity leave and try to incorporate them into your new routine. I loved simply pottering about and meeting friends for coffee or baby group and walking to pick the boys up from nursery so I’ve tried to build time for these things into my schedule.
  • Happy memories and future plans: Why not make a scrapbook of your baby’s first year? Or make a bucket list of activities or days out you can enjoy over the coming months as something to look forward to. We’ve booked a holiday 6 weeks after I return to work #bikinimumbod
  • Be kind to yourself: Try not to overbook your diary. Returning to work can feel like adding to your already {rather full} workload and you’ll need time out to rest and rejuvenate. It’s ok to say no and not take on {more} extra duties.
  • Excuse for a pamper: Going back to work is a great excuse for a {probably} long overdue pamper and new wardrobe {or at least a new bag or pair of shoes right?}. I treated myself to an impromptu 15 minute facial during one of our practice mornings – something I could legitimately do on a regular basis! P is {generally} so easy that I usually just bring her along for the ride but {whispers} it has actually been quite nice to do things alone.
  • Dress your new body shape: Putting on “work” clothes can feel incredibly unnatural {depending on your line of work}, especially with a new {and improved} mum-bod. I’ve had to accept some of my old clothes just won’t fit me anymore and re-learn what suits my new body shape {big boobs, big tum}. New bras have helped – it’s amazing what a correctly fitting bra can do for your confidence {36FF what?!} and I’ve gone from feeling down and frumpy to empowered and comfortable just by re-thinking what suits me now and finding a few key pieces that work. Helping me to step into the office feeling a bit more confident.
  • Get organised: I will be working partly from home which has been a good excuse to give the old home office a bit of a spruce up. This has also helped me get other things organised and sorted and kick start some of the projects I meant to do whilst on maternity leave {always last minute.com} which although may seem like bad timing has actually been quite therapeutic and satisfying! From a practical point of view – pack bags and prepare clothes the night before, have some easy dinner ideas sorted and if you can batch cook and freeze extra portions. Keep your home simple – anything to make life a bit easier!
  • Support: Don’t be afraid to ask for help. Whether it’s from your spouse, friend, family member, colleague, boss or doctor. Lean on your support network. You can do anything but not everything.

All in all know that you {and your baby} will adjust. This will become your new normal and if something isn’t working look to change it. You only live once and all that. Don’t be afraid to ask for flexibility if you want it {and don’t feel guilty if you don’t}. Being a mummy is still your number one job and you will still be the most important person in you child’s life. It may feel very strange and you may feel incredibly awkward but you will find your feet and rock it!

As a side note – I completed my second KIT morning today and {whispers} I actually really enjoyed it {thumbs up!}

Working 9 to {preferably} 2:15

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