New parents: Returning to work worry-free

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By Debbie Green

One of the most daunting aspects of going off on maternity/paternity leave, is knowing that (for most people at least) you ultimately will need to go back to work.

Returning to work part-time, full-time, in the same or different capacity is something that we often avoid thinking about and rarely plan properly. It is better to proactively talk to your boss about how to make your job fit with your new life and as a Parent Coach, I’ve seen how this can dramatically reduce worries and concerns of new parents.

I’ve heard lots of different worries over the years and they tend to be very similar for most people. These typically include:

  1. Am I ready to be a parent?
  2. I’ve formed such an emotional attachment I feel guilty about returning back to work.
  3. I’m not sure if I’m in the right job now that I’ve had time away from work to reflect on my career…
  4. Me and my partner want to do ‘what’s right for our child’ and we’re not sure how to approach it…
  5. What if, while I’m away, there are a number of organisational/departmental changes and my job changes or the people I worked with before won’t be there when I get back?
  6. I hadn’t appreciated the costs/additional expenses I had to consider…
  7. What if my organisation doesn’t want to consider more flexible working arrangements – then what?
  8. The needs of my child must come first – how do I balance this and the demands that work is putting on me?

Most organisations understand the importance of communication, and this should be no different when you’re about to go on/and or during your leave. So, before you go off on maternity leave agree with your manager what type of communication you’d still like to receive. Every parent-to-be is different and a conversation around your needs is essential. A great manager will listen and help to agree a personal plan of action for you. For those managers who may not be as open and welcoming to you going on leave – then you may have to instigate the conversation with them.

Be open and honest about how you’re feeling. This can be a daunting time as you know that things are going to be changing – so talking about what’s going on for you is important. Ideally managers should be speaking to you prior to your leave about you and your plans – not just about work. So having regular 121s can be valuable for both you and your manager. 

Some organisations ensure that your role is filled with a maternity leave cover. This can be worrying for parents-to-be as they fear that the new person will be better than them. That typically isn’t the case, but talking about your worries can help. Checking in with your maternity cover can be a good thing to do too. Get to know them if there is a handover before you go on your leave. If that’s not possible then ensure you have a meeting with them prior to coming back to work. 

As well as the keeping in touch (KIT) days, you can agree what other touchpoints you’d like with the organisation to help with your transition back into the world of work. This can be a great way to get a feel of what’s been going on since you’ve been away. It also enables you to touch base with your teammates and understand what’s changed.

Sometimes, your manager may be a different manager by the time you return to work – if this happens to you – then reach out to the new manager and ask to have a chat with them. Especially if they don’t know of you – it’s a great way of letting them see who you are, what you bring and what you’re looking forward to being involved with when you return.

It can be hard to leave your newborn with someone else as you return to work, so here are some tips that we know have helped new parents in the past:

  1. Keep communicating regularly with your partner/family/friends – and share your concerns. Often, they’re not as worrisome once verbalised.
  2. Speak to your coach about how you’re feeling.
  3. Work out and be clear on your plan of action for when you return – don’t assume that everything will be put in place for you on your return.
  4. Take the lead on what’s important to you when you return.
  5. Ensure that the first meeting you have on your actual return is with your manager.
  6. Having had the opportunity to find out what the world of work looks like before you sit at your desk can really help you get up to speed with what’s what.
  7. Be mindful that you’re not superhuman and know that things will be different to how they were before. The reality is – you’ve changed; work has changed; your environment has changed; your life has changed.
  8. Enjoy what you do when at work. Enjoy what you do when you’re back at home. Create boundaries where you can switch off and spend quality time with your newborn and partner.
  9. Make sure you’ve got something planned that’s just for you. All too often parents put themselves lower on the priority list of self-care – which is totally understandable. But putting a little time aside to do the things you enjoy is important to your relationships. Make time for you too.

If you are struggling to figure out exactly how this parenting business works regardless of whether this is your first or third child, then it could be time to consider getting a little extra support.

Having the time and space to talk to an expert who focuses solely on you, and you alone, is something that does make a difference. Coaches are not there to tell you how to raise your child – that’s your job; they are not there to tell you how to do your role – that’s your job; they are not there to tell you how to be a good parent – that’s your job! They are there to talk to you as a person and an individual in your own right. Before, during and after your maternity/paternity leave, it can be useful to know that you’ve got a cheerleader in your corner. 

Talking to a coach as a new parent, allows you to explore strategies that:

  1. Enable you to better balance your work and family responsibilities.
  2. Help you to manage your time more effectively and explore how to reduce stress.
  3. Create a thriving environment that works for you, your partner, your child and your extended family.
  4. Remind you how good you are at the job you’re doing both before and after becoming a parent.
  5. Deal with the demands and challenges of parenting.
  6. Help you to navigate your way through the ups and down of having to take time off work for family-related reasons.

Employers don’t want to lose great people. If they’ve invested in you, they want to retain the expertise, talent and knowledge that you bring to the organisation. So, knowing how to have conversations to manage your parent role and your work role in harmony ensures that you not only survive but thrive in this new chapter. Life changes happen to us all – and becoming a parent is just one of the many we experience. Talking to a coach, who sees, supports and understands you, can make a huge difference in the way you handle the big and little things in life. If you need it, don’t be afraid to ask for a little help. You’ve got this!

Debbie Green is founder and wellness coach at Wishfish and co-host of Secrets from a Coach podcast. For more information visit: and