Some tips on how not to make a balls-up of your return to work after maternity leave as a new mum over 40.
Before I got back in the hot seat at work, there was always something niggling away in my brain that returning to work after maternity leave was going to be a difficult and emotional challenge. Hold that thought will you?
Whether it was the fact that I worked for such a family-orientated #PR company that understood what it was like to have a life outside of the office, or the fact I had found a part of me that had got lost for nine months – those first few days were surprisingly welcoming, dare I say … easy.
Everyone had warned me that the transition back to work would be hard, so I had prepared myself for a difficult first couple of days. Perhaps it was just good forward planning as a #newmumover40, but I didn’t feel scared about returning to work. I felt great.
Don’t get me wrong, there were some things that could have floored me. For example, being struck down with laryngitis, C cracking his head on a wooden chair at nursery, late-night hospital visits due to raging temperatures and very little sleep. BUT I’d missed my clients and colleagues so much that I was just happy to be me again and not just C’s mum!
Once I’d switched my computer on for the first time again, I found my multi-tasking skills were at an all-time high. I was getting a thrill from solving work-related problems and loving every bit of the challenge of guiding other young self-starters who were new to the business.
For the first time in months, I had adults I could talk to all day about adult stuff, I was wearing clothes rather than just my PJs, I didn’t smell of spoiled baby milk and I had a cup of hot coffee that I could drink whenever I wanted.
While some of it stems from being a work-horse for the best part of 20 years and finding great passion and satisfaction in all of my jobs. The real reason I’d suddenly become this firecracker was because I’d been keeping my brain active through blogging and learning new digital skills for nine months.
I could suddenly see that if I used my newfound skills in the workplace, it would benefit clients in a much more creative way. I felt like I had suddenly become a better co-worker, employee and mum all at once. Colleagues even remarked how surprised they were that I’d just “hit the ground running” being back at work. It was great that they recognised the value that the new-me brought to the table.
Why it’s a blogger’s world today
Now once upon a time I remember remarking to colleagues that I saw little value in blogs. I joked how bloggers were not ‘real writers’, how they just blagged free stuff, meals out and holidays. A lot of that naievity came from the bubble I lived in during a previous job in print media. It was only when that bubble burst that I was taught a valuable life lesson about keeping up with the times!
Since then I have adopted a test and learn mentality. As Albert Einstein famously said, change is ‘about the thinking’, so I spent plenty of time doing just that on maternity leave.
I quickly realised that just being on maternity leave, being a stay-at-home-mum (SAHM) and a lady that lunched and Facebooked was not for me. Instead I spent as much time as I could absorbing information about new trends in the digital world, new social media tools/apps, blogging to keep up my creativity and networking with like-minded individuals.
It’s fair to say that I worked around the clock 24/7 for nine months to get my niche blog to where it’s at now – in between little C’s naps. I also bounced ideas off my mumpreneur friends.
It was a test and learn blog strategy that made me realise just how new blog channels have opened up exciting, fresh ways to reach consumers. What I learned was that brands were re-addressing which channels were the most effective themselves and there was an increased focus on connected journeys and thought-leadership.
When people mention it to me, they’ll say “Oh so you’ve started writing a blog, that’s nice.”
I then explain that I’ve not just started ‘writing’ a blog. I’ve learned a whole host of technical skills in how to set one up, developed my idea, my brand and my strategy and then rolled it out across a number of social media channels to extend my reach. And that is just the tip of the iceberg.
While I definitely burned the candle at both ends, I’m now reaping the benefits in the workplace not only for myself, but also for my clients. Long may it continue!