6 Tips For New Mothers Returning To Work

Why Is It So Hard For New Mothers To Go Back To Work?

Bringing a baby into the world changes someone’s life and shifts their priorities toward their newborn, which can make returning to work tricky. And with more than 70% of mothers with underage children participating in the U.S. job market, there’s no doubt that this is a widespread issue. The return to work is accompanied by various feelings for new mothers, ranging from anxiety and guilt to anticipation and excitement. Whether they are happy to return to work or not, new mothers undeniably require support. In this article, we explore factors working women must consider before the end of their maternity leave, as well as ways for companies to stand against bias.

Factors New Mothers Should Consider Before Their Maternity Leave Ends

Communicating With Work Early

Often, women feel left out after going back to the office, fearing they have missed out on a promotion due to their long absence. To bridge that gap with the workplace, it might be helpful to contact their boss and express their enthusiasm about returning to work. It could be a simple email or even a coffee meetup. This way, new mothers will be brought up to speed and feel included in business practices. Additionally, it might be beneficial to connect with coworkers to better understand any changes around the office. They can also seek advice from those with kids on how they experienced life after maternity leave and how they achieved a healthy work-life balance.

Asking For Flexibility

52% of new mothers fear being judged for working flexible hours. However, it is a solution they can and should talk about with their boss, as they are often required by law to work fewer hours. Specifically, they must discuss what flexibility options they could leverage, i.e., working fewer hours per week or dividing working hours between the office and their home. In any case, they must clearly show how these accommodations would work without affecting their productivity or corporate success. Alternatively, an on-ramping option might be available. These programs help ease employees back to work after a period of absence.

Knowing Their Breastfeeding Rights And Needs

New mothers returning to work often face challenges in maintaining their breastfeeding schedule. Where are they going to pump milk? Are they going to be asked to work extra for the time they missed doing that? It’s important for organizations to ensure an inclusive environment where women can take necessary breaks and have access to a private area for pumping. For example, the Canadian Human Rights Commission (CHRC) requires companies to accommodate breastfeeding mothers’ needs. It also says that female employees can pump milk anywhere they feel comfortable doing it, and not necessarily in a private room.

Practicing Self-Compassion

People are usually their own worst critics, and new mothers may also feel like they are not good enough, either at work or caring for their babies. Feelings of separation anxiety and inadequacy are common in this situation, which is why mothers should practice self-compassion. They should acknowledge difficult moments and remind themselves that it’s okay to feel this way. It does not mean they are doing something wrong, but rather going through a tough situation. They must also keep note of their accomplishments and seek feedback. They are probably doing much better than they think.

Setting Boundaries

When new mothers return to work, they have to divide their attention. It’s easy to get stressed and keep messaging or calling home to check on their newborn. However, they must establish boundaries for themselves and their child’s caretaker and clearly communicate that they should not be contacted unless it’s an emergency. The same applies to those who work from home. They should explain that during work hours, their office is off-limits. Additionally, new mothers must set boundaries regarding work-related matters. They should let their colleagues and clients know that they are not available after working hours. Also, they must inform their boss that they won’t be available for overtime.

Preparing For Setbacks

Returning to the office might go smoothly at first without hitting any major bumps. However, different hurdles might appear along the way. For example, a baby may feel and act okay with their mother leaving every day but start showing signs of separation anxiety two months later. Or a mother might feel great during the first month back to work but start feeling exhausted later. Other unforeseen situations might involve a caretaker getting sick or a babysitter canceling at the last minute. Whatever the case, working women and their partners should carve out backup plans to tackle these stressful situations.

3 Tips For Companies And New Mothers That Want To Stand Up Against Bias

Offer More Paid Leave And Raise Awareness

Many companies might not fully appreciate the benefits of paid leave, which can have a negative impact on new mothers. When organizations offer extra paid leave, they actively show their appreciation to their employees, recognizing that a well-supported mother is more likely to be a productive and efficient employee. Also, companies should engage in conversations with new mothers to find out what their needs and expectations are when they return to work. Fostering an empathetic environment ensures inclusivity while confronting motherhood bias in the workplace.

Be Open And Honest

Honesty and openness are crucial for resolving issues and building successful relationships. New mothers, especially those working in male-dominated workplaces, might struggle with receiving empathy. It’s not that male colleagues are insensitive, but they may find it hard to relate to the experience of giving birth. They may also feel uncomfortable when hearing words like “pumping” and “breastfeeding” from their colleagues. Instead of using synonyms, working women should normalize using these words and help their colleagues become familiar with them. They should also talk openly about their experiences and help coworkers get a better understanding of their experiences.

Watch Out For Assumptions

People often assume that new mothers won’t return to work after their maternity leave ends or that they won’t be interested in taking on new projects during their pregnancy. They may also assume that every time mothers are out of the office, they are dealing with a family matter and don’t have time for a social life. Despite these things being valid at times, constantly making such assumptions can hurt a woman’s career and its trajectory. For example, if a team is arranging a work trip, they should invite new mothers, even if they don’t think they’ll be available. They must allow them to decide and give an answer for themselves.

Welcoming Back New Mothers Returning To Work

Returning to work can feel intimidating to new mothers, pushing them to question whether they can juggle their responsibilities. However, it’s a passage that many women have gone through and have been successful in crossing. Bias can create a variety of negative emotions, but organizations have a moral obligation toward their female employees to show empathy and offer accommodations. If an employee was productive before maternity leave, there is no reason why they won’t be just as successful afterward.

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