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Help! I’m Returning to Work and I’m Terrified!:

The number of mums who contact me for coaching citing their number one concern as ‘lack of confidence returning to work’ is amazing.
By Kathryn Hocking
Date: June 08 2012
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Whether they have had 6 months off or 6 years the concern is the same ‘will I be able to do my old job again?’ or ‘will anyone really want to hire me?

I can remember my return to work date approaching and despite being a pretty confident person wondering so many things including:

• How will I be able to work on 5 hours sleep a night?

• How will I cope leaving my daughter in child care?

• How will we get everything done? and the worst concern

• Am I still mentally capable of a career job?

From my own experience I have some advice to make the transition back to work a little bit easier:

• Meet up with your boss one month before your return to work date, discuss your strategy for returning, ask what projects you will be working on, ask about any changes to your role and duties, ask about any technology or staff changes - this will give you time to mentally prepare yourself;

• Catch-up with co-workers and friends from your workplace, re-establish those connections and find out their perspective of what has changed;

• Ease your child into child care, start a month or so before your start date and do some induction sessions with them, then leave them for a ½ day, then a full day, then two full days. You will find this slow transition easier on both of you and you will find the free time to prepare for your return to work very handy!

• Go back to work slowly, negotiate with your boss to integrate back into the team over a number of months, I went back 2 days at first, then 3, then 4, then 4 plus a day from home. I found this easier on us as a family and it meant that when my daughter got sick from child care (as they all do) I wasn’t back full-time and could cope easier;

• Take a trip to the hair salon and get yourself looking stylish, buy some new work clothes or even consider a session with a personal stylist who can integrate the casual mum into the work wardrobe – if you are anything like me your body, style and needs will have changed post-baby!

• If you are not returning to your old job then check out websites such as which have listings of flexible and family friendly jobs;

• Read the “Career Mums” book for ideas on how to approach your resume and cover letter and don’t forget to include any volunteering activities or home businesses you ran whilst on maternity leave;

• If money isn’t an immediate concern consider retraining or studying before commencing your job search;

• If, like me your priorities changed after having a baby you might like to consider a complete career change or starting your own business, if so check out my Coaching for the Working Mum or Mumpreneur programs; and

• Take some time to think about what you are afraid of –is it that friends will have moved on? Are you worried about changes in technology? Are you worried about the job not suiting your new life as a mum?

None of these things are insurmountable and can be overcome by reconnecting with colleagues, getting some refresher IT or return to work training or getting some coaching so that you can do something more suitable;

I look back at photos of my daughter at 10 months and think how could I have left my little baby to return to work?

But I did, and now at age 2 she is a happy, well-adjusted and incredibly smart.

I now love getting to eat lunch in a nice restaurant without gobbling it down, being able to go shopping without distractions, or just getting to go to the toilet on my own! But most of all, getting to have quiet time at my desk was lovely! I miss her terribly but it helps me be a happier mum overall.

Being a stay at home mum is very rewarding but also bloody hard, dealing with adults all day is a lot easier! What I mean to say is that having a baby is as hard or harder than most jobs, it’s mentally draining, tests your patience and you aren’t really in control.

This is why it often perplexes and amazes me that women (including myself) experience such a decline in confidence after having their children and feel as if they are no longer intellectually capable of their previous careers.

If you can be a mum to a newborn or a toddler I am absolutely confident you can return to work successfully! You just have to believe in yourself! 


Kathryn Hocking is mum and a Director of Reverie Coaching, a Career and Life Coaching Business located in Adelaide, SA Specialising in working mums and mumpreneurs.

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1 Total Comments
Liz says: 2012 06 09

Helpful article. Same applies if you’ve had an absence for reasons other than maternity leave also such as illness, so-called gardening leave, retrenchment. It’s very tough to get back in the saddle again.

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