For many mums, the last few weeks of maternity leave can be a daunting time. If you’re going back to work, you are probably focused on the logistics – starting your baby in day care, having a busier morning routine or perhaps a longer commute.
But there’s another consideration, too. What if you’re feeling less confident about doing your job?
In November 2011, the Australian Bureau of Statistics found that 53 per cent of mothers with a child under two had returned to the workforce, so rest assured if you’re going back to work after having a baby, there are hundreds of thousands of women doing the same thing!
Below are three ways to prepare yourself emotionally before you walk back into the office.
Choose five words that describe who you want to be at work – how you want your boss and colleagues to see you. Then close your eyes and visualise yourself doing the things that person would do. Picture how you would speak, walk and move.
See yourself in a meeting and imagine your boss congratulating you on your work, then keep running through the scene.
“Research shows mental rehearsal is almost as effective as physical rehearsal in terms of improved performance,” says career coach Jessica Chivers, author of Mothers Work!
Write down everything you did well before you went on maternity leave. List your achievements and your strengths, making it as detailed as possible. Now read it back.
How does that person look on paper? Like a high-performing employee – someone the employer is looking forward to having back! You may forget your PC password on day one, but the skills that enabled you to achieve all of your successes go deeper than that, and they haven’t gone anywhere.
A key confidence-boosting trick is to think about a time when you were excelling at work. “Bring to mind a time when you were performing really well,” Jessica says. “Think ‘I was capable of that, I can do it again’.
Remember, you’re even more capable now you’re a mum. Focus on the important and useful skills – such as patience, teamwork and delegation – that you’ve honed while you’ve been away from work, caring for and bringing up your baby.
“Think about those skills you have learned to do well and how you can bring them to bear in the work environment,” Jessica suggests. “When we are on maternity leave, we learn so much about empathy and really understanding someone else’s needs. Teamwork is also a really powerful skill, because we realise that we can’t do everything ourselves.”