Career Woman

5 top tips to survive the return to work after maternity leave


Going back to work after having a baby or maternity leave can be daunting. Not only have you JUST gotten the hang of being responsible for another human’s life, you’ll now be expected to get ready and out the door on time and ideally with brushed hair and a bit of lippy. If like me the time was right to head back to work then at least you will only have the routine part to contend with. I recognise that many new mums returning to work feel dread and massive separation anxiety which is all consuming but there are things you can do to prepare mentally and physically for the big return to work, here are some of my lessons learned as I near the end of my first year back.

1. Never get dressed until absolutely ready to leave the house

Let the benefit of my hindsight help here. I naively assumed that getting a head start by being showered and dressed before my little angel awoke was a smart plan, WRONG. It was a stupid idea. Weetbix will stick like glue to anything it comes into contact with and if that’s your freshly ironed White Rhodes and Beckett shirt then sobeit. I’ve experimented with keeping child at arm’s length, wearing an apron and wrapping her up in a towel, now I just shower put make up on then get back into PJ’s until literally walking out the door.

2. Document your new family schedule and put it somewhere visible

I’m a planner and I found it a necessity to map out each day of the week, where baby needed to be , an itinerary of pick up and drop offs, who’s going to be where and when. My husband is less so and almost had a panic attack when reading the densely packed schedule, his eyes looking for downtime in the schedule (clue: it was sparse).

However arranging things on the fly is not a great idea, there will likely be multiple conflicting schedules and it avoids arguments and nagging (for the most part).   The best laid plans thought don’t always eventuate, I’m pretty sure I outlined in the schedule 3 gym visits a week which doesn’t seem to have happened. Oh well.

 3. Redistribute the household chores and outsource if you can!

Not saying I’m Martha Stewart but while on maternity leave I found myself taking on pretty much all the chores, when I went back to work it took some time before the chores were more evenly distributed and it seemed like there was a period of ‘adjustment’ for my husband as he began to pick up more of the slack. It is still not quite 50/50 but we decided to outsource some of it by getting a cleaner. Also for me gaining efficiencies by meal planning and only shopping once a week plus getting it delivered meant I had more time to relax with my little family after a hard day’s work.

4. Prepare to get sick

It’s a by-product of modern life that when most mothers return to work after maternity leave there will be some form of communal child care involved, these centres whilst a great learning and social experience, are a petri dish of germs for a newbie. I don’t know any family that has escaped unscathed and for the unlucky among us, it can be a 6 months plus constant colds and chills which is as heartbreaking as it is tiring and takes its toll. While you are going through it and trying to balance your new routine and being ‘on’ all day at work, it can feel very draining but you WILL get through it, it’s a rite of passage like every other ‘first’ us mum’s endure. 

5. Ask for flexibility at work

Talk to your employer about what you want from a role now and how you’re going to make it work.   Do you need to leave early, do you want to work less days or even work from home so the pick-ups and drop offs aren’t such a rush?

Most options are possible as long as you are realistic about what you can deliver and communicate openly to your stakeholders about your working hours. I used to be apologetic about declining meetings on my non-working day, now I put an out of office every week, block the time out and just suggest an alternative time. After a few months most stakeholders automatically knew Wednesdays were a no-go for me and we just worked around it.

For any new mums returning to work, good luck. It is hard work but the economy and the businesses we work for need us, so don’t give up!


About Catriona Walkerden

Catriona Walkerden is a passionate writer and blogger on gender diversity and women in the workforce at, She regularly contributes articles to Women’s agenda, FITT and others. Most other hours of the day are spent enjoying Melbourne life and taking care of little Miss Walkerden junior.

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