2020 was a very strange year. Unless you were hidden away from the world, we all know Covid turned our lives upside down. However for us as a family, we found there to be many positives that came from spending so much time at home. It gave us a huge amount of quality time and to focus on family life. Whilst we had lots of things planned for when Little Man came home, sadly we never got to do most of them because we were more or less in a lockdown state for much of the year!
My husband James works within the theatre industry and as you’re aware that all shut down. It’s been one of the worst hit industries and we hope 2021 sees him returning to the theatre. We both said that as we have now been at home since March 2020, the relationship we have with Little Man may well have been different should James have returned to work after a brief amount of time at home.
This month saw me returning to work and what a month it has been! We planned for me to be away from work for at least a year, but with everything being settled at home and Little Man at nursery, it felt right that instead of that time spent watching TV and endless programmes on Netflix…work would be better option for me! The first few weeks I spent finding my feet and to some extent I still aim as I am finding a new way of working due to now working part time. The work/life balance I have now have has been a huge welcome. I get to switch into ‘Sam’ mode on my working days but as soon as the laptop is closed, I’m back to being Daddy!
Returning to work after Adoption leave or any parental leave is difficult. Personally speaking, I was “out of the office” for 8 months. As such returning to the workplace I soon realised that I’m a different person with very different priorities. Many who return to work may take a different approach to working life, along with life as a parent. We wanted to share our experience of returning to work to help you adjust.
> Go Easy On Yourself
Firstly, be kind to yourself. It is all too easy to be your own worst enemy and your energy levels are likely to be very different. (Speaking from my own perspective, I was having 8 hours sleep a night, now I’m lucky if I get 5/6!). You may realise that you are more emotional than you have been before. That is OK and perfectly normal. Just be gentle and take time to embed and solidify a new routine. I’m nearly a month into working and I’m still finding my feet some days, plus parent brain fog is very real!
> Schedule Your Time
It is a huge transition but it need not be as daunting as it seems. Most aspects of returning to work you can manage. For instance, it may be a question of how long you return for whether that be a few days a week or full time. Every parent may not have an option but be aware of the pro’s and con’s for both. Part time allows you to do your job you did before but differently. It can he useful to help with juggling home and work life. Returning full time means you are more or less able to return to the career you had before. It may be much harder initially but you may find it is easier to return with no huge differences.
Personally speaking, having returned for 3 days a week means I feel that my time is more balanced and that I am engaging with adults, but also enjoying my time as being Daddy. For now that is working.
> Practice Makes Perfect
With a new routine, we found it was best to make sure it all logistically worked. Covid has obviously helped us in some ways, but once normal life resumes (please hurry up now), the first work day shouldn’t be the first day your child goes to daycare/nursery etc. We wanted to make sure Little Man was settled at nursery before taking a bigger step and me returning to work. It definitely helped having Little Man being used to the process so that we knew he was completed settled and happy before we made changes to our routine.
Be Open & Honest
Plan to have an honest conversation with your employer/manager about your new realities. I found it really help to be honest about I was feeling, how things were going and possible plans for the coming weeks and months ahead. That way everybody is aware your emotions may be all over the place and you may feel more in control in how your role goes in your newfound parenting life.
Set Clear Expectations From The Start
It really helped me to be very honest with my colleagues about how I felt and the struggles we are currently facing. It helped to go back with a clear idea of my schedule and plans rather than others perhaps making assumptions. I reinforced and ensured those who needed to know where clear of my working hours and days. So far it is working!
We recently filmed a vlog about The Importance of Support Networks and this still applies to going back to work. Join networks that will support you and engage with others. Just having people that understand your situation will really help. It helped me to talk to other parents within my team and department.
Finally - acknowledge how you feel each day. We’re learning that life as parents can be tough one day and a total joy at other times. Some days you will feel great, others not so. Being ‘in check’ with my own emotions also helped me to speak openly with others.