If you’re returning to work after having children, expect to experience both guilt and pride. Guilt when you can’t be at the school gate to pick them up when the bell rings and pride that you’re helping to provide a stable home life.
We know that coping with kids and a career isn’t always easy, so we’ve come up with a toolbox of essential tips that will help you and your family to flourish when you return to work.
The scouting motto “be prepared” applies equally well to working parents. Now that you have children, your life has to fit around the kids’ activities and the school /daycare calendar, so make sure you know your childcare schedule and when the school term starts and ends before you begin work. It’s also important to find out when key events like parents’ evenings, sports days and nativity plays will be taking place.
Once you’ve got hold of the relevant dates, invest in a family organizer and jot everything down. Try to make sure you or your partner can be there for each event, even if it means taking half a day off work. However, if this isn’t possible, see if any other family members could attend in your place.
Assuming your children are at school, you’ll also have to plan ahead to cover their holidays. We suggest booking time off to cover as many days as you can before you check out the local holiday clubs and play schemes. If you don’t know what’s available locally, why not ask other parents for recommendations?
Getting back into work after a break can be exhausting, so there will be times when you can’t face cooking from scratch. If you’d rather avoid takeaways, how about batch cooking a few simple meals, sauces and soups to keep in the freezer? Alternatively, get to grips with your slow cooker and arrive home to a heavenly aroma.
If food is available where you work, you could save time and energy by eating your main meal there. You could even arrange for your kids to have school dinners, assuming they like the look of them! Many after school clubs also provide a light meal.
When it comes to laundry, keeping your kids dressed in clean, crease-free clothes is much easier if you buy a school shirt for each day of the week, as well as several pairs of trousers or skirts. Encourage your kids to lay out their clothes out the night before, along with their pre-packed school bags. If you show them how to do this from a young age, it should become a habit.
If you’re going to be working full time and you hate the thought of an untidy home, employing a cleaner and gardener for a few hours a week is the perfect solution. Your kids will be able to spend more time with you after work, you’ll feel less stressed and you’ll be contributing to the economy!
Online shopping is also ideal for working parents, saving time and removing temptation. If you plan to do your main grocery shop online, you can save money by choosing unpopular late night slots or buying a pass that entitles you to free delivery all week. Once you’ve signed up with your chosen supermarket, you’ll be able to shop at speed by creating a list of your favourite items.
Teamwork is the key to family life, so don’t try and do everything yourself. Get the kids involved with simple tasks like loading the dishwasher and tidying their rooms and if someone offers to lend a hand, always say yes!
Looking after yourself begins with being honest. If you’re feeling overwhelmed, don’t be afraid to seek support, as family and friends are often happy to help out by entertaining the kids.
It’s also important to keep your job in perspective. Work is only one aspect of life, so never feel guilty for leaving the office at five to spend time with your family. If you have a few days off, avoid checking your emails, put your phone away and enjoy making some memories.
When you’re juggling a career and family, it’s easy to neglect your own health and emotional wellbeing. In fact, eating well and making time to exercise are more important than ever, as looking after kids requires energy and a positive frame of mind.
Getting a good night’s sleep will also boost your mood. Try going to bed at a regular time and avoid staring at a screen beforehand. That might mean leaving your phone out of reach and using an alarm clock instead!
Finally, don’t be afraid to treat yourself. Whether you fancy a candlelit bath, coffee with friends or a yoga class, doing something you love for a while will make you much easier to live with!
If your child is under 17 (18, if disabled), you’ll need to have worked for your employer for at least 26 weeks before you approach them. You can put in a request once a year and while the process can take up to 14 weeks, your employer can’t refuse without a good reason. If they do, you have the right to appeal.
The transition from being a full-time parent to an employee can be tricky, but following our tips will smooth the way and help you to keep things in perspective. Good luck!
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