It's the beginning of the school year and for some of you it might be time to go back to work after a period of time at home with the kids. I've seen lots of women get this so right and I've seen people really struggle. If you want your return to work to be awesome, do these 5 things!
1. Self-careTo stand any chance of winning The Spinning Plate Challenge, you need to make self-care a top priority. As the fabulous Lucille Ball said, "Love yourself first and everything else falls into line". Here are some easy ways to take good care of yourself every day:
- Fuel your body with nutritious food starting with breakfast all together at the kitchen table if you can. When I was growing up we were lucky enough to be able to eat dinner together as a family every night. That doesn't work for my family as my OH and I get home too late. So breakfast is our only opportunity to eat together.
- Start your day with a positive affirmation when you are brushing your teeth - "today I'm enough"
- Move your body and get your heartbeat up a little if you can - it doesn't take much time to get those endorphins flowing!
- Try to make time to do something you love. I am lucky enough to have my own horse. I bought him 3 years ago and this was a total game changer for me. Riding makes me so happy and I totally lose track of time when I do it. Was there something you used to love doing? Whether your thing is tap dancing, stamp collecting or baking, doing something you love will make you happy. Fact.
2. Create magical moments outside workSometimes we working mums can feel guilty (see below) about not spending enough time at home and about losing out on quality time with our children and OH. Using that emotional energy to create magical moments outside work is so much more productive. You can try:
- Love bombing your child which involves taking your child away from your usual environment and letting them be in charge. It's a lovely experience for both parent and child.
- Going out for lunch with your OH. Once a year Mr D and I take the afternoon off and go out for a long lunch together. I always really enjoy it. Maybe we should do it more than once a year!...
- Random acts of kindness. Sonja Lyubomirsky, Ph.D., a professor of psychology at the University of California, Riverside says that "People who engage in kind acts become happier over time". It works for me. Some kind acts: pay someone a compliment, buy someone a coffee, thank your colleagues, send a note of appreciation.
3. Find the working you againGoing back to work can be hard, so be extra kind to yourself. Seriously, give yourself a pat on the back for turning up to work, dressed and willing to get stuff done. And don't fear, you will return to - and surpass - your former glory. Try the following:
- Come back for a couple of days a week first and then work part-time if possible. Coming back gradually will be less of a shock to the system and part-time working can be be easier to manage.
- Sit down with your boss and have an honest conversation over a cup of tea. Tell your boss what you are hoping to achieve, share any anxieties you have.
- Don't expect to pick up right where you left off. Your concentration span will probably have reduced to about 20 seconds but you'll find you've become much more efficient and discovered multi-tasking talents you didn't know you had.
- I was a different shape after I had my twins. I wish I'd thought of having a session with a stylist to buy some new work outfits before I went back. To be honest I couldn't have afforded it as I was losing money working at first because of the cost of childcare and travel. But I have since had a session with a stylist which was fantastic and very confidence enhancing. Stylists cater to all budgets and although it is a luxury, it needn't break the bank.
4. Park the guilt
Now is as good a time as any to park the guilt - don't wear it as a badge of honour. Sometimes I feel I'm not a good enough mum unless I'm feeling guilty about something or other but I know in my heart of hearts I don't need to feel that way. Most people are parents too - they get it. They understand The Spinning Plate Challenge, the struggles, the highs and lows. Feel understood. A colleague said she felt terribly guilty leaving the office every day at 4:30pm to pick her child up from the nursery. "Everyone's looking at me as I walk out", she said "thinking, look at her slacking off". In reality those people were probably thinking about themselves, about their own lives, their evening plans.
Your children are only young for a short period in your career. There's no time to feel guilty - just work out what you want and do that.
5. Connect with others in the same situation
You won't be alone in your struggles to get The Spinning Plate Challenge working well. The women I have worked with have found it helpful to share their experiences, frustrations and triumphs with others in a similar situation. Friends, mums groups, mentors and coaches can all help. I wish I knew the things I know now when I went back to work. I wish I had more confidence in my ability to make things work and I wish I could have been kinder to myself. I wish these things for you.