I’m part of several Whatsapp groups of new mummies (like myself) and lately, I’ve noticed a common recurring theme amongst the many topics we’ve covered – “how can I return to work when I’m still so tired?”
I’ve recently been blessed with a beautiful daughter, Joanna, and have come back off maternity leave into a new role, where naturally, I’ve felt the need to prove my ability. It’s been much more challenging than I initially expected it to be!
Finding the balance between work and home, making a good first impression after a rubbish night’s sleep or just generally being able to communicate and form sentences is tough. I’m amazed I’ve been able to put this article together at all!
But on a serious note, it can be tough going back to work as a new parent, whether it’s to a company you’ve been at for years or a brand new one, and a huge part of that challenge is – put simply – you don’t sleep as much as you used to!
Is this issue overlooked?
The Independent recently posted an article that new parents will get 4 hours and 44 minutes sleep per night on average in the first year of their baby’s life, just over half of what is recommended. And since we know that a consistent lack of sleep can lead to various physical and mental issues, why does this issue seem to be completely overlooked by the rest of the world and in particular, the workplace?
From high blood pressure to depression, a consistent lack of sleep can take its toll. A lack of ability to concentrate or increased irritability can lead to arguments with friends, colleagues or partners. My personal best is a recent pointless one-uppance type argument I had with my husband about who got up the most times last night – not proud of this one!
Yet, sleep deprivation can often be ignored as a serious cause of deterioration to mental health and wellbeing and can take you far away from feeling like the “normal” self you once knew!
The “normal” you
I love listening to witty stories from friends and colleagues who have done silly things after a sleepless night that the “normal” them would never have done. My wonderful boss, Andy Davies, as an example, has been known to enjoy the occasional Pot Noodle with warm baby formula after mistaking it for boiling water!
But what happens when these….errors in judgement begin to seep into the workplace?
Can you safely say that your employer, or at the very least, your line manager, would be supportive and fundamentally understand that this is not the “normal” you?
I’m so pleased that I seem to have found “that” company, who genuinely understand the importance of personal wellbeing and having a healthy work/life balance. I do wonder though, how many companies are this understanding and how easy are they to find?
Here’s what I did and what I would strongly advise any returning parent to do in order to probe potential (and current) employers on how they manage new working parents who are still finding their feet!
How to find those hidden gems
- ASK THEM!
Now, this one may seem obvious, but it never ceases to amaze me how many people will not probe companies on their policies around flexible working, working from home or sick leave, simply because “they’re scared to ask”.
Whether you’re speaking to your current manager or a potential employee, finding the answers to the following questions will help you massively in understanding whether this company will accommodate your new needs.
P.S. If you’re asking a potential employee, I would definitely recommend saving these questions for a final interview when you have slightly more buying power!
(And by the way…it’s ok to ask these questions – don’t be scared!)
- What’s your approach to flexible working?
- How many parents do you have in the company?
- Do you have children?
- How many other employees work from home? How often do they work from home?
- What are my options if I’ve stayed up all night with the baby?
- DON’T BE AFRAID TO WALK AWAY
This is much easier said than done!
When you’ve been out of the game for a few months/years, it’s very easy to convince yourself that “you need them more than they need you”.
Well, this is just not the case anymore!
Lots of companies in the UK are struggling massively to find good talent at the moment.
So, even if they’re putting on a good poker face and throwing around the “it’s company policy” line, don’t be afraid to walk away IF their needs don’t match yours. Your priorities have changed now and that’s ok.
The right company WILL understand this and do their very best to accommodate you!
- FIND OUT WHAT HAPPENS IF THINGS CHANGE
As a new parent, you will constantly be finding yourself in new situations with your baby…some of which had probably never occurred to you until they happen!
Maybe your child gets chickenpox? Or goes through a month-long sleep regression? Or starts nursery? Or you go back to work and realise that you miss your little one much more than you had ever expected you would?
Speak to your new or potential employer about how flexible your contract is if your personal situation changes.
Would they be able to increase or decrease your hours? Change your hours altogether? Put you in a new role?
There’s nothing worse than suddenly finding yourself in a situation where you feel like you are taking on too much and it’s not working for you or your family.
Remember, all of these things will help you balance your new life and new job much better. You don’t need to do it alone!
I’d love to hear your thoughts on this. Are you a new parent returning to work? Or are you ready to return to work after maternity/paternity leave and share these concerns? Perhaps you are a manager yourself and have an opinion on how you would treat an employee-facing these issues?