parent opinion

7 (totally non HR-approved) tips for your first day of work after maternity leave.

1. Recognise this for the enormous deal that it is.

First thing’s first: In case you didn’t notice, your life has changed completely since you had your baby, and it’s about to change completely again with your re-entry into the workplace. 

This is not a small deal. THIS IS A BIG DEAL! 

It might be the first ever time your child has been in care. It’s certainly the first time you’re picking the role of "professional" back up after being totally consumed by becoming a parent.

This is a huge day, and it’s okay if it feels like one. You have my permission to cry, but only one time, and try not to smudge your mascara, because you look extremely beautiful.

Watch: Mia Freedman recalls juggling work and looking after a newborn at 25 years old. Post continues after video.

Video via Mamamia.

2. Wear your best work clothes.

Look, if your work clothes are scrubs, I apologise in advance, because I appreciate you don’t have much room to move there. But if you’re a corporate lady, then I must insist that you take off your slippers (we all wear slippers on maternity leave, there is no judgement here), strap on a pair of heels, and positively CLACK your way into the building.

There is almost no sense of dread that a really solid CLACK CLACK CLACK on a polished tile can’t fix. Feeling nervous? Have a clack. Feeling unsure? Have a clack. Feeling like perhaps you’ve left the best part of your life behind you and you never should have agreed to return to work in the first place? WELL, CLACK CLACK CLACKETY CLACK, MY FRIENDS. LET’S GET CLACKING. 


3. Accept that your first day - and probably week, and maybe month - will be totally unproductive.

Do yourself a favour, right now, by letting go of the expectation that you’ll waltz back in the office door and pick up exactly where you left off. It simply will not happen, not least because "where you left off" doesn’t exist anymore: no matter how long or short your period of leave, things will have changed in your workplace since you left. 

If it takes you a little while to get back into the swing of things, don’t panic. There are packets of Arnotts Assorted Biscuits that have been in that building longer than you! Stop expecting so much of yourself! On your first day, it’s okay to be a full-blown Orange Cream (terrible, useless). 

Maybe, by week two, you’re a bog-standard Scotch Finger (fine with a cup of tea but not blowing anyone’s socks off). There is so much time to be a Kingston (exceptional, God-tier) again, but that time is not today, because today you probably need to walk around and show every one of your colleagues a photo of your baby with a lot of yoghurt on his face.

4. Brainstorm your absolute favourite thing about going to work, and prioritise it over everything. 

No, I didn’t say your favourite thing about your work; I said your favourite thing about going to work. That might be a coffee and banana bread with your work wife, a solo walk in the park at lunchtime, a particular sandwich they only make in that place around the corner, or a gym visit before you even walk in the door. 


Make doing this, and only this, the one thing on your to-do list for your first day. That’s it! That’s all you have to do! Did you do it? You are ABSOLUTELY NAILING RETURNING TO WORK AFTER MATERNITY LEAVE! I AM SO IN AWE OF YOU!

5. Give in to some good old-fashioned retail therapy. 

Well, well, well, if it isn’t the lady who’s about to earn a paycheck. Might I say, you are looking wealthier than ever! If anyone deserves a little treat, it is you! 

If you have an office job, and that office job involves a computer, might I suggest you spend some of your time on that computer purchasing yourself a small gift! (Did I mention these tips weren’t HR approved?). 

(But in a way, wouldn’t your HR want you to feel your best, and in a way, isn’t a new skirt the way to do that?). 

Honestly, I don’t know what your current financial situation is, but I can say for pretty certain that it’s about to improve because you’re back at work, so it is non-negotiable that you have a new handbag. 

Sorry, I don’t make the rules! 

Look, I mean, okay. I accept that buying things isn’t a wand you can wave to magically resolve all your complex emotions about your maternity leave ending, but it certainly does make you feel briefly better, and that is good enough for us today!

Listen to Me After You where we dive deep on motherhood and careers. Post continues after podcast.


6. Drink a hot cup of tea.

What’s that I hear? No, seriously, what is it? I can’t hear... anything? I think that might be the sound... of silence?!

Yes, that’s right, the rumours are true: in your workplace it is actually not legal for someone to interrupt you right after you’ve boiled the kettle to tell you they have done a poo. If this does happen on your first day, please do report it! 

If it doesn’t, please revel in the peace and quiet of not having to change the nappy of anyone for eight whole hours. Make your hot drink and drink it hot. Is there any greater luxury? Have you died and gone to heaven?* 

*A poorly lit office building with a bad biscuit selection?

7. Remember that you’re a bloody great mum, no matter what. 

There is no right or wrong time to return to work. It might feel long overdue or it might feel far too soon. It might be by choice, by circumstance, or any combination of the two.

Whatever the reason you’ve ended up here, please know that you are a wonderful mum, and you’re doing a five-star job at your other - much harder - job of being a parent. I am so proud of you, and one day, your kid will be too.

Did you know we have a whole family-focused community you can join on Facebook for more discussions like this? Join the Mamamia Family Facebook group and follow Mamamia Family on Instagram and tell us what #parentinglookslike for you!

Feature Image: Getty.

Can’t live without your phone or the internet? Take our survey now and you go in the running to win a $100 gift voucher!