Select Page

Returning to work after maternity, paternity or adoption leave

by FAMILY talk

Returning to work after maternity, paternity or adoption leave is rarely without challenges.  Whatever your profession or career to date, taking time out of the workplace to raise a family often makes us reassess our priorities and the mere prospect of going back to work can fill us with dread.

Jenny Roberts, a careers specialist with a wealth of experience advising and guiding people, shares some of her knowledge.

I cannot count the times I have heard people make the following statements:

  • What if I can’t cope?
  • My brain has turned to mush – I won’t remember anything
  • Things will have moved on and I won’t know the new systems/people
  • My Manager has left and the new Manager doesn’t know anything about me
  • I don’t want the pressure of my old job back
  • I’ve forgotten how to do the job I had
  • What if I really miss my baby/child?
  • I feel I’m letting my toddler down by going back to work
  • Will he/she settle into a nursery?
  • I’ll never be able to get back in time to pick the baby up from nursery
  • Am I a bad parent for wanting to go back to work?
  • My mother in law thinks I should stay at home

For some people the transition from home to work will be seamless, they’ll naturally slot back into their old role and make things look effortless juggling family and work perfectly, but for the majority of us this “career crossroads” can be an upsetting and daunting period.

There are so many things you can do to help yourself move forward. 

Start by taking some time to explore and discover the person you have become.

Your aspirations, values and drivers for working may well have changed dramatically and this is the ideal time to reframe what your career looks like.

From feeling negative and resentful about returning to work, it isn’t that big a leap to turn your situation into an opportunity to embark on your next career journey. 

If you have not been working for some time and are not obliged to return anywhere to complete your statutory maternity/paternity leave, there are lots of exercises you can undertake to help you organise your thoughts and prioritise.

Here is a 5 stage simple model I often use when working with my clients…

1 – Accounting

What do you need to earn in order to be able to maintain the standard of living you need/want?  What is the minimum salary you will be satisfied with?

2 – Motivation

Are you returning to work because you feel you need adult company or want to exercise your grey matter or is it because you have to work in order to make ends meet?

3 – Values

What is now important to you – try to make a list and rank them in order of preference:

Some of the values you might start thinking about include:

·       Status

·       Recognition

·       Helping others

·       Money

·       Being alone

·       Being in a team

·       Exceeding targets

·       Making a difference

·       Promotion

·       Being an expert

·       Routine

·       Uncertainty

·       Risk

·       Job security

4 – Skills audit

What are you good at, what do you enjoy (work-related), what don’t you enjoy (work-related), what aspects of your former roles would you like to do more/less of, will you need to retrain/upskill, can you retrain/upskill?

5 – Ideal job

Can you describe what your ideal day would look like if you could do anything work-wise – part-time/full time, outdoors, indoors, can you visualise it?

Write down your thoughts and feelings and work to create an action plan that you can stick to.

Put timeframes on this – “by next month, I’d like to have done….”, “By Christmas, I will have explored…”.

If possible tell your partner or friends.

Evidence tells us that when we share our plans we are far more likely to stick to them!

Networking is often the key to career transitions. 

I spend considerable time with clients working out who is in their network and how they can tell their story in order to get others to advocate for them in their career search.

Most of us fear networking or don’t really understand what it is or how it can help in the careers space.

It really isn’t about “selling” anything – it’s about learning and growing and can be an incredibly powerful tool for people who are not sure about what job might suit them next.

There’s lots of networking advice online or you can work with a career coach/consultant to formulate a strategy for this or to practice your technique.

You will also need to give some thought to your marketing collateral. 

Dig out that old CV and revamp it to represent you as you are now. 

When describing previous roles don’t simply state what your “responsibilities” were, instead think about what you actually did and the impact it had – start each bullet point or sentence with an action verb in the past tense and demonstrate the skills you have succinctly.

Always write your CV with a view to where it will be going rather than where you’ve been and NEVER lie!

Whether you are keen to explore a new direction, worried about transitioning back into the workplace or looking to update your CV/write an application, I can work with you to help you navigate the next steps.

A job for life is extremely rare these days, and statistics tell us that millennials may well have up to five careers in their lifetime, often switching direction in highly unorthodox ways from lawyer to banker, doctor to management consultant.  

Jenny offers practical assistance as well as help in formulating your careers strategy and she is passionate about supporting people as they move forward

She works with people of all ages who are at all stages of their career journeys and loves a challenge.

Working with people face to face and on Skype and can also offer group sessions (e.g. on formulating a new CV or interview advice) for friends who are all looking for similar help.

Together you can look at a plan of action to take control of your career.

For more information visit the website

Contact by email at

or telephone on 07779 582585

Jenny will do her best to respond within 24 hours.


Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

About The Author

Smalltalk Magazine

Since 2005 Smalltalk Magazine is a printed A4 information magazine aimed at parents, distributed throughout the Yorkshire region. Printed 6 times a year it is distributed free to over 300 parent-friendly locations in the area. Full of useful and informative articles about family life.