Research shows that women who take 3 years off work to have children lose 38% of their earning potential forever. This makes it more important to manage your maternity leave.
I reached out to the BCS Women’s Group, a group of women in science, technology, and engineering to find out their advice for women returning from maternity leave. The answers were both insightful and a little scary.
Terry said, “Get all the help that you can borrow, borrow, steal, or afford.” “Make it as simple as possible. It could be extra child care, ready-made meals for children (some are even mildly healthy), or asking your neighbor to take the dog on a walk.
Terry’s daughter decided to stop sleeping after she returned to work full-time. She struggled for a year without sleep. A friend suggested that she hire a sleep consultant, which she highly recommends to anyone who has trouble getting their children to sleep.
She said, “The one thing that I found most amazing about going back to work was how little had changed in the eight months that I had been away.” “The same people were there, in the same meetings, discussing the same things. It took me a few weeks or days to realize that I hadn’t forgotten anything I knew and that my baby brain wasn’t all that was left.
Regaining your office life
If you’ve been away for a while, it can be difficult to get up to speed at work. Many UK mothers take longer than the 8 month Terry was off work. Louise explained that her company had a return-to-work process. “You had three months to work as many hours as you wanted. They paid you for your full time for those three months, so that stress was removed.” Louise found this policy very helpful when she returned to full-time employment. She also used outstanding leave and did half days which meant that she didn’t have to work a week for a whole year.
She added that she believes it is wise to have a plan to accomplish what you want. “My plan was accepted when I submitted it. It was possible that I was lucky, but it forced my to think about what I wanted and to review all policies related to returning to work and maternity leave. I was also forced by the do-ability perspective to assess what I wanted so that I had answers to any questions.
You might not be able to do the same job as before.
Some women may not have the options they desire. Judy said that women have seen improvements in the last 25-years due to better enforcement of equality legislation. “It was very difficult for me in the 1980’s to return to work and work the hours that I wanted/needed without having an impact on my career prospects.
Judy felt that it was impossible to return to her old company with part-time hours because there wasn’t an option for management level staff at the head office. “Although it was funny,” she said, “It was OK for store employees.” She also felt that long hours and traveling wouldn’t work in the current environment where local nurseries were readily available.
Judy stated that she stayed home for six years and then was very fortunate to find a full-time position in a local organization that offered flexible hours. “In my first week, a devout Christian informed me that my role was at home. He didn’t get challenged.”
Judy became a single mother and began working part-time. She still had to be present in the office every day to ensure that her team could have access to her. One manager complained that she was not keeping up with her team by repeatedly scheduling meetings 30 minutes before her going home time.
Judy stated that she missed key training because she had to take 3 months off due to an operation. Judy also said that Judy was unable to reschedule her appointment for the same reason. “But, I survived it all…and my child too. My advice to you is to believe that it is your right and obligation to work if necessary. It is better for your child/children to have a fulfilling life.

How Real Mums Return To Work