What it’s like heading back to work after six years out of office

by Natalie
Mums Off Duty, back-to-work

It was October last year, and I was casually job hunting. I worked one day a week as a Supervisor for a brilliant local charity which I was enjoying, and I was working on my blog of course, but I wanted more employed hours. Having recently moved and taken on a bigger mortgage, I really wanted to be able to make a regular financial contribution.

Then bam, an advert caught my eye. 20 hours a week, local, and in property, which is an industry that has intrigued me for a while now. My guilty pleasure is watching anything property or interior design-related, from Kirstie and Phil’s homegrown Love It or List it to the mind-blowing Million Dollar Listing from across the pond.

As we all know, work hours that allow you to drop your child off at school in the morning and pick them up at the end of the day, are like gold dust. If you get offered an opportunity like that, you grab it with both hands – which is exactly what I did.

I haven’t worked Monday to Friday in an office environment for six years now. I set my out of office when I waddled off on my maternity leave back in 2013, and I never returned to turn it off. So of course my excitement about my brand new job was more than tinged with self-doubt. Could I really do it?

Three months on, and while there is still plenty to learn, I feel quite settled into my new role. Of course there is the feeling of being back on the Monday to Friday treadmill (which I haven’t missed to be honest!), and there is a lot more on my plate now to manage, but there are many positives too.

Work gives you a confidence boost

Mums Off Duty, Back To Work

Here’s the thing. When you work for yourself, or are a stay-at-home parent, however hard you work behind those doors, however disciplined you are, much of it goes unnoticed for the simple fact you work alone.

The truth is, there are no pats on the back, glowing end of year reviews, or big bonuses. And I’ve come to realise that not having your hard work acknowledged can really affect your sense of self worth. Constantly feeling like you have to justify what you’ve done with your day is really quite draining!

Being at work and having your contribution recognised daily really does help to make you feel valued, giving you all the good feels. I had felt pretty anxious about returning to work but now I’ve proven to myself that I can do it, and that has given me a much needed confidence boost.

Your brain cells need a workout

Setting up my own blog was a major challenge. Although it used skills from my previous job as a digital content manager, learning to do the technical side of things myself was a big learning curve. But I taught myself how to do it and I’m really proud of that.

My new job is in a totally new industry. I’ve had to learn a lot, and fast. I’m well out of my comfort zone and after my first day, I had major doubts as to whether I was up to the job.

Fast forward three months and my confidence is returning, bit by bit. I’m still learning every day of course but I’m settled in and enjoying the process. My brain is being used in new ways which is refreshing, and I’ve remembered how important it is to challenge yourself.

Money does matter

Mums Off Duty, Back To Work

I know it shouldn’t, but it does. And obviously it’s not the be all and end all. But I’ve talked about money with friends and we all agree that money can be the cause of so many bad feelings and disagreements in your relationships. At the end of the day, the issues around money are really important.

Making the decision to return to work outside the home isn’t an easy one and I thought about it a lot. Since moving house, I’ve wanted to be able to contribute more and even though it’s still only a small contribution, I’m pleased I can make it regularly now each month, helping to chip away at our bigger mortgage.

It’s nice to have regular money coming in. Really nice. It gives me a sense of freedom and independence that I realise now I’d lost. Freelance work is great in so many respects, but you have to be able to deal with the uncertainty of where the next pay cheque is coming from.

Being organised is everything

Mums Off Duty, Back To Work

Oh wow, the levels of organisation that are required when you go back to work is off the scales! I have more lists on the go now than ever before and getting everything prepped the night before is essential.

On a training course, I was told that if someone can do the same task at least 75% as good as you, then you should delegate. While I quite enjoy cleaning and find it satisfying, I know I don’t have time to do it all anymore, so we’ve employed a cleaner – just for an hour a week – to help cover some of the basics and give me an hour back of my time.

If there are things you can afford to outsource, I say do it. If you’re working, your spare time is even more precious. Try not to feel guilty about it.

Am I pleased I’ve done it?

Honestly, it’s been a big change for me. I’m a little more stressed and I’m definitely feeling more tired, but I’m optimistic that this was a good decision for us as a family. The mortgage will be paid off that little bit quicker, and while I initially felt out of my depth, now I’m more settled I’m enjoying working life again.

I’m still finding my way though, especially in terms of time management and the eternal juggle that is family, work and looking after the home. I’m realising there’s no right way to do things, you’ve just got to do what works for you. Try to care less, if you can (I find this hard to be honest). If you don’t get the dishwasher done before school drop-off, the world probably won’t end. Try to give yourself a break.

I guess what I’m saying is this. If you’re umming and erring about whether to go back to work, please don’t let low confidence or self-esteem be the reason that you don’t. You kicked ass at work before maternity leave, and you can kick ass again. As scary as it seems, I promise you that once you’re doing it, you will find your groove again and eventually it will be like you never left.

Natalie xx

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Talya March 5, 2020 - 2:48 pm

I think self confidence and low self esteem is a huge issue in mums getting back to work. Sometimes you just have to take that leap of faith, trust then roll with the punches…

Claire March 5, 2020 - 4:32 pm

I loved going back to work after Mat leave and it really does help with your confidence, plus it can be lonely at home.

The new job sounds fab, property has always intrigued me too.

Claire x

Lyndsey O'Halloran March 5, 2020 - 10:06 pm

I miss the company of being out at work so I imagine that’s a great thing to have. Self-employment is a lonely thing sometimes.

Jenni March 6, 2020 - 3:19 pm

It sounds like your new job had had a real impact on your self esteem which is amazing. Glad it is working out and you have hours that work around family life

Jenni March 7, 2020 - 11:16 pm

I’ve struggled to get back in to work after having kids. Despite now having 15+ years experience, it was much easier straight out of uni. Everyone just wants someone who doesn’t have a 4 year gap in their CV.

Kara Guppy March 8, 2020 - 12:30 pm

That must be so scary. I had a year off and that was bad enough


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