Returning to work, or beginning a new business venture, after you’ve had a baby can be a really tricky transition. Throw in Postnatal Depression and Anxiety and it’s even more daunting. But it could end up being the best thing you ever do for your mental health…
I was made redundant during the final trimester of my pregnancy. The lead-up to this was an extremely stressful and draining experience which involved HR consultation, reapplying for my own job and lots of negative feeling around the office. Stressful life events can be a risk factor for developing Postnatal Depression so I attribute losing my job as one of several reasons for my illness.
The loss was about much more than a job. It was the loss of my identity; I had no idea that my job was such a big part of who I was until it was gone. Motherhood is an enormous identity shift for most women and something that shouldn’t be brushed aside. At work I was experienced and capable, as a mum I felt scared and useless.
As my son turned nine months I was recovering fairly steadily (read my Postnatal Depression recovery story here) and began toying with the idea of going back to work part-time. I craved the normality that had been missing since my son’s arrival but at the same time I was utterly terrified of the effort it would take to find new employment and the confidence I would need to embark on that new role. Below are my tips for returning to work after Postnatal Depression and the reasons why it can be good for your recovery.
Tips for returning to work
Find the right childcare. Focusing at work can be challenging when you’re still in recovery even without the distraction of worrying about your little one so finding childcare that you’re comfortable with is vital, and the first step you should take (especially since some nurseries and childminders have waiting lists). Get personal recommendations if you can and ask as many questions of your childcare provider as you like, whatever helps you. My Anxiety symptoms were pretty high the day we visited Caterpillar’s nursery so I made a note of every single question I had, as well as briefing Hubs, so I could be sure no info would be lost in my brain haze.
Find an understanding employer. Since I was beginning a brand new job I didn’t feel able to disclose my mental health issues from the off but, in hindsight, it probably would have been fine. When I had a relapse of Anxiety around two years after I joined the firm I was forced to tell my boss and she was absolutely incredible. Most larger firms have a mental health policy now too and mental health champions to support you. If you’re returning to your previous job, and feel comfortable doing so, try to have a frank discussion with your manager – maybe they can find a way to ease you back in such as a staggered return.
Take it one day at a time. This is not just a tip for returning to work but for handling Postnatal Depression in general. During those first few weeks I had several moments when I felt completely overwhelmed and I questioned whether I could do it at all. This usually occurred when I let my mind run away with me and focused too much on the future.
If you take your job literally one task at a time everything feels a lot more manageable. Also, remember to normalise your feelings – it’s expected to feel anxious about leaving your child or overwhelmed by the change of returning to work; try to just let these feelings be there without too much engagement, rather than fearing they are all related to your illness.
Why should I go back to work?
Every family is different and not everyone wishes to work which is more than okay (hat’s off to you, frankly!) but if you feel in your gut that it’s important for you to go back you may actually end up finding it really helpful to your recovery.
- It may help you build your confidence back up as you transition back into familiar tasks
- It will help you establish your new identity
- It may help combat isolation & loneliness
- It demonstrates a good work ethic to your children
- It helps to focus your mind / distracts you, which may help with motivation problems or counter intrusive thoughts.
- It gives you a break! Before Caterpillar started school I used to tell my colleagues that my working days were my weekend!
Are you struggling with the idea of returning to work at the moment? Are you considering putting it off until you are further along in your recovery? Feel free to email me if you want to chat – firstname.lastname@example.org – or come find me on Facebook.