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Back to work with a baby - a balancing act

PR Consultant and founder of Durham and Co Consulting, Beth Durham, tells us how she coped with the challenge of returning to full-time work when her baby was just 5 months old.  A challenge that many have no choice but to face - and one that others look forward to.

Balancing act

I would have given my right arm, 20 years’ ago, to be in the position I’m in now - working as a PR Consultant, being my own boss, managing my own diary and a fair amount of home-working.

But then I was in the very early throes of my career as a journalist which I neatly timed to coincide with the start of motherhood. Even if I’d wanted to, financially, I had no other option but to work full-time.

It’s now 2018 and we’re through it unscathed. I’m where I want to be and the proud mum of two (largely) functioning adults.

It’s not always been easy but I can now say from experience that it’s all possible as long as you find the right, unique balance for you.

And if you have to work because, well, you just have to – welcome to my world. Here’s some advice for people starting that journey…

Survive the first month

I can’t lie, the initial wrench after mat leave feels hideous – even if you’ve bagged the best carers in the world. My second son was just five months old when I had to go back to work and I cried every day for the first month. The good news is any initial distress quickly diminishes as everyone settles into a new routine and, bonus (wish I’d known this then), my son now has no real recollection of his early years’ daycare – so he must have been fine despite all my worrying!

Plan

With military precision.

Ride the work/home see-saw

Life is not perfectly balanced. There were times when work had to go on the back burner for the sake of the health/welfare of the family and, other times, when it was the right thing to do to put more time into work, knowing that the children were taken care of. You might not make it to every single assembly or sports day, but, using my newly polished crystal call, you’ll be forgiven.

Be committed

This is where I put my boss hat on. If you don’t like your job, find something else. Being a working parent doesn’t give you exclusive rights to annual leave every school holiday, for example. I’ve known some people to exploit every single benefit going to take maximum time off. It’s not fair, it’s infuriating for colleagues and there’s a business to run. A happy team is one the pulls together and everyone has a life outside of work, not just mummies.

Love your independence

Don’t resent it. I did sometimes feel like a chameleon switching from work Beth to parent Beth but the whole family has benefited from my work and hopefully too, the organisations I’ve worked for. Plus, I have made some of the best friends and had the best laughs ever at work. Handbag wars still being one of my favourite games!

Look after you

Always. You’re no good to anyone if you don’t look after your physical and mental well-being and it can be hard to take time out. Recognise the signs and take time out.