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Maternity Mojo: Boosting your career during maternity leave
When the Duchess of Cambridge gave birth to her first baby, Prince George, she returned to her royal duties when he was just 1 month old. However, after the birth of Princess Charlotte, Kate opted for more time off and didn't go back to work for 4 months.
This is still a lot shorter than most new mothers who tend to take between 6 and 12 months off. However long you choose to stay at home with your new baby, it's not uncommon for some mums to begin to feel as if they're out of the career loop while on maternity leave, especially once you start to emerge from those first few months - when being a new mum occupies 100% of your time and energy.
So, how can you stay engaged with your work life, while looking after your new-born?
Here are some tips from the wellbeing experts at CABA, to make sure you don't lose sight of your professional self while on maternity leave:
Keep in touch
Did you know you're allowed to work for up to 10 days while you're on maternity leave without it affecting when your leave ends or maternity leave payments?
These days are called keeping in touch (KIT) days. You and your employer must agree to them and the type of work you'll do before your leave starts - as well as how much you'll get paid - as KIT days are optional.
You could, for instance, use your KIT days to go on training days or workshops, or to attend meetings or conferences. In fact, you can do any type of work on a KIT day, and you don't even have to work a full day.
You may also want to use your KIT days towards the end of your maternity leave to help ease you back into work gradually.
Your employer has a legal right to reasonable contact with you while you're on maternity leave. This means they may get in touch with you by email, letter or phone - or even at a meeting in the workplace.
But the definition of ‘reasonable’ can vary from 1 person and workplace to another. Make sure you agree with your employer the amount of reasonable contact and the method of contact before starting your maternity leave.
Changed your mind? Don’t worry! The agreement is not set in stone and you can change it (with agreement from your employer) once your leave has begun.
Reasonable contact can be positive for employees on maternity leave too. You may want to be updated with things such as changes at work that will affect you, training, work or social events and job vacancies while you're away. Perhaps you also want to receive company newsletters or details of meetings and projects you've been working on, as they can help to make you feel part of your working environment while you're not there, not to mention make your return to work easier.
Learn new skills
Despite the fact that looking after a baby is a full-time job in itself, many new mums find it gives them a bit of breathing space to pursue learning opportunities they were too busy to even think about when they were working full-time.
You can find details of courses at your local adult education centre or university or try doing an online course that you can complete at your own pace (for instance while your baby's sleeping).
Getting back into work
If you're currently on maternity leave and thinking about returning to work, there are a few important questions you may want to ask yourself first:
Should you work flexibly?
There are several types of flexible working that may be helpful if you need to change your working pattern when you return to work. These include:
· Part-time working
· Working from home
· Job sharing
· Shift swapping
· Compressed hours
· Flexible start and finish times
All employees in the UK have the right to request flexible working if they've worked for their current employer for at least 26 weeks on a continuous basis. But employers can turn down requests if there's a good business reason for doing so.
You can find out more about flexible working, whether it’s right for you and how to request at caba.org.uk.
Should you change your job?
Having a baby can make you look at your career differently, and you may feel it's time to take up a new challenge or move in a different direction. As a result, it's not unusual for some new mothers to want a change of career rather than going back to their old job, as their priorities may have changed significantly as a result of being a parent.
Ask yourself what you want out of your new career, and whether you have the skills necessary to be successful. If you don't, retraining may be your best option - read our advice about retraining for a new career to find out more.
Should you start your own business?
For some mothers not going back to work at all may be the best option - especially for those who are thinking of setting up their own business and becoming their own boss.
According to a survey by Workingmums.co.uk, 58% of mums have considered setting up their own business. In fact, using your time off work after having a baby to start a business is a growing trend, called 'power' maternity leave. And the reason it may be a trend is that many women find being a new mother helps them identify ideas for childcare businesses, where they can put the skills they've already developed in their career to good use.
Indeed, the most recent figures from the Office for National Statistics suggest more than 800,000 women are self-employed and working part-time, with experts suggesting many so-called ‘mumpreneurs’ set themselves up in business because the added flexibility this gives them helps them fit work around family life.
With Kate’s third child finally making his debut, it will be interesting to see if she takes more time off from her royal engagements. What with juggling a new born and 2 small children, she’ll certainly be kept busy.
DON’T DISMISS WHAT GRANDMA DID – GIVE REUSABLE NAPPIES A TRY AND SAVE £££
It’s time for a refreshing angle on nappies. The time is right. Environmental issues are finally gaining significant public support with everything from plastic bags to plastic straws getting the green treatment. Single Use / Disposable nappies are surely the next product to be targeted. A fact which seems to be confirmed by all the focus on Real Nappy Week which runs until Sunday, April 30.
The environmental cost of using disposable nappies is significant. One million tonnes of disposable nappies are being sent to UK landfill every year and each and every nappy takes an estimated 500 years to decompose. But it’s not just the eco-cost of using disposable nappies which is high. The financial cost to you as a parent is astronomical. With every child using between 4,000 and 6,000 nappies before they are potty trained, you could save money by switching to reusable nappies.
Despite many new parents knowing the cons of disposable nappies, there is still something that stops people from making that move to reusables. This is in large part because there is a real myth that this is a HUGE change that has to be made and from which there can be no turning back! This simply isn’t the case. Reusable nappies are something you can just give a try. See if they work for you. There need be no pressure, no judgement if they don’t suit you, but it’s worth just giving them a try for the eco and economic savings even if only part time use.
Reusables can be another tool to add to your nappy armoury! At home you can use reusables and for convenience when you’re on holiday or if you’re out and about, take disposals. This model makes reusables so much more accessible for the busy lifestyles of today’s mums and dads and makes it much more likely to people will use them. With the focus from Real Nappy Week it’s important to take this chance to stress the accessibility of using reusable nappies and how easy it is to just try them out.
Grandma was right about so many things; our current ‘make do and mend’ culture is testament to that and with our growing eco-awareness we are getting used to looking to the past for inspiration. Grandma used Terry Squares so don’t dismiss these. Terry Squares are very economical, quick to dry, easy and simple to use and there are the nifty alternatives to the pins that Grandma used available these days! A prefold nappy also offers a brilliant low budget reusable nappy that can be used with a modern cover.
We are adamant that trying out reusable nappies is the way to go. For this reason, at Muslinz, we won’t even sell a full kit to a mum-to-be at a baby show, instead we offer a trial kit which is enough for six changes and is the perfect way to try reusables and see if they work for you.
Much like breastfeeding, reusable nappies are something to try out to see if they fit you and your baby. If they make life with your new-born easier, are more comfortable for them, are cheaper for your purse strings, and give you that eco-friendly glow; then great!
Caroline Taylor is Managing Director from leading baby accessories specialist MerryGoRoundUK, which manufactures the popular brand, Muslinz, who supply both Terry Squares and prefold nappies.