The return to work will be different for everyone, but it is a safe bet that there will be some surprises along the way. Given that you can’t predict how your return will play out, what can you do to prepare yourself for those first weeks back in the classroom?
Tes asked teachers, middle leaders and leaders what they thought might help make the return to work from maternity, paternity or adoption leave easier. Their responses have been have combined into the following tips:
Seek out support
You need to feel taken care of in the transition process. If it’s possible to get a bit of coaching, that can be really helpful. If you are a headteacher, this can be particularly hard because you don’t have a line manager to support you. In this case, you can create an informal support network of friends and colleagues who have been through similar experiences, and try Twitter, too. It’s important not to feel alone.
Bring your baby along
Don’t be afraid to bring your baby with you to work – not every day, of course, but if there’s training and CPD, for example. You will have to rely on having a leadership team who are supportive of you bringing in your baby, but never be afraid to ask. And if you are a leader yourself, bringing in your child is a powerful way to model what can be achieved in the workplace.
Accept mental overload
There’s a huge amount to keep in your mind as a parent, so you need to be prepared. As well as running the school timetable in your head, you will soon also be running timetables for your kids at home: drama club, football practice, playdates, school trips, dressing-up day, and so on. Accept that, owing to the sheer amount you have to do, you will inevitably drop the ball sometimes.
Ask for help
Be realistic and don’t forget that it’s OK to ask for help. Your life has changed indescribably since you left and your priorities are different.
Teachers are already good at planning, so make the most of these skills and plan as much as you can in advance. Plan pick-ups and drop-offs for each half-term; plan what you are wearing to work the night before (that way, if your child wakes up early or it’s been “one of those nights”, you can just take it from the hanger without thinking). And always make your lunch the night before.
Remember, you’re doing fine
You can still be an amazing parent and do a great job (although you won’t always believe that). Even if you find yourself crying on the way to work every day to begin with, or feel like a limb is missing, trust that it does get better. You and your family will soon adjust to your new routine.
Zofia Niemtus is a freelance writer