“Will she go to sleep while I’m not there? Am I actually going to remember anything? Do I remember how to do my job?”
That was literally what was going on in my head on my first day heading back into work after eight months off. Having my first baby changed something in me. There are so many things that are better, but one big difference has been my confidence.
I had read stories that upon returning to work after extended leave, others experienced the same lack of confidence. I remember thinking that wouldn’t be me, but even after six months back on the job I still sometimes felt that nervous knot in my stomach.
For new parents getting back into the flow of things can be tricky to navigate.
Here are some confidence-boosting tips that could help you when returning to teaching:
actively plan your return
I made sure I arranged a time to catch up with my director before I returned, away from the workplace. I asked if there were any changes to be aware of and what the top priorities were for me when I returned so I could be prepared.
If you work in early learning, you can take a similar approach to realign yourself with your role and any changes that may have happened while you were on leave - from new procedures to new faces. Meeting up in a casual, non-workplace environment with your centre director or supervisor gives you the opportunity to ask questions and tackle those nerves you may be experiencing.
I found this meeting also helped me organise my first week back and set a clear goal for the first few months back. I felt that I had achieved something which helped me return with gusto and confidence.
be prepared to ask for help
Going back to work after a significant time away often goes hand in hand with not knowing what’s what anymore as naturally, things change over the course of a year. It’s normal to feel lost! So prepare yourself to ask for help and don’t shy away from turning to your colleagues or director for clarity.
Acquaint yourself with the new staff in your centre and reconnect with those you knew before going on leave. It’s a great way to set up a support network to fall back on.
Try to leave behind your “this is what I used to do” attitude and focus on the present. Look at what’s stayed the same and what might be different. By doing this you can identify what aspects of the centre’s management you may want to be involved in and what skills or ideas you can bring to the table.
Finding new ways to add value or build on your current skills will help grow your confidence as you find your feet again.
For everyone headed back to work after maternity leave, you will feel like second-guessing your choices and you will need to ask for help and support, but that will just open up more conversations and the ability to embrace change.