Jane's Story


Jane was nervous about returning to work part-time as she didn’t want people to think she wasn’t committed to her career...

She was on maternity leave for a year and came back to a new role in a different part of the business. But the support Jane got from her boss was invaluable. There was great communication and management to ensure the work always remained manageable.

Jane’s advice to someone going on parental leave is:

  • Be clear about what you want in terms of work communication with the caveat that it can change.
  • Create a plan that includes who you want to be in touch with whilst you’re away.When you come back, understand you’re different from the person who left and so is the business. It’s almost like starting again.
  • Recognise that becoming a mum can help you at work, Jane had to learn efficiency and found it a blessing.
  • Accept that being a working mum is hard at times and “expect to feel like you’re doing nothing well”.
  • Remember it’s not permanent and try to enjoy the moment.

Read Jane’s full story below to see the steps she took to make work, work for her.




Jane's Story


When I was pregnant with my first child, I knew I wanted to return to work part-time, and I felt nervous about how it would be perceived. I didn’t want people to think I wasn’t committed or that I was taking my foot off the pedal/had lost interest in my career.

I took maternity leave for a year and came back to a new role in the Finance Transformation programme, which was exciting and different. I was nervous coming back to a part of the business that was new to me. But I think going into a fresh role also enabled me to rethink how I wanted to be at work.

The support I got during my return to work was invaluable.

I had open conversations with my boss. He recognised I’d chosen to come back part-time but at the same time acknowledged I wanted a challenge.

He helped me put boundaries around work to ensure it didn’t seep into my days at home. He helped me see I needed to review what I was doing if I couldn’t fit my work into my working week. He didn’t expect me to email him on a non-working day, which is tempting when you want to show commitment.

He also told me to find time for my personal development, to think about what direction I wanted to take. It wasn’t all about getting the work done – he wanted flexible working to work for my career, as well as for the job itself.

With this support in mind, my advice to others would be:

Be clear about what you want during maternity leave

When you’re on your first maternity leave, you’ve got your head in nappies, purees, feeding and sleeping (or lack of), and it can be hard to get your head back into the work mindset.

Conversations with work can feel a bit jarring. It might be the only conversation you’ve had with an adult that day, while, in contrast, you’re perhaps just one of 10-15 meetings that the other person is ticking off the list.

It’s important to remember not to get too worried or stressed about those points of contact with colleagues. But at the same time, not be shy in reminding people that you’re there and want communication (if that’s the case).

Your employer isn’t allowed to ask you many questions before you go on maternity leave, so it can be helpful to be quite open and direct about what you want. Make the conversations happen, and let your employer know your preferences. Do you want contact early in the maternity leave? Would you like to be kept abreast of what’s going on or have time out and check back in closer to the end of your leave?

Be clear about what you want, with the caveat that it can change, depending on where you’re at, what type of baby you have and how full your hands are.

I prefer to have more contact and monthly catch-ups with my boss throughout this maternity leave. This has helped me not worry about when or how we might be staying in touch; we just have. It also creates a cadence in the communication, which I feel might be at risk of being taken over by other day-to-day activities if it weren’t in my diary.

Create a maternity leave plan

Ahead of going on maternity leave the second time around, I wrote a list of all the people I wanted to get in touch with while away. A network of people who encourage me in what I’m doing, help me to think outside the box and tell me what’s going on in other parts of the business. (Things that wouldn’t necessarily be informal communications).

I did this for my second maternity leave. It helped me to feel more comfortable about stepping away. I didn’t have to wrack my (tired) brain when it came to starting to reconnect with people.

Accept that being on maternity leave during a pandemic will take time to process

The beauty of lockdown and the pandemic is that everyone is working remotely, so it becomes much easier to schedule KIT days. You don’t have to block a whole day to go into the office.

On the flip side, I’ve found only doing KIT days online a challenge. I would rather be going into the office and catching up with people face to face and spontaneously. It’s hard to be visible online; it’s much easier if you’re in the same physical space.

I’ve felt quite removed from things going on. I want to be there for people and support them, but I’m not there to do that, which is strange. I’ve also had to adapt to remote working later than my colleagues, who have lived it for the past seven months. To start with, it made me feel on the back foot and a bit disconnected, but it now feels normal, and it’s an adjustment we’ve all had to make.

When you come back from maternity leave, you’re different from the person who left.  That’s OK

The business also changes. A year, or even six months, is a long time in retail. It’s almost like starting again. You need to relearn the business and understand what’s changed.

This permits you to assess how you want to be at work. How do you want to manage your days, your weeks? One of the risks of returning from maternity leave is that parents think they’re going to return to the same role and do the same things in the same way. But you’re a different person, and it’s a different business.

Recognise that becoming a mum can help you at work

It’s helped me think about how I approach things more efficiently. Before I had children, I worked with a lady who was so focused and ruthlessly efficient with her time. I was blown away by it. I realised she was trying to get out the door at a specific time each day to do the school run. There was no time to waste.

I felt I had to learn that efficiency and found it a blessing. It helps me be bolder about how I use my time: do I need to have this meeting? Am I making progress on this? Who do I need to ask for help on this? Do we need to do this now, or can we do it later? It’s empowering.

Accept that being a working mum is hard at times

Before I went back to work, someone said to me, ‘Just expect to feel like you’re doing nothing well.’ She was warning me that I wasn’t going to feel like a good enough mum or like I was doing a good enough job at work. This was daunting but helpful to remember on the days when things were difficult.

There can be a tension between being a mother and working, but I try to smile at this conflict. Knowing I’ve had to run for the train because I didn’t want to miss that meeting first thing after nursery drop-off and knowing that I’ll be rushing back for the train to pick up my daughter!

I enjoy working. Being with my children or being at work is a break from the other thing. They can complement each other.

Going on maternity leave and returning to work is an excellent lesson in humility. It’s a reminder that you’re not indispensable at work and, eventually, that other people can provide care to your children. I think that’s quite freeing to think about; It takes the pressure off.

Remember, it’s not permanent

A friend of mine said that each phase feels shorter with every child she had – the sleepless nights, the nappies, the weaning stage - it goes quicker.

I’ve found it helpful having a sister who had children before me and has been honest about how hard it is. I didn’t go into parenthood thinking I would nail it and be the world’s best mother. It’s just not achievable.

It’s such a privilege to take maternity leave and spend time with your baby. So I guess it’s trying to be present in that, to try and enjoy the moment but not put pressure on yourself to achieve great things in that time. You’re looking after a tiny one, so try not to set unrealistic expectations.

See the change. Be the change. Learn from one another.