We recently posted an article on returning to training after giving birth for ADF, Police and Fire Fighter applicants. In this article we are going to provide further tips on returning to work as a new mum to help alleviate the overwhelm of juggling motherhood and work.
It's common knowledge that returning to work within the Australian Defence Force after having a baby can be daunting. There is the stress of finding childcare, juggling drop offs to get to work on time, missing your child after spending your maternity leave together and still wanting to perform well at work.
The difference between your job and a civilian job is that you have the added stress of needing to meet fitness requirements within a specific time frame.
Taking care of your body post-partum and introducing exercise safely and correctly is crucial. It's normal that you will feel an element of pressure to be ready to pass your BFA (or equivalent fitness test) as soon as possible. The policies within the Australian Defence Force state that you must be able to pass within a particular time frame after returning to work. This often causes members to dive into training before they've been able to rehabilitate their bodies. Your body is different now and you need to understand its new limitations. Your body has also been through a lot and so you need to ease back into it. (See our previous article on how to do this).
RETURNING TO THE ADF AFTER HAVING A BABY
Let's get to the realistic parts of trying to return to work in the Australian Defence Force as a new Mum. Fitness aside, there is a lot to organise. Finding a day care, being comfortable with that day care, coordinating drop off times to allow you to get to work on time, packing their bags, packing your bags, hoping your brain still works when you log on and ensuring everything is organised for a successful day for your whole family.
We've put together out top 5 tips on making the transition back to work less overwhelming. We've asked former TBG members who have gone on to have children whilst serving and also incorporated tips from Carlys own experiences.
TOP 5 TIPS FOR RETURNING TO THE ADF AS A NEW MUM
1. KNOW THE POLICIES
There is a lot of power in ensuring you are fully conversant with the policies around around maternity leave and the entitlements you have once you return to work. If you don’t know where to find the policies – ask another Mum.
Mothers who are returning to work within the ADF have entitlements around flexible work arrangements, part time hours and work from home arrangements all within 2 years of the birth of their child. If you are aware of these entitlements and the policies behind them, then you are in an excellent position to advocate for yourself to your chain of command. If you are struggling to get your head around the policies then ask another Mum within Defence. Guaranteed she’ll be exceptionally happy to share the information with you and help you out.
2. JOB SHARING
This is an excellent option if you're intending to go back part time and your role within your workplace allows for it. It won't work for every single trade or role within Defence and Policing. However it is possible and it is achievable if you have members who meet the requirements for the job.
As an example, if you have two mothers who hold the rank of SGT and have similar skill sets and are both returning to work part time, they could essentially provide the capability of one SGT. This obviously depends on the days that they are working and the service need for that role, however if it is workable then it’s well worth suggesting to your chain of command. This could mean the difference between being able to have a decent work/life balance and (hopefully) not being contacted on your days off. If someone is always at work and contactable in the role, then you’re less likely to need to be ‘on call’ and can enjoy the days you’re at home with your child. It also means you’ll come back to an email inbox that’s less congested as items will be addressed in your absence.
Don’t hesitate to raise this with your chain of command if you believe it’s a workable solution.
3. CHECK LISTS
Have check lists for everything. Both at home and at work. This means that when you've had a rough night with your kids and your brain is mush, you don't actually have to rely on your brain. You can rely on your checklists to ensure you remember everything you need.
Some checklist suggestions from other mothers are as follows:
- Daycare bag checklist
- Work bag checklist (PT gear, uniform, lunch, ID card etc)
- Morning Routine checklist
Ultimately it depends on how you like to run your household and how you like to do things to prepare for your work day. So play around with different lists and have them on your fridge or bench for easy access.
4. PREPARE EVERYTHING THE NIGHT BEFORE
This is my personal suggestion that I felt was worth including. It goes in line with the Army teachings of 'Prior Preparation Prevents Piss Poor Performance'. I have been preparing everything the night before long before I had children.
I always prepared my uniform, bag, breakfast, lunch, protein shakers, hat, socks, undies... everything, the night before. It means that you have less likelihood of forgetting things, you have less excuses for not getting to the gym or getting things done and most importantly – you have 10 less thing to do in the morning.
The mornings are already chaos, so why would you want to make it even more stressful?
Take 15 minutes the night before to get everything ready so you can go into the next day with a clear mind and focus on getting out the door with (most of) your sanity in tact. You can even go so far as to put your bags, uniforms and other things you need in the car the night before if it helps!
5. GET UP EARLY
Again this is a personal suggestion of mine that I believe is GAME CHANGING. I’ve also spoken with many other Military Mums and they too implement this strategy in order to reduce stress in the mornings. I get up early to ensure I can get ready ahead of my kids waking up. I then sit down in the quiet of the morning and have a HOT coffee whilst reading a book or watching tv. You could even use this time to train if you like training at home.
See our home training programs here
The ability to get up, get dressed and get organised without small people at my feet reduces my stress levels significantly. It means that by the time they wake up, I am also wide awake, I’m dressed, caffeinated and calm. It also means that I’m looking forward to seeing them and hanging out with them before heading off to school, day care and work!
Getting up early can be challenging if you’ve had an average sleep the night before or if you’ve gone to bed late. However I can assure you that once you get in a rhythm after 4-5 days, it feels normal and the benefits far outweigh the challenges. I now value that quiet time so much that I get excited to get up early in the morning.
As you can recognise, these tips span across a broad spectrum of managing work and motherhood. However if implemented, these tips have the ability to be completely game changing for your balance of motherhood and your career.
Remember, you are still you. You need to take care of yourself, your fitness, your mental health and your mental load. If you can implement these small steps to help with all of these things then you are giving yourself the best possible chance at being the mother you want to be and also performing well at work.
If you're on Maternity leave and looking to get your fitness back, please check in with us to see the programs we have on offer. As always, consult your GP and OB before engaging in any form of fitness training. Click here to check out our training!
If you'd like to discuss your training goals and situation with us, feel free to get in touch.
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