Keeping In Touch: Getting A Taste For Work Before The Big Return

Alice Hughes

Keeping In Touch: Getting A Taste For Work Before The Big Return As A First-Time Mum

This time last year the phrase ‘KIT days’ was simply a buzzword I’d heard in the office a few times. Nowadays, when I type the word ‘kit’ into my phone it automatically suggests ‘day’ and ‘days’ as the following, suggesting how often I use the phrase (the third option is ‘kat’, if you were wondering). I’m in the midst of working one ‘Keeping In Touch’ day a week and from knowing little about them, now feel like an advocate.

In my short experience as a parent, it seems the moment the newborn phase is over people will start asking you about returning to work. In the early days I’d give a quick generic response, but now when I tell people I’m currently doing some KIT days the majority of the time I get asked “what’s that?” so I’m here to shout about them and hopefully help others who are just as nervous as I was about returning to work to know this option is out there.  

During maternity leave I’d worried something was wrong with me – parents would talk about how excited they were to get back to work but the thought of it scared me, I definitely didn’t feel ready and didn’t have a ‘want’ for work. They spoke about wanting to ‘use their brain’, have conversations with fellow adults and most importantly go to the bathroom alone, but all I could think of was meeting deadlines, presenting pitches, early starts and above all leaving my baby (Nancy) for whole days. I was enjoying every bit of my maternity bubble and it felt like just as I’d got used to a new routine it was going to change again.

But after the fastest eight months of my life, I got in touch with my managers to book in some KIT days. I didn’t know what to expect and how I’d feel, but I knew it sounded like a good step ahead of returning fully in a few months and to hopefully relieve any anxiety around that return.

What are KIT days?

1.     KIT days are essentially a day back at work

2.     They are optional

3.     You’re allowed to do a maximum of 10 KIT days during your maternity leave

4.     You’ll get paid for a KIT day

5.     Your employer needs to agree to your KIT day plans in advance

6.     Taking a KIT day won’t end your maternity leave or entitlements

7.     KIT days can be worked at any point during mat leave after the first two weeks

8.     They can’t be worked when you’re on annual leave

My main concerns about going back to working life weren’t around the job itself but the routine of getting us both ready in the morning, the commute, hoping we’d have a good night’s sleep, ensuring I packed everything we both needed for the day and being able to switch my parent brain off while at work. But before I’d even stepped foot back in the office on my first KIT day I had a burst of optimism thanks to getting dressed in ‘nice’ clothes rather than my mum uniform of leggings and an oversized t-shirt or jumper, it really is the little things!

My next feeling of positivity came when I pressed ‘delete all’ on my inbox, it’s probably the only time I’ll ever be able to do this and it felt freeing, if not a little bit sinful. All emails I’d received during maternity leave were no longer needed and it was apt to start afresh. I was thrown straight in when it came to helping the team with content. As a creative account manager, the main difference while doing KIT days is the fact I don’t have any clients, but every other aspect I can do, including writing surveys and news copy, brainstorming and creating pitch decks. The writing aspects came back to me quicker than expected and not having my own to-do list and deadlines allowed me to dedicate more time and concentration to a task. It was fun to catch up with colleagues I hadn’t seen in a while, have a lunch break (parents don’t really get those, right?) and feel creative again especially when brainstorming. It was useful to be in an office environment and overhear conversations as well as ask any questions about small changes that have happened since I’ve been gone. I couldn’t even imagine being overwhelmed with all this on my first proper day back.  

While I did check my phone more often than usual for Nancy updates, I surprisingly didn’t worry about her as much as I expected. I think this is because in the back on my mind I knew she’d be fine (with grandparents) and I had other things to concentrate on. Something I hadn’t considered until now was that being in work takes your mind off being a parent and being a parent takes your mind off work, not completely, but enough to focus.

What I’ve learnt from KIT days:

1.     Despite feeling like you’ve been gone a long time, not a lot will have changed

2.     There was no need to worry

3.     Having fellow parents on your team helps - talk to them

4.     There will be glitches, but it’s all good practise (being late thanks to traffic, baby waking up lots the night before)

5.     You’ll appreciate the time with your child even more, especially getting home to them after a working day

6.     The ‘practise’ of being back in work is beneficial for not just yourself but everyone around you – your child, partner, childcare providers  

7.     It’s important to have time away from your child

8.     Clichéd, but you’ll feel a bit more like the old you again

9.     You’ll appreciate and resonate with your partner more if they’ve been working  

10.  You’ve still got it