Finding Your style when returning to work – By Victoria Kennedy

Hi, I’m Victoria, mum to 2 crazy, lively boys, vintage frock lover, tea drinker and Personal Stylist. I am passionate about empowering women to love being themselves. My style ethos is that ‘you are best at being you’.

So embrace who you are and shout about it for the world to hear! I’m often contacted by women returning to work after having their children. The story is almost always the same, and 99% of the time it boils down to confidence, confidence in ourselves as working women. If you are considering returning to work, read on!

Going back to work after having a baby is a big move, your heart, mind and body are still adjusting to the new ‘normal’ and it can feel very overwhelming and stressful. Usually full of emotional turmoil and a bucket load of ‘mum-guilt’ at the thought of leaving your child.

Whether you took 3 weeks, 3 months or 3 years of maternity leave, deciding what to wear to work after having a baby will be different but yet the same for all of us. You may still be carrying baby weight, you may still be breastfeeding and more than likely your confidence will have dipped.

For me, returning to work after the birth of my first son was so daunting. I was absolutely riddled with guilt as well as feeling totally overwhelmed about my ‘new body’ and how to dress for it. Let’s face it, I’d spent the majority of the last 12 months in my new found ‘mummy uniform’- rotating PJ’s for leggings and oversized sweaters. Marry that with a distinct lack of sleep and time to myself meant makeup and hair styling was no longer on my monthly to do list let alone part of my mornings routine!

When deciding to return to work, first and foremost, before thinking about what to wear: 

  1. Be kind to yourself

 Take some time to process the return to work decision in your own head. You may be feeling guilty about leaving your child, you may be feeling guilty about being excited to return to work. All of these feelings are normal. Do not beat yourself up about how you feel. Talk to your partner, friends, family and allow yourself those feelings.

2. Take up the offer of ‘Return to work days’

Going back into work in an informal way, for a chat & coffee can help it feel less daunting. Remember these days are for you to ‘catch up and refresh yourself’ don’t be pushed into working or being pulled into office politics!

3. Take care of yourself

Try to build a routine into the mornings and evenings on the days leading up to your return to work. This will help you ensure you get enough sleep and eat well- returning to work is tiring! Prepare yourself!

So once you’ve found good childcare, figured out logistics, battled tiredness and getting into the ‘work’ frame of mind, you can start to think about what you will wear on the ‘big day’.  This was such a huge challenge for me as I felt I had lost myself. I was ‘mummy’ and knew that role quite well- I knew the uniform! But I had no idea what ‘working Victoria’ looked like these days. Plus I had no idea what suited my new expanse of tummy!

I knew I wanted to return to work feeling confident about myself. I wanted people to see me as a professional, not as a ‘mummy’- which is strange as I have the utmost respect for mums- the jobs a tough one! But I felt, on my return to work, I would be judged by my appearance, that ‘how together’ I looked was a reflection on my ability to be a working mum.

So with that in mind I went shopping with a close friend, someone who had returned to work previously after having her children, and her advice is something I still use regularly with my clients today!

1. New Clothes

Whilst it seems obvious to say buy new clothes- after all we are all familiar with that ‘shiny new item’ feeling- much like the first day back at school adorned head to toe in new gear! But when I say buy new clothes what I really mean is take a good look at your new post baby body shape and buy new pieces that flatter this new fabulous shape.

If you’re unsure of your body shape- take a look at my facebook page for some tips and guidance! Dressing to flatter your shape can make you look slimmer, younger and feel more confident. There is no need to purchase the entire Next Directory- See my next point!

2. Buy 3 or 4 versatile items

For example, buying a black shift or wrap dress (great if breastfeeding/pumping) can be a great investment as you can wear it in different ways- with a blazer, with a scarf, with heels, with boots, with a bright necklace etc.

A great rule I impose on my clients is ‘never buy an item that doesn’t already go with 2 or 3 items you own’- that way you can wear it in many ways. So when you are choosing some new workwear think carefully about how the pieces can be worn to create multiple outfits.
Other good versatile items are;

  • ‘trophy blazers’- bright/jazzy fabric blazers that can be added to outfits to provide colour or texture.
  • Statement jewellery- another great way of adding colour and changing the look of an outfit.
  • Neutral coloured trousers or skirt- these can then be worn with a variety of tops and shoes to create different looks.

3. Bag & Shoes

You’ve probably got the hang of packing the changing bag with every possibility accounted for. You’re used to lugging around the contents of your house- just in case! But when returning to work the contents of your bag is entirely for you. So as well as having the luxury of carrying just your purse and lippy, you can do so in a lovely new bag! Treating yourself to a gorgeous-but- totally-impractical-for-mummy-duty bag can be a great way to bring your personality back into your style.

It’s a way of reminding yourself that ‘you’ are still ‘you’! This can also be the case with shoes! Although an air of practicality may well be needed, depending on your job, but it can be a great confidence boost to walk into work rocking a killer pair of heels! You’ve still got it girl!

Whatever you choose to wear to return to work, above everything else, it should make you feel most like you. Your style is a reflection of your personality as well as your lifestyle and body shape.

We are naturally going to feel most confident when we are being ourselves. Embrace who you are- an amazing women, who has carried and birthed a precious baby, a baby who loves you unconditionally for being their Mama. Return to work with this love in your heart and let your light shine- You are best at being you!

If you would like more tips and advice on finding your style join my ‘Style File’ group on Facebook. 

Alternatively, book a Personal Styling session with me for an in depth analysis of your shape, colours, style and personality-

Don’t miss out on future posts like this – you can receive updates directly to your inbox by email by adding your email address to the box on the top right of this page and hitting subscribe. You can also follow NorthHantsMum onTwitter,Facebook PageFacebook ProfileLinkedIn and Feedly. I hope to see you there! 

22 Strategies for Returning to work

(Nearly all of these strategies can be applied to those who aren’t returning to work ;-))

1. De-clutter

Get rid of the clutter before your maternity leave ends. Box up all the baby clothes that you want to keep and put them in the loft and then sort the others out into “recycle”, “give away” and “sell”. (Did you know you can recycle clothes even when they are covered in stains?)

Do not buy lots and lots of toys for your children, they will not appreciate them. Especially as they will be spending some time in nursery or at a childminders or somewhere else that will have toys. The toys that you have, make sure you can tidy them up easily and quickly.

Find a place for everything and “train” the rest of the family to put things back where they belong. In our house, Miss NHM is way, way, way better than Mr NHM at doing this, possibly because it’s hard to teach an old dog new tricks :-D. (Hi Darling! :-D)

Make sure there is a place near the front door for your car keys, mobile and wallet. Not too close to the front door and high enough that small children can’t get to them. I have a friend (Hi Jo! :-D) whose toddler was notorious for hiding car keys and she could never find them and was often late to things as a result.

Getting rid of the clutter and giving everything a home reduces the time you spend putting things away and hunting things down. Time you won’t have when you are back at work.

2. Get a cleaner

Our cleaner is awesome. She costs £40 a month and  comes to clean for 1.5 hours every two weeks. Yes, it’s £40 but for the sake of your sanity and spare time, it will be the best £40 you will ever spend. Tracy, our cleaner, has literally saved my marriage on a number of occasions! Lol.

Yes, I know that some of you can’t bear the thought of having someone clean your house (Hi Laura! :-D) but if you can get over it, you will be doing yourself a MASSIVE favour.

3. Don’t iron anything

Yup, I’m lazy and hate ironing, so I don’t do it. If anything in our house needs ironing I get Mr NHM to do it. Or I just don’t buy anything that needs ironing.

If you are desperate, use the hot shower Tip. This saved me on a number of work trips abroad! 😉

4. Meal plan

There is nothing worse than falling through the door after work and thinking “S**t, we’ve got nothing for dinner!?!?!?!”.

This post HERE that I wrote in 2012 is still the system that we follow in our house for meal planning.

5. Have a slow cooker, preferably two

We have two slow cookers. One that is massive (it’s big enough to fit a whole chicken in) and one that is small and makes enough for the thee of us with no leftovers. I’m so in love with my slow cooker that I even take it on holiday with us!!

Roast chicken in the slow cooker is a dream and the leftover chicken can be used the following few days in, chicken salad, paella, etc..

Last year I sent out lots of slow cooker recipes that I have tried and tested. If you would also like a copy of these recipes please email me at and I will forward them on again.

6. Beg, borrow or steal* a tumble dryer

This one speaks for itself.

You especially need access to a tumble dryer if you are returning to work before your child has finished weaning.

7. Beg, borrow or steal* a large freezer

I have a “slummy mummy” confession to make… we often “freezer dive” for meals when we’ve both been in the office.

I recommend checking out this link HERE about potential emergency meals. Or make your own if you have time ;-).

8. Beg, Borrow or steal* a dishwasher

And teach your husband, partner, children, how to load it and unload it 😉

9. Batch cook

Check out my previous post about A day of freezer cooking.

I often try to make extra of a meal and feezer into meal sized portions, just to take the pressure off another day.

10. Use technology to its best advantage

Make sure you sync all your email accounts to your mobile. This is mandatory, especially if your nursery or school uses email. It’s also mandatory for keeping on top of things.

Get yourself a Goggle calendar set up and make sure each person in the family has a google calendar and you can access and edit it. This is fundamental for when you are in the office and need to update diaries.

Synchronise your diary with any “adults” in your family at least once a week. Mr NHM and I review the following month every Sunday evening. Without fail. The times we haven’t done this someone there has nearly always been a schedule crisis that week.

11. Subscribe to your doctors, dentists, nursery and vets text message alerts

There will come a time when you get distracted by work and forget to add something to your calendar in your mobile. A text message from the doctors reminding you about your child’s immunisation shot appointments can be a god send! ( I speak from experience here, <blush>).

12. Charge your technology every other evening

This is ironic because I never do this, Mr NHM has to do it for me! lol. However, in my work rucksack I have chargers for each mobile (I carry three with me) and I also splashed out and bought mobile chargers for my car.

13. Get a car with a hands free phone built in (but only if you can afford it!!)

This has revolutionised my life. I actually have conversations with my friends these days, albeit nearly always on the way to or from work.

14. Find a reliable Babysitter

We asked around at Miss NHM’s nursery and her key worker has been our babysitter for the past two years. She’s pretty much part of our family now! lol.

If you are struggling with finding a babysitter, please check out my previous post on NHM HERE.

15. Have a regular Date Night

I know that going on a regular Date Night when your children are small is really tough. It’s so worthwhile though. We can really tell in our household, when Mr NHM and I haven’t been on Date Night for a while 😉

If you are looking for some suggestions of what to do, please check out these previous posts HERE, HERE and HERE. Or, just arrange for a babysitter and go out for a walk. It’s a great way to chat in a neutral environment whilst getting some light exercise at the same time.

16. Find a mobile hairdresser

You will not have time to make a hair appointment because they are nearly always in working hours. Unless you want to get up early on Saturday morning, but who wants to do that after a week at work! So find someone who can come to you out of normal working hours. It will save your sanity, and hair many, many times.

Check out these pages on NHM for a list of mobile hairdressers and mobile beauticians

17. Do NOT schedule lots of classes on the weekend to make up for your guilt about putting junior into nursery in the week

This one speaks for itself ;-). Weekends should be family time.

18. Online Food Shopping

Learn how to order your shopping online BEFORE you go back to work and try to find an online service that has an App on your phone. I actually cheat and use a competitor app because it’s really good, and then transfer it across to the supermarket I use when I make an order ;-).

We also have a regular vegetable delivery each week and fresh fish delivered to our door every two months. It’s one less thing for me to think about.

19. Before your maternity leave starts, try to wean yourself of any TV soaps you are addicted too

You won’t have time to watch them when you return to work. Yes, seriously.

20. Only have one child

Ok, so this one is a little bit flippant, but I’m well aware that having more than one child is at least double the work and then some.

I have no idea how people with three or more children manage it. Mucho respect!

21. Find something for YOU!

When I returned to work I became a mother, wife and worker and it felt like I was nothing but those three roles. However, you are still you, with hopes and dreams. You still need time to be you, so do not feel guilty about taking time out for yourself. I know this is easier said than done. I’ve been there.

But you will be a better Mum, wife and worker if you do make time for yourself. Have a look at this post HERE I wrote a few years ago, for some ideas for time for yourself.

22. You are doing an amazing job!

Every so often, when at work or at home, congratulate yourself on being a superior multi-tasker.

Being a parent is very hard at times and the learning curve can be very steep, but it’s an amazing life skill :-D.

*Obviously I don’t really mean you should steal these items 😉

Returning to Work: My experience

I haven’t written about returning to work on NHM yet because it was a very painful experience for me. I think it was probably the hardest decision I’ve ever had to make. However, three years on, I think I’ve come to terms with it all.

One of the ladies mentioned in the recent NHM Feedback Survey that: ” Would love more tips on balancing going back to work with having young babies, feeding everyone & running a house whilst being the breadwinner & having a lot if work pressure & a blackberry to deal with…!!!”

All I can say is, I feel your pain.

I returned to work when Miss NHM was 5.5 months old. It nearly broke me. I’d planned to return to work when she was 7 months old. However I had to return to work much earlier, partly because we needed the money (I’m the main earner in our family) and also because at the time, if you didn’t return after 6 months, your company didn’t have to give you back the job you left before you went on maternity leave. I spent 15 years getting to a fairly senior position and I didn’t trust that the place that I worked would give me back my previous role.

I also ended up going back earlier than originally planned because I had to start my maternity leave early due to my SPD. I was also drafted for Jury Service when Miss NHM was 8 months old. I had already deferred it once as they wanted me to attend Jury Service when I was 8 months pregnant. Given it was January (snowy season) and I couldn’t get off the sofa without crutches at the time and couldn’t drive, I managed to defer.

However, this was a bit of a logistical nightmare. I was apparently the first person to express as a Juror in over 7 years! lol. It was pretty cool though, as I got out of a huge murder case because I needed to express at lunchtime. Oh and a Jury had to be thrown out of a room because they didn’t have anywhere else that was private enough for me to express! lol. I digress.

The week before I returned to work, I bargained with my husband and cried many bucket loads of tears as I did NOT want to go back to work. Not when my baby was so tiny. I didn’t want her to be looked after by a stranger, three days a week (I was very lucky to return to work 3 days a week for the first three months). I was still breastfeeding and continued to do so for the following three months at work. The first time she came home smelling of someone else was horrific.

The first day back to work wasn’t too bad. The second day was absolutely horrendous. At lunchtime I sat in a cupboard on the floor (because the chair they had arranged for me was actually a rotating stool) using a double breast pump in the only top that I could fit into that was still smart enough for work, sobbing my heart out. Yup, it was horrendous.

Then there was the whole Breastmilk tampering scenario and work accusing me of having post natal depression because I went ballistic when I realised someone had tampered with my breastmilk. Luckily my health visitor at the time totally had my back and told me to tell Occupational Health at work that they didn’t know what they were talking about. Not sure that helped though! lol.

It did get easier though. I stopped crying on the drive to work. I’m pretty sure that having to get up very early to feed Miss NHM and then having Miss NHM cluster feed in the evening didn’t help. Oh and the lack of sleep because she was teething. We got through it though.

I think that’s possibly why I’m a complete nazi at home when it comes to organisation. You have to be. I juggle many, many things. I spent the first 8 months after maternity leave working in the office, doing a job that was absolutely rubbish and not what I had originally signed up for. I spent the whole time wishing I was at home with my baby. I am very, very grateful that it wasn’t full time.

I started using a lot of technology to organise my time. Evernote, Mealboard, Trello, Remember the Milk and the list goes on. I vividly remember the first six months at work my “home” to do list had over 70 “must do” items on every day. It never seemed to end.

My slow cooker came into it’s own as I’ve talked about many times on NHM. I was regimented in everything we did. Once I started to rely on technology, RTM and Evernote came in so handy because I stopped having to try to remember it all. I think that’s half the battle.

I think my one piece of advice for a Mum who is trying to “do it all” is, make sure you take some time out for yourself. Even if it’s just a minute, to take a very deep breath. No one told me that and I went on and on and on and nearly had a breakdown.

Thankfully I had the motivation to find a better job and I managed to secure a new job, which I’m still doing now and which I absolutely love. It helps that I work from home most of the time too, so I don’t have wasted time in a commute.

Working with children is bloody hard. But then, if I spent all day at home with Miss NHM, I would have lost my identity and probably completely lost the plot in a different way. So not working with children is also bloody hard too! lol.

Now I have some perspective and can look back, I’m glad I returned to work when I did. Miss NHM loves nursery and she has never had a problem with clingyness at nursery as it’s always been part of her routine. It was hard though. The hardest thing I’ve ever done, as I said, other than breastfeeding.

Whatever you end up doing it’s going to be wrong for some reasons and right for others. Trying to get over the guilt is half the battle. Trying to get organised is the other half ;-).

Look out for tomorrow’s post which is a list of my suggested strategies for making your return to work that bit easier.

If you are returning to work soon or have returned to work after Maternity Leave, what advice would YOU offer others?