Welcome back, Mom! 5 Tips for Getting Back in Step After Maternity Leave

By Miranda Miller

IF YOU’RE RETURNING TO WORK after maternity leave and wondering how you’ll achieve the elusive work-life balance you’ve heard so much about, stop putting unnecessary pressure on yourself.

“I’ve come to realize that there is no such thing (as) work-life balance,” said Jive Software CEO Elisa Steele. “It wasn’t until I gave up trying to balance my life that I figured it all out. I developed a new state of mind, to simply do what feels right at the right time. I began answering this question honestly: ‘What is most important for me to do at this time?’”

That being said, it still takes a lot of confidence, support and motivation for a new mom to go back to work. Valeh Nazemoff, a competitive ballroom dancer and CEO of a business consulting company whose clients include the White House and Sony, said a successful return is “a dance of sorts.” The Huffington Post columnist and author of “The Dance of the Business Mind: Strategies to Thrive Anywhere, from the Ballroom to the Boardroom” offered the following five tips to help make your transition as fluid as your favorite “Dancing with the Stars” performance.

 

1. FOCUS ON YOUR FOUNDATION

Regardless of how long you’ve been doing your job, your first day back can be bewildering after a vacation, let alone a weeks- or months-long maternity leave. Nazemoff said she starts dance routines at her feet and works her way up to her head.

“Even if I am working on a familiar routine, it’s crucial to always circle back to the foundation,” she said.

Consider how you can apply that to your profession.

 

2. COMMUNICATE WITH COWORKERS

Communication is crucial, Nazemoff said. Just as dancers communicate via gestures, to avoid a misstep, you want to note body language — both others’ and your own. Competitive dancers are judged on poise, presentation and posture; you will be, too. Paying attention to how you carry yourself and sitting up straight rather than slouching during meetings will help increase confidence in your abilities.

 

3. SEE YOURSELF AS A SUCCESS

Before you go back to work, think about the image and qualities you want to project.

“The persona you create for yourself can have a very powerful impact on how the judges (or your colleagues and superiors) see you,” she said.

Nazemoff cited Shakira as a role model due to the singer’s confidence and independence. Once you have a goal in mind, work toward it but remember that a minor tweak may be all you need.

 

4. STAY ALERT TO STIMULI

Failing to notice an uneven floor or broken shoe can cause a dancer to fall, Nazemoff said. Likewise, allowing your brain to shift into autopilot at work could lead to your own downfall. Companies are constantly innovating to stay ahead of competitors, so things may have changed during your absence. Tune in to your environment and adapt accordingly.

 

5. MAKE THE MOST OF YOUR MISTAKES

Slavik Kryklyvyy, one of the professional dancers that Nazemoff interviewed for her book, said missteps have been added to choreography.

“You say, ‘Oh, I can make this special. I can develop something from it,’” he said.

Similarly, Post-it Notes, ink-jet printers and potato chips were all created by mistake on the job, so who knows how your error could profit your employer in the long run.

Kevin Deutsch, a business program manager who started taking dance lessons two years ago, told Nazemoff that watching videos of his performances helped him improve, so he now seeks feedback at work.

“(This) also helped him come off as more human to his coworkers,” Nazemoff said.