My experience returning from adoption leave

Women working after adoption leave

As October unfolds, it’s a chance to recognise National Adoption Week. To promote awareness of the experiences and challenges of adopting parents, we’re sharing a personal and candid story from a parent about returning from adoption leave.

Returning from adoption leave

I returned to work in April having taken 3 months adoption leave when my husband and I welcomed our two daughters L (5) and M (2) into our home. My husband stayed at home to take the equivalent of maternity leave and returned to work September 2023. We had a really tricky start to the adoption, with incredibly hard transitions resulting in the girls moving in a week earlier than planned. We had cocooned with the girls & by 3 months were starting to get back to ‘normal’ life. L had started at her new school 2 weeks before I went back to work so we just had M at home during the day. However, parenting still very much felt like a full time job for 2 of us and I had no idea how my husband would cope on his own, or how I would deal with not being the primary caregiver.

My experience of returning to work has overall been really positive. I’m good at my job and manage a wonderful team of people I enjoy spending time with. Having had 3 months of really intense parenting (including very regular social worker visits) it felt good to get back to a role I understood where people took me seriously.

I think all new parents are subject to quite a lot of patronising talk from ‘helpful’ people. What this looked like for us was not so much family and friends (because they at least admitted they had never been through it) but all the professionals who you know are literally judging you and writing reports after every visit. It’s no exaggeration to say that the health visitor saw my husband and I stressed for 5 minutes and called an emergency meeting with our social worker and our daughter’s social worker to make sure we were coping. It was therefore a relief to get back to my role where I am the subject matter expert and have people take me and my experience seriously.

Tips for returning from adoption leave

In many ways these tips for returning from adoption leave are just the same as anyone returning from parental leave, so I’ve added an adoption spin to the most common ones.

  1. Phased return. This may be a necessity if you have regular social worker visits or other professionals meetings. From our experience the dates/times of these are often non-negotiable. Negotiating flexibility with my manager was easier than trying to do it with social workers etc.
  2. Back-to-work plan. As my children got dysregulated when I got back to work, it was helpful to understand the expectations from work so that I could make sure I knew as and when they were met, or what I was are working to. The needs of adopted child(ren) can be unpredictable. If work can be more predictable, that can be really helpful.
  3. Visible parenting, if your job allows it. Even more so than maternity leave my experience is that people just don’t know what it’s like to suddenly start parenting an adoptive child. For example, my children can be dysregulated by video calls so I invite them on so they can meet ‘mummy’s friends’. I sometimes feel self conscious, but no one seems to mind and it really helps my kids.
  4. It’s ok not to know how to find time for yourself. My experience has been that our new routines with 2 kids took time to put in place, and the part where I made time for myself was the one which took the longest. I’m now in a groove, but for a while I didn’t have any time to myself.  It wasn’t the best for my mental health, but it also wasn’t the end of the world.

At P&P we understand the importance of supporting adoptive parents in the workplace. We believe that fostering a family-friendly environment not only benefits our employees but also strengthens organisation as a whole.

Through our one to one parental transition coaching we empower adoptive parents with the tools and knowledge they need to thrive both in their professional roles and as loving parents. We firmly believe that when employees thrive, organisations thrive and we take pride in being an active participant in this journey. If you want to learn more about supporting parents returning from adoption leave please get in touch.

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