How to support your partner back to work

Catherine Oliver’s new book has advice for mums, dads and employers to help ease those first months back to work after having a baby.

Dads Holding Baby


How can dads best support mums through pregnancy, birth and return to work? A new book by Catherine Oliver, Working Parents-to-be, gives advice to mums, dads or other partners and employers.

The book is not one about parenting, but about how working parents manage their relationship with work when they take a period of leave to become a parent or if they are supporting someone who is.

Oliver knows what she’s talking about. She set up Sky’s parenting group, Parents@Sky which had 1,000 members signed up within a year.  It offered webinars on everything from work life balance to how children’ brains develop and case studies of how other parents make it work.

Now an independent diversity and inclusion advisor, the aim of Oliver’s book is to bring the support that companies like Sky are able to offer to everyone. The book is structured in three parts – before the parent goes on leave, while they’re away on leave and when they return to work. In each section there are checklists and workbook exercises, with the aim being to provide advice that suits individual parents.

How to support your partner

In the first section, those supporting the parent on leave are advised to help them feel less alone and figure out what the biggest challenges are they are facing and how these might change over time. From there, it is about checking in regularly and working out how to support them through those challenges while also thinking about the concerns that supporting parent might have. Both the parent taking the leave and their partner will need to identify the people who can help them – both at home and at work, says Oliver. Another key issue is to discuss and think about their return before they go on leave. That may well include the supporting partner thinking about requesting greater flexibility at work.

In the second section, Oliver says it is important to talk about things like childcare arrangements and what is motivating the partner’s return to work, for instance, is it just financial and are there any other ways around it?  It’s also vital to start talking about how things will work with both parents working and how parents set in place the way they want everything to work from the outset.

In part three, Oliver looks at those first weeks back and ensuring that the return is not too pressurised. She counsels being aware of where there might be small changes the returning or supporting partner can make to make the return easier and identify what the major challenges are. She says it’s vital to keep checking in on the returning partner – the first week might go well, but things may go downhill after that. She adds a note for supporting partners: “It will be a tough time for you too and feeling like you have to hold it together might not be the best long-term solution for your family. Find people you can lean on as well.”

Oliver says it is also important to think about the positive skills and traits that both partners have both gained as new parents. She ends with a plea for parents to ‘pay it forward’ and connect with other working parents. “Share your learnings and experiences,” she says. “Help your organisation do more.”

*Working parents-to-be by Catherine Oliver is published by Practical Inspiration Publishing.  

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