After thirteen amazing months of maternity leave, the inevitable has happened;
The dreaded ‘return to work.’
I’ve been luckier than most, in the amount of time I’ve managed to wangle off. Partly down to the fact I took the ‘hit’ and took three months unpaid, but also the bonus extra month was down to Liv making her debut a little earlier than expected, meaning the holidays I’d originally planned to use for ‘nesting‘, were fortunately (and uncharacteristically generously) carried over to the other end of my maternity by my employer. Looking back on the time, there is not one single thing I’d change in terms of the amount I’ve taken and obviously I have no experience of going back earlier than now, but facing the thought of going back to work is an absolute gut-wrencher.
Maternity leave was almost like living in some kind of ‘baby bubble’ – I very quickly forgot about the worries and stresses of the ‘real world’ as such. My daily routine became entirely about Olivia – tending to her needs, her development and her socialization. The thought of work seemed like a distant memory within weeks because I was just so busy looking after this tiny human (and all the spew & poo that came with her) – literally nothing else mattered when it felt like you had everything you ever needed in this little ‘bubble‘. And aside from the baby stress (has she pood today/what does that cry mean/how the f**k do i get her to nap longer than 20mins?!) the biggest stressor in my life was trying to fit in all the different coffee dates in between nap times. So it’s easy to see why I have the complete fear about going back to work…. Some days, it feels like a monumental effort to put one foot in front of the other, never mind raising a human, while keeping the house clean AND maintaining a marriage and some sort of friendship circle. How the HELL do you working mamas juggle everything that’s needed to be done?!?
BUT does it make me a really crap mother if I admit that a part of me is almost looking forward to returning to work?! Let me explain…..
Before Olivia, work made up a huge chunk of my life, as I would imagine it does for most people. For me, I absolutely LOVED my job. Obviously there were downsides, stressful days and typical workplace politics, but on the whole, I still enjoyed going in every day. I took a certain amount of pride in what I did and really enjoyed the speciality I worked in and learning everything new as it was introduced. Not to mention the team I was part of. Excepting the odd few people (standard), I worked with a great bunch of ladies and it always added to the shift if you could get by with a giggle and a gossip.
Although I was VERY excited about my new role to come, as a mum, I gave no real thought into how much I’d miss that part of my life. How could I miss work?! I’d be a million times busier and more satisfied with a new baby to look after surely?! I won’t have a chance to miss it….
But I did at times.
How could I when I was enjoying my new role so much?! Did it make me an undeserving mum?! It’s taken me a long time to process those thoughts and give myself less of a hard time.
No it does NOT make me a terrible mum, nor does it mean I love my daughter less than other mums. It’s just a huge change going from a very social job, seeing your colleagues/friends on a daily basis and having to learn a VERY new & challenging role, on the job, so to speak. With no other real company for months, other than a baby who can’t respond to your daily chatter. No wonder there are things I missed. My job was very much a big part of ‘me’ and because you initially lose so much of yourself by having a baby, I’m looking forward to taking back something for myself by returning to my job part-time. Who says you can’t have the best of both worlds?!
An almost ‘tongue in cheek’ reason for wanting to go back to work is purely for the break it will feel like. Any mum (and dad) will be the first to tell you how full on it is to have a baby/toddler. I mean, it’s in the job description so it should hardly come as a surprise, but until you experience it for yourself first hand, it’s impossible to emphasise how manic it can get. Aside from the actual physical work involved in my day, how beautiful is it going to be, sipping on that HOT cup of tea during my break and being able to close the door as I use the toilet?! Not having to creep about incase one tiny creak of a floorboard wakes the lightest napper in the actual world from her sleep….. I mean, I’m sure there will be plenty stresses in work to counteract that, but for now, the fact I’ll not have to chase around a very active one year old constantly, for three days of the week, is pretty appealing
A stress that I’m hoping will not be as prominent in my life after returning to work? MONEY!
Anyone who has been on maternity will on some level, relate to the misery that is maternity pay. Now I can’t bang on about this too much because we were in the incredibly fortunate position where i could afford to spend a year at home with Liv and I know a lot of families don’t have that luxury. Upon looking back, we may have been one of those families too…. We stretched ourselves right to the brink, on what little money we received each month – any spare money we had has gone on Liv, and quite rightly so. But its meant things such as not having had my eyebrows done in over a year (STILL waiting on the monobrow look to come back) and my roots are now so long that I’m unintentionally rocking the ombre look….
Although we’re coming out the other side now, a LOT of stress during this year was related in some way to money. Or a lack of it…. Therefore as much as I do not regret a single moment of time I got to spend with Liv, I doubt we’d be able to do the same if we’re fortunate enough to have another baby at any point.
So it’s definitely a massive positive factor to going back to work – the thought of being able to get my hair done/buy some winter clothes/have a meal out now and again is hopefully going to ease the blow of working.
Finally, and it’s something I’ve kept until the end as I know it’ll divide opinion (although it’s very important to remember it is only my OPINION, not fact) I believe that going back to work will also benefit Olivia in a way. We’re fortunate enough to have family around us that are helping out with childcare but she will also be going to nursery one day a week. Again, I know everyone has different ideas and opinions about nurseries, but I think Liv going in for a day per week can only be of benefit to her – I’ve heard from a good few different mums that it can help bring their development on leaps and bounds and by regularly socialising with children of a similar age, it will hopefully encourage good social skills. I’ll reiterate here that this is only my opinion, and I, in no way believe there are any detrimental effects to children who DONT go to nursery, and don’t believe that they won’t be socialising or developing as fast, I just like the thought that rather than me being at work and it having a negative effect on Liv, she’ll be benefiting in a safe environment.
All in all, there’s a lot of positives to going back to work. Although I’ve been dreading the thought for too long to mention, I know in my rational mind that it’s necessary for us as a family and has a good few benefits for us to boot.
Still not gonna stop me crying as I wave goodbye, mind you…..