Every mum faces the decision of what to do about working after a baby comes along – do I go back? If so, when do I go back? What will my working pattern be? Or do I remain a full time mum – because let’s face it, that’s a job in itself too!
The factors in making this decision are different for everyone, depending on finances, support, beliefs, values and state of mind. Ultimately any decision should be one that is right for you and your family!
As much as I love my baby and adore spending my days with him, I also feel that work is healthy for me and my sanity. I take my hat off to stay at home mums, because being with your child 24/7 can be relentless and there are no sick days or annual leave from motherhood!!
In saying this, returning to work isn’t exactly a walk in the park either! There are lots of things to get used to, from organising childcare, juggling a new routine and learning to fit in life around work. On top of this, the most overwhelming for me, was the thought of being apart from my little bestie, the person whom I have spent nine amazing months with!
So as you can imagine the choice to go back to work has been one that has brought with it a bucket load of emotions.
I tried my hardest not to think about returning to work whilst on my maternity leave. At one point it felt like I had plenty of time – like an open road stretching out ahead of me – and then in the blink of an eye my maternity leave days were dwindling down way too fast!
It was December 1st …the countdown the Christmas was starting but this date also signified my last full month of maternity. I remember the overwhelming panic at this thought and every inch of me willing for time to slow down. I sat on the sofa in tears and trying to convey my feelings in between short, sharp breaths of anxiety – the reality was I wasn’t ready for my maternity to be over!!
My partner, the pragmatic one, with a reassuring hug told me that I would have to return to work at some point and that everything would be okay. I’m not sure I believed him fully at the time but his words seemed to make sense.
One thing I knew for certain: I could not go back to work feeling like this! So I made every effort to get my brain into gear and to start preparing myself and my mindset for my return.
I set about maximising every single day before I went back to work and I tried my best to turn those thoughts into positives. If I could learn to adjust to such a huge change of becoming a mother, I would learn to adjust to this change too!
Naturally, in the days before my return, I encountered a rollercoaster of feelings from nerves and anxiety to excitedness and confidence.
My First Day
Every mum has their own experience of returning to work and I have heard both ends of the spectrum. So even though I kept telling myself to keep an open mind, deep down I was preparing myself for the emotional meltdown: the arrival to work with mascara stains under my bloodshot eyes and the crushing weight of mum guilt. I envisioned the first few weeks as me crashing and burning and just learning to cope with this new version of hell, hoping it would get better with time.
The reality however was nothing as I feared: instead of crashing and burning, I was like a Phoenix rising from the ashes! Despite the early morning madness of getting us both ready, we got out and I even managed the drop-off without shedding a single tear. I arrived at work, sat down at my desk and slowly but surely the familiar version of me was emerging: through adult conversation, light banter and uninterrupted, warm cups of tea and coffee!
The end of the day was looming, and despite the welcome distraction of work, I was counting down to getting back to my baby and I couldn’t have been more excited! I was out of the door as soon as 5 o’clock struck and couldn’t get home quick enough. I had survived the day, George had too, and being reunited was blissful!
Was my first day back a fluke? Was there a delayed reaction to actually being back at work? Surely my meltdown was just around the corner?
The Aftermath: One Month In...
I speak to you after completing my first month back – let’s face it, January is an atrocious month for most people and I thought it would have been even more unbearable after 9 months away!
Don’t get me wrong, the month has felt like it has lasted 100 days, but I feel a sense of achievement in knowing I have survived! We have survived!
The morning routine of getting us both ready and out of the house (without forgetting something) is still a frantic performance! And as the end of the day nears, I still feel the overwhelming pull to get home to my baby.
If you are a mum and the return to work is looming, there are things you can do that can help. For me, these were:
(1) adjusting my mindset to look at the positives of going back to work. If you only focus on the negatives these will overwhelm your perception, and trust me, the thought is a lot worse than the reality!
(2) having some practice runs – of the morning routine of getting out of the house and being away from your baby. We did nursery settling sessions (when I was at home incase I was needed or George wasn’t settling) and George was doing one day a week at my mums for about 8 weeks before I went back. (Both helped to me get a feel for the routine and eased my anxiety massively when I started back to work)
The role of a working mum does mean even moreorganisation and planning than just normal motherhood, which somehow we have to find time to do before and after work? There will be times when you feel exhausted, frustrated and are craving some ‘me’ time, but the role of motherhood and work doesn’t stop! Admittedly in these moments I have felt like I’m sinking and I’m not sure if I can do this?! But often the moment passes, I may even have a cry and I remember that it won’t always be like this and I breathe! On the plus side I have had some great moments, enjoying time at work, being me and relishing in the relax from the constant-ness of motherhood.
Despite the challenges it brings, I feel I am a better mum as soon as I walk through the door to resume my role as mummy. I appreciate my time with my baby so much more than before – drinking up every moment of being together 🖤
I have been asked, too many times to count, how I am feeling being back at work, and my response every time: “pretty good actually, alot better than I thought!”
Do I feel guilty for saying that? Nope.
Does it make me any less of a mother because I work? Absolutely not!!
It will be hard at times and I will have several plates spinning at any one time – and even if one drops, then I’m only human. But I know I am a super human – I’m a working mum!!