Monday 17 April 2017

I'm a working mummy; do I have it all?

Returning to work post maternity

Before you have a baby you have whimsical dreams of maternity leave, lunches,reading books and catching up on the latest box sets. You very quickly realise within the first few weeks to have even contemplated this was daft and that the reality couldn't be any further from the truth. Having a baby is a full time job and more, it's hectic and unrelenting. 
Maternity leave
Motherhood is a feat of endurance, I have experienced more emotions in the last year than I ever thought was possible. There have been massive highs, beautiful firsts, lots of laughs but also tears (both from laughing and from pure exhaustion). It is definitely the most rewarding thing I have ever done. Does that mean I was a dull soul before, absolutely not but experiencing the world through different eyes. Spotting things that your grumpy older self has long since forgotten is beautiful. 

This post is honest, some of you might not appreciate it, for those of you that this applies to there will be happier posts to follow. So come back then. 

When looking at the prospect of whether I wanted to return to work post maternity leave I struggled to find only a handful of websites and posts that shared advice. More importantly had mothers directly share their experiences of what the reality was like. 

I have now returned to work and thought I would share my experiences in the hope that those who like me are dreading the prospect of returning to work, can see how it pans out. 

Leaving the most precious thing in your life with someone you don't really know is like climbing Everest with no air in your lungs. It is an absolute wrench and I've  found it one of the hardest things I have ever had to do. The months leading up to my return to work felt like an vulture circling over head, with an impending sense of doom. 
Returning to work post maternity

Now I should clarify here that prior to having Noah I had a job I loved.  I was successful and had achieved a great many things I am immensely proud of. 

But even with the prospect of returning to a job I love, it broken my heart into a million pieces. I'm giving my little boy, the one I love with all my heart to someone else to enjoy. His cheeky antics, funny moments that we have shared all of which I will miss. 
Returning to work post maternity
But I'm realistic, will my career wait for me, if I take an extended period of leave for a couple of years, sadly not. The dilemma is real and I have played out every conceivable angle and version a thousand times. What is the right thing to do? I have really mixed emotions. 

Now before people shout "do you know how lucky you are to have a job, a baby" etc. Yes I do, I'm grateful beyond belief for what I have, I am incredibly thankful. 

Returning to work or not is a divisive topic amongst mothers and can cause a heated debate. Everyone has different views about the best thing to do and where to place your child.

For some friends the thought of going back to work has been a positive step for them they have enjoyed the thought of mixing parenthood with work. But I guess we are all different, the world would be incredibly dull if we were all the same. 

One thing I have learnt is that as a mother there is always guilt, there is no better choice or decision above another. Both have their challenges and difficulties. There is no judgement from me for whatever path you decide is right for you. 

Returning to work you suddenly realise how many hours there are in the day. Hours that you will be without the little person you love the most. Noah and I have spent 365 days together, we haven't been apart at all. 
Parent guilt
Nursery feels like I'm renegading on my responsibilities giving him to someone else. I lost my dad a few years ago and know only too well that life is too short and precious.They grow up so quickly, you don't get a second chance to relive the memories you miss. 

So I opted for flexible working in the hope of trying to get the best of both worlds. Working more hours in a condensed period to have more time with Noah. 

Being without your little one is strange, it feels like your life did before you had a child. Your life feels oddly similar but whilst you have dreamt of five minutes to yourself, the silence is now totally unsettling. 

In true Noah fashion the night before my return to work Noah decided to pull his worst no sleeping antics yet. The little man decided that he didn't want to sleep, leaving me at 4.30 am thinking desperately how this was going to pan out. 
Returning to work
So the morning came, I got dressed and left the house. I stood on the platform in exactly the same place I had a year earlier, shuffled onto a packed train and began what would be the longest day of my life. Ironically I was crammed next to a lady who was heavily pregnant and ready to pop. Nothing like a cold stark reminder of the wonderful year you have had and what an exciting journey she has ahead. 

The process of doing things from my previous life seemed strange. Not as hard as I had imagined, the months of worry and anxiety that had lead up to this moment. In a strange way you feel like you are in a dream, did the last year really happen, do I have a baby? Returning to work suddenly gives you an old normality that you have been missing. It's like an old distant friend, feels comfortable and strangely reassuring. 

My aching boobs are a reminder that I have a little baby. We have successfully weaned in the day, but the constant night feeding is still very much part of our lives despite every effort to stop.

So it's now been a couple of months and here are my survival tips should you decide to return back to work: 
  • Put one foot in front of the other, even if you are faking it. The rhythm will become reassuringly familiar. 
  • Planning is the key. Get clothes and bags packed the night before. Plan all meals for the week ahead. 
  • Don't be too hard on yourself, I have learnt things are rarely perfect. The weeks leading up to my return to work Noah stopped eating and drinking, when I mean stopped I mean stopped. He would consume nothing. He stopped sleeping the little bit he had slept. I got an awful gland infection in which I was impersonating a hamster. 
  • Don't torture yourself you are not a bad parent. Thinking you are because you have gone back to work is futile. You will become your own worst enemy, you are doing the best you can do for your family and personal circumstances. Remember to be kind to yourself. . 
  • It's ok to have down days, we all have ups and downs.
  • The job might seem the same but the reality is the job you left behind is unlikely to be the same. People will have left, new people will have arrived and politics will have played out. Relax. 
  • Nothing is forever, if you really are unhappy a couple of months in, make a change. A different job, something with more flexibility or redo the maths and stay at home. 
  • Book your little one into nursery at least two week before you go back to work. One for settling in, getting used to a new routine and the other to do all the jobs you have been putting off for a year. This I found really hard to do as I wanted to spend more time with Noah. The reality is this gives you both adjustment time without the additional pressure of work. Babies within their first couple of weeks pick up every germ going and being off means you have the flexibility to pick them up.
If you have any survival tips or suggestions please add them to the comments below. 

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