In the blink of an eye my helpless newborn had grown into a cheeky and curious – almost walking – little monster. Who knew that a year of maternity leave could fly by so quickly? I’d really enjoyed it but as it came to an end I felt ready to return to work.
Being a Mum is a funny old job.
My little boy is amazing, but sometimes looking after him isn’t. He can make mess at an alarming rate; throw a tantrum over something ridiculous; refuse to eat food I have spent hours making especially for him; not nap when I want him to (Mummy is trying to shop!!)
Being at home with a baby is hard, repetitive and unrewarding work. Countless loads of washing, endless cleaning, food preparation and clearing up…the list goes on!! My mum described being a stay-at-home-Mum like being a ‘Domestic Servant’ – which seemed like a pretty accurate description to me!
Don’t get me wrong, I loved the year I spent with my son. And, I even had a maternity ‘bucket list’ – I really wanted to make the most of my ‘freedom’ from corporate life. The list wasn’t revolutionary and I didn’t get through it all but I made a good attempt. I ticked off visiting the Lavender fields and Dunstable Downs. I made a 1st birthday cake for my son and a motorbike cake for my nephew. I opened a savings account for my son and I started getting a tattoo removed (one that I’d regretted for years). I didn’t manage a UK beach visit; make chutney; go fruit picking; visit Bicester village (that’s probably a good thing!) or sort a will – I’ll get around to them at some point, I just need to find the time.
I enjoyed my maternity leave but I was ready to get back to the rat-race.
I missed the routine and purpose of a working day and a working week. My brain had turned to mush; my topics of conversation with friends were too often all about babies (dull!); and I missed my financial independence.
When I talked to family and friends about returning to work they would ask me how I was feeling about it; but they did so in a way that suggested I might not want to return to work or might not be looking forward to it. This wasn’t how I felt at all! Older generations in particular didn’t seem to understand me – and how I felt about returning to work – probably because they had mostly given up work for good when they had their children.
I was pleased to be going back to work. I missed the old days when I could do what I wanted, when I wanted without having a second thought for anyone else. I craved me-time and wanted to rediscover a bit of my pre-baby self. I’d negotiated a return that I was happy with – working 4 days a week doing my ‘old job’ but in a new department. I was familiar with my new boss (who helpfully is also a Mum) and she’d been very supportive; keen to make sure work didn’t encroach into the day off that I would spend with my son.
I was ready for the next phase of my life.
The working mum reality
My biggest worry about returning to work was getting out of the house in the mornings. Going from often not being dressed before 9am to now getting my son and I ready to leave the house by 7.30am – and managing this on my own when the Hubby isn’t around.
But in reality this wasn’t the biggest challenge.
After being a generally good sleeper my son turned into a sleep terrorist and just as I returned to work we had some of our worst nights ever. Typically, many of these were when the Hubby was away working. Surviving on a few hours of broken sleep and working the next day was tough. Combine that with getting my brain back into work mode as well and it was REALLY HARD!
The other unforeseen challenge was re-adjusting to our new family routine. Having been at home for a year I had taken care of most of the household chores. Suddenly these needed to be shared. Something which wasn’t immediately obvious to the Hubby, so this caused a few arguments!!!
Three months in…
Being back at work is good. I’m enjoying my job and working four days feels right. I’ve got me back.
The sleep situation has improved, but it’s still not great. You adjust to getting by on less sleep…you just age quicker and wear more make-up. Household chores are more shared, but annoyingly they never go away and never seem to get finished.
I cherish the time when I’m not at work. I’m more focused on quality time together at the weekend. We make more effort to go out and do nice things, as a family and as a couple.
And not working Fridays is like my secret double life – the rest of the rat race is at work and I’m not. I try not to do chores on Fridays, instead I meet with friends and family – and I love spending the day with my son. But guess what? Those days at home with my son can be hard. When by 8.30am our house looks like a whirlwind has emptied the toys and kitchen cupboards all over the floor, I have to tell myself it’s ok, because this is our family time.
I do miss my son when I’m at work. Being a working Mum is difficult. Achieving the right balance is a fine line; it’s tricky on those days when I’m really busy but I can’t work late as I need to get back for nursery pick-up or bedtime.
But, I’m happy to be back at work. I feel that I’m a better Mum because I work…and as we all know happy mummy = happy baby.
Post written by one of our Women Aloud members.
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