A year ago today, I returned to work after maternity leave.
My main feeling, going back to work was relief. Maternity leave didn’t suit me – I’m just not very good at filling five empty days a week and I’m not brilliant in my own company (being with your under 1 baby doesn’t count as company!) All of my mum friends seemed to be very busy all of the time and it felt like I was the only one who needed to make plans to survive the day.
I’d panic if we were snowed in, panic if the Baby Sensory or Monkey Music class was cancelled, panic if friends called off sick. I hated the feeling of relying on other people to just get through the day but the alternative was walking a pram around our local town centre for hours on end and mind-numbing daytime TV.
And as uncool as it is to admit, my job made up such a huge part of my identity. I missed feeling knowledgable and valued (by people who weren’t my family) and I missed using my brain every day until the point of exhaustion. I was practically crossing the days off before I could be “normal” again.
5 things I LOVED about going back to work
- Having the freedom to go to the loo/make a cuppa/check my emails/have a conversation.
- Being able to go for a wander at lunchtime – my then 11-month-old was very impatient if I ever tried to go into a shop with her.
- Having sushi for lunch. It felt like such a COSMOPOLITAN thing to do. Like I was actual Carrie Bradshaw.
- My colleagues seeming genuinely happy to see me.
- Being in the loop on all the juicy celebrity gossip that we heard on a daily basis. Oh and seeing photos of celebrities’ kids that the papers don’t print. (Is it weird that this is still one of the most fascinating things about my job? Lila Grace Moss for example. Never pictured in the papers yet we see photos of her with Mum Kate on a semi regular basis.)
But all of this relief was mixed with good old fashioned Mum Guilt. Even the thought of my 11 month old spending three days at nursery without me made me feel physically sick. On the day of her first settling in session, it was all I could do to not vomit across the table in Starbucks while I counted down the hours to go back and collect her. Back then, I wrote a small case study piece for Grazia, who were running a feature on how more and more women were choosing careers and money over starting a family. What I had to say caused a bit of an uproar amongst some Grazia readers (there was even a letter in the following week’s magazine from one – my cheeky quip about Pret salads hadn’t gone down too well) but I still stand by what I said – as a new working mum, I felt that a childless woman couldn’t possibly understand my life.
Now, one year on, life feels so much easier. The guilt is still there (in the last few weeks, our 23-month-old has been screaming snotty tears as I drop her off at nursery most mornings) and it’s still tricky to balance things but we’re winning. YAY. Now remind me again why couples who are at this stage often decide to have child number two?!