A year ago today, I returned to work after maternity leave…

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

  1. Having the freedom to go to the loo/make a cuppa/check my emails/have a conversation.
  2. 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.
  3. Having sushi for lunch. It felt like such a COSMOPOLITAN thing to do. Like I was actual Carrie Bradshaw.
  4. My colleagues seeming genuinely happy to see me.
  5. 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.)
Back to work outfit, working mum chic, working mum fashion, Dorothy Perkins jeans

My outfit on my first day back – it felt so grown up!

More magazine, fashion cupboard, shoes, working mum

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?!

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  1. August 30, 2012 / 12:13 pm

    I know what you mean about filling up the days on maternity leave. It’s sometimes tough to find things to do, that isn’t mind numbing and then you get the guilt if you stay indoors all day. With my first I dreaded work and leaving my son but I was fine after a few days, I do however have all the same feelings with my baby now! The guilt never gets any easier! :-/

    • August 30, 2012 / 7:34 pm

      I guess that’s why there are so many mummy and baby groups around, but I was never brave enough to go to one on my own… isn’t that silly?!

      • September 3, 2012 / 6:40 pm

        No not at all, I have been to some and got bored very easily though :-/ It’s a good place to meet some friends but I found a lot to be a bit cliquey, like at the school gates!

  2. August 30, 2012 / 7:23 pm

    I felt exactly the same as you. I was excited about little things; reading the paper on the tube (hadn’t read one in the day, ever, when at home with the children), having my lunch when I wanted to and not when it fitted in best with the kids, and changing my handbags to match my outfit every day! Lovely! The guilt never goes, but the crying at nursery does, and it all gets a bit easier..though I’m now a SAHM, gave up my job, must have taken leave of my senses!

    • August 30, 2012 / 7:35 pm

      Good to hear that the crying at nursery stops. My daughter’s been absolutely happy as larry at nursery for the best part of the year, but I think moving rooms has unsettled her a wee bit.

  3. Nicola
    November 6, 2012 / 11:12 pm

    TOTALLY agree. Ditch the guilt. Life is too short. Women need to carve out the life that is right for them after their maternity leave. For some being a stay at home mum is the answer, for others getting back to work and climbing the career ladder is absolutely the right thing to do. Let’s stop worrying about what other people think and start doing what is right for us and our families!

    • notanothermummyblog
      November 8, 2012 / 6:36 am

      Well said. Thanks for your comment!

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