09 Mar Going back to work was HARD!
SMUG! That’s how I felt when the long wait was over and finally I got to switch on my ‘out of office’ saying, “Now on maternity leave, you can speak to anyone one else EXCEPT ME” (ok the latter bit isn’t true but that’s what I was thinking). It was Feb 2013, I was 38 weeks, my brain was now feeling like mashed potato, my legs resembled tree trunks with Cankles, I was peeing for Britain and company meetings were a great excuse to catch some zzzzzzzz . It was time to start nesting and prepare for the arrival of our baby.
I very naively saw maternity leave as a break, but then having never been through it before I had no idea what to think. Back then I had no idea how hard it would be to be a mum, how challenging and soul destroying it would be trying to get my baby to sleep. I had no clue how I was capable to get through a day and survive on little, to no sleep, how quickly maternity leave would fly by and finally coming to terms with the prospect of returning to work.
The first time I was off with our daughter was very pleasant and although there were plenty of Groundhog Day moments I was happy. My time off was spent doing very similar things to any other mum on maternity leave.
“Getting your head around the first 6 weeks, which are a complete blur. Meet ups with NCT or hospital groups spending hours talking about your babies sleep patterns and what colour poo came out”
This was usually done over cups of tea and cake, sorry when I say tea I meant Prosecco. Booking a ridiculous amount of baby groups and pretending to enjoy them when in actual fact you just feel like a bit of a tit singing to your baby and waving things in their faces. Becoming an Amazon addict and buying the same colour toys just in different shapes and sizes, getting over excited when you finally met up with real friends for lunch and get slightly tipsy after one glass of savvy B. Becoming insanely jealous of your friends who turn round and say to you they’ve decided not go back to work!
By 10 months my maternity leave savings were coming to an end and we needed to start making some money. But I felt ok about it. I had organised my KIT (Keep in Touch Days) prior to my start date back which helped ease me in more gently without it being too much of a shock. I had found a wonderful childminder who bonded instantly with my daughter so leaving her didn’t feel too horrendous. Having said that I did find it incredibly hard leaving her for the first full day and waited until I got on the bus to cry. I found myself scrolling through all the photos of her when she was a baby feeling so guilty for leaving her but I kept reminding myself why I had to go back to work and It was all for my family.
After a week of going back to work we had the routine nailed. My 4-day week had been approved which made such a huge difference and I could feel I had got back into my stride. I loved making money again (not that I saw much of it) the fact I could go to the toilet on my own without the door flying open whilst trying to put a tampon in, relished in the fact I could drink a hot cup of coffee in peace and finish a piece of toast without my kids pinching it. My daughter was also so happy with the childminder and was learning so many new things.
“I think a big part of me feeling so OK about going back to work is because deep down I knew I would be doing it all over again. “
We fell pregnant again nearly 2 years later and a lot had happened within in that time, including getting married and buying a house.
Buying a house and having a second child at the same time wasn’t one of our smartest moves and it was certainly testing.
When my second maternity leave came around I didn’t feel as smug. Our budget meant that I could probably only take off 9 months and I also knew that this was probably the last time I would be taking maternity leave and that’s been hard to swallow – still is to be honest and I am not sure I am ready yet to say, “no more”
I went back to work after 9 months but didn’t feel ready emotionally, or physically. The months flew by and all I kept wishing was that I had enough money to have lasted the whole year.
There’s a big difference between wanting and having to go back to work and the first-time round I wanted to go back but the second time I had to go back.
“I felt resentment towards my husband, I felt sad, I felt incredibly anxious and vulnerable, I was exhausted from the sleepless nights, the pile of washing was out of control and I felt like I was drowning”
The job I was doing hadn’t changed but I had and I would wake up and panic about my day ahead so much so that after weeks of silence I finally caved and had a mini, and very embarrassing melt down in front of my CEO.
An awkward tap on my shoulder and a couple of coffees later I was granted a work from home day once a week. This was a GODSEND. My stress levels certainly reduced and I finally managed to get on top of things, including that pile of washing. It’s the little things that really made a difference.
Something I soon realised the second time around was how much my company had changed and after nearly 7 years I finally decided, and took the plunge, to find a new job. It was scary and daunting but if I was going to be traveling 3 hours a day and paying double nursery costs then the job had to be right.
Knowing what I know now and for anyone in the same boat as me I would give them these tips…
- Don’t be shy or think you can’t ask about your maternity package with your employer or HR. Every company is different and some may just surprise you. I fought for a better package and got the company to agree to 12 weeks’ full pay from 6 weeks @ 90% for all expecting mums
- If you can, try and leave as late as possible before maternity leave as you will, like me, regret not having the leave when the baby is born
- If you can take the whole year then take it! I know everyone is different but you won’t get that time back with your baby
- Save save save!
- Sleep train again if you need to before going back to work so you don’t look like a zombie in meetings and accidentally get on the wrong train home
- Use your KIT days because not only are they paid for but they are tax free. You can meet your team or external clients for catch-up and get you mentally prepared for your return
- Apply for flexible working. By law you are entitled to it and if you have a good enough case you should be granted it
- Be completely honest with yourself about how you are feeling and be honest with your work too. Ask for help if you need it and don’t let work get you down. It’s just not worth it in the end.
- If you can do your job working from home then ask for this too as a one day a week. These days everyone can join video meetings and have access to WIFI
- Look for a new job! No point being miserable and when you know in your heart you are not happy then perhaps it’s time to do something about it
- Good Luck!!We are here to talk to anyone going back to work x