July will mark my fifth month back at work. Five months already, how time flies! Living in the UAE where a 45 day maternity leave is the norm, I count myself lucky that I was able to take six months off to be with my boy. While I had an extended maternity period compared to most, the blow of returning back to work and the stress and anxiety that accompanied it was far from easy to deal with (and I cannot even begin to fathom how those Mummies leaving their 1.5 month olds must feel!)
But this is by no means to say that I did not want to return to work. On the contrary, I have a great job and love what I do, and this in many ways is what contributes to the awful feeling of guilt that has plagued me since before Zachy was born. I’m lucky to have a supportive husband who said from day one he would support me if I wanted to take an extended period of time off. It was tempting. Very tempting. I could have easily laid my fledgling career to rest and stayed in a happy little bubble of baby boy snuggles, leisurely sunshine walks, and coffee mornings, but there was something inside me that told me going back was for the best. The fact that I decided to go back out of want, rather than need, intensifies the feeling of guilt all the more.
However, trying to keep a level head and understanding my reasons for wanting to go back, and the positive attributes of this decision has kept me going. I’m completely aware that one model does not fit all, so I don’t want this post to be a series of ‘tips’ for other Mummies on how to transition back to work, but rather a post about the positive ways in which I have viewed returning to work, and what I try to remind myself on particularly tough days.
Work Gives Me Some Downtime
I get to the office, set up my workstation, put on the kettle and make a cup of tea. I then sit for 30 minutes with my cup of tea and read the newspaper! I never get to sit and read the newspaper at home! You might think I’m completely mad, but sitting at my desk, drinking a cup of tea undisturbed and reading is like a little bit of heaven. And best of all, it’s part of my job!
At 10 months old, my son needs constant supervision to make sure he is not up to mischief (which he normally is – this morning he ate a chunk of loo roll when I turned my back for a few seconds to apply toothpaste on my toothbrush!) Being constantly on guard watching over a tot is an exhausting job and leaves you with very little down time to relax or be productive (really – I’m in awe of stay-at-home Mummies!) Returning to work has not only provided me with a creative outlet where I can exercise my brain, but gives me the space to re-charge. And while I get horribly anxious if I spend TOO much time away from Zachy, I think a little separation is beneficial to not only let me breathe, but let him grow too. Which leads me onto my next point…
There’s A Healthy Level Of Separation
Living in Dubai and not being around our close family and friends in the UK has caused my husband and I concern that our son will grow up with a somewhat warped sense of the world, since his daily little world during my maternity leave amounted mainly to me and his Dad…mainly me. Upon my return to work, we hired a lovely lady to be Zachy’s nanny. While it took a couple of weeks for Zachy to accept her as a friend, he’ll now happily spend the days playing with her as if she is part of the family (which we absolutely consider her to be). By introducing him at an early age to the fact that Mummy & Daddy aren’t around all day, every day, and that other people will inevitably play a part in his life, I believe he is more independent than he would otherwise be if it were just me at home. I see this as a positive and hope this will make future transitions to nursery and school all the more easier for him (and me!) to cope with.
It Gives Daddy A Break
You might think that if anything returning to work would have piled additional pressure onto my husband. On the contrary, while being the sole care giver of our son during the day while on maternity leave, I would find myself looking at the clock waiting for my husband to get home so I could hand Zachy over to him for a bit and have a little break. I was exhausted after a long day (and night) looking after a baby, he was exhausted after a long day at work, and Zachy was exhausted and grumpy after a long day of being a baby. But now when I return home from work, I am absolutely dying to see Zachy and I no longer feel the need to take some down time when my husband gets home, since as I mention above, I’ve kind of already had a break all day! This naturally relieves the pressure on my husband and there is little rebuttal from me if he wants to go out in the evening, go out riding at the weekend, or needs to work a few extra hours, since I enjoy having the extra one-on-one time with my son.
It’s Like Christmas Every Time I Return Home
This one is my favourite! While it’s still heart-wrenching to leave Zachy in the morning, the moment I am on the road I am on the countdown to return home to him, and this gives me that tingly excited feeling all day! It’s honestly like Christmas each time I get home and see his gorgeous little face. The way he bounds up onto the sofa to get to me as fast as he can is absolutely priceless! I sincerely believe having these small periods of separation makes our time spent together all the more special.
It’s Nice To Have Financial Independence
I guess the reason anyone works, beside a passion for what they do if they’re lucky, is for the money. Being on maternity leave, I’d often find myself wandering the Mall’s feeling bad for spending money, knowing I could contribute little to our savings. In addition, its so nice to have my own income and with this my own independence – I can treat myself to a mani-pedi with minimal guilt. Remember…a happy relaxed Mummy = a happy relaxed baby!
I Owe It To Myself
Finally, having always studied hard and spent four years at a top University, I feel I owe it to myself to continue. I really believe that having a family doesn’t have to mean not having a career, and having a career doesn’t mean not having a family. I believe with a positive outlook and a good support network, the two can work hand in hand. This isn’t to say that I might not take extended time off in the future if we’re lucky enough to have any more babies since circumstances naturally change, but for now these simple little ways of thinking positively are really helping me keep that horrible feeling guilt at bay.