An identity crisis, a brand new baby and a whole heap of guilt.
Written by guest Stokey blogger Work Mummy
I hope my experiences will help other mums organise their confusing thoughts on returning to work.
I loved my job. I knew exactly what I was doing and I was quite good at it too. Then at 33 years of age I just stopped going. I was about to have a baby.
The thought of a whole year out of the work place on maternity leave seemed like an endless, unfathomable amount of time. What would I do with myself? Who was I? My career had always defined me as a person. I liked the structure of the workplace. I liked work.
A week later these concerns were no longer an issue as my beautiful baby girl made an early appearance. And we hit the ground running. This was a whole new exciting world. It was like starting an intense new job that I was massively unprepared for. There was no spare time or energy to worry about 'Me' anymore. This was motherhood.
I loved maternity leave and feel so incredibly lucky to have all that time to getting to know my tiny new friend. I made some amazing friends with some inspiring women and I grew closer to my family than I thought possible.
But, after about nine months I was beginning to really miss, 'Me'. I felt that over time I had become one dimensional and a little bit magnolia. Where my partner and I would have previously discussed films, culture, the news, music, work, gossip and nothing and everything in between. All I could hear myself saying was things like, "Baby had three poos today." My conversation had become boring. I had become boring. I was boring myself!
I believe, to be a stay at home mum is an incredibly selfless act, and I commend all the women in the world who do it so well, and to go back to work is a very selfish act. I needed to find the fine line in the middle, where my precious little girl got all the love, attention, stimulation and security she needed, and where I could find the stimulation, personal space and the creative outlet that I craved. Then I needed to deal with the guilt.
My partner was, as always, incredibly supportive and understanding of my needs. And, of course, he knew that my baby girl would always be my main priority. But I struggled massively with the thought of putting this tiny, helpless person into a nursery with people she didn't know so that I could selfishly 'enjoy myself at work'.
On top of that we had to contend with well-meaning family members' opinions on childcare, which definitely didn't sit with our current plans. I began looking at nurseries. I started talking to work about returning with reduced and flexible hours. I began to reclaim 'ME'!
The settling in period at nursery was the hardest thing I've ever done. I cried a lot. I definitely found it harder than our baby did! But it was well worth it. My baby girl slowly got used to her new world and I slowly got my head back into commuting and up to speed with working again.
Juggling condensed working hours with the inevitable sickness that goes with a one year old child is very hard. And I wish for a few more hours in every day. But the positives by far outweigh the negatives. Our daughter is absolutely blossoming at nursery and I can quite honestly say she loves going there. And as for 'Me'? Well, am a much happier, more content and fulfilled mummy, if not a very very tired one.