How do I cope with going back to work after Maternity Leave?
I don’t know about you, but the day I finished work for Maternity Leave I was so excited. About the baby, of course, but also all the free time I was going to have to do my own thing, and spend some time relaxing without having to think of work. As I come to the end of my maternity leave, I realise that I was perhaps a bit naïve…
They say get your head down and rest, rest, rest in the few weeks between finishing work and the arrival of your baby, but honestly, how many of us really take the time to actually do that? With the excitement keeping you up at night (I don’t think I need to mention how hard it is to sleep while pregnant) and the panic at trying to remember if you’ve got everything ready, getting your head down in the day seems laughable! I was scrubbing the floor on my hands and knees on day one of my leave, forever trying to perfect the all important UFO position, and how could I fit in a nap when I needed to wash the huge pile of new baby clothes? Having the time or inclination to relax was not an option. My mum and sister hosted a fabulous Baby Shower via zoom (dreaded Covid) and that was possibly the last time I was centre of attention!! Oh I know I sound like a baby myself but it's easy to be totally absorbed by the new arrival.
When your baby finally arrives, once again you’re told to sleep when your baby does, leave the cleaning for a few weeks, and really indulge in that ‘babymoon’ time, but that seems almost impossible when your doorbell is constantly going with visitors, and the baby NEVER SLEEPS and is ALWAYS HUNGRY. Sure, the first few weeks of a newborn is an incredibly joyous time in any new parent’s life, but rest doesn’t often enter into it, no matter how you might try!
But you settle into a routine, you suddenly seem to be able to function on no sleep, and you fit your baths in when you can as you and your new little one learn to live with each other. Just as things start to settle, you’re starting to think about childcare as you begin preparing to return to work.
For however many months, your attention has been almost solely focussed on that tiny thing in your arms, and now you’re expected to split that attention into at least two: work and baby. There’s a lovely word that I’ve recently learned which I think best describes transitioning into motherhood, and that’s ‘matrescence’. How do you define yourself beyond the title of ‘mother’? And what does your motherhood look like when it’s time to return to the workforce? What will you talk about when you return? You share the pictures and the anecdotes of the last few months but let's face it not everyone is as interested as you.
I certainly don’t have a perfect answer to that, as if I’m honest, I’m finding the move back to working really tricky (as I’m sure so many new mums out there are too! You’re not alone!), but I know that taking time for YOU, not as a mum and not as a worker, but for you, is something that can really help these next few steps. It won't be long before your pre-mum personality returns and you can concentrate on the day job.
Don't define yourself in just these two roles, working mum and mum, there is so much more to you. I'm trying to resurrect Hannah! For me I find a notebook and pen set is an incredible thing to own, in order to journal my thoughts, unwind from the day, or even just doodle in the borders! For others, receiving a baking gift set in the post is a lovely opportunity to relax in the kitchen (and make them a fan favourite when they bring the baked treats to the next mummy meet up!), or even a good old fashioned pamper in a box means that mum can enjoy a long soak while dad does bedtime.
I totally get it; it’s so hard balancing baby, work, relationships, and home life at this time and the end of maternity leave for so many is the end of that blissful time of just you and baby. Remember, baby will manage perfectly well, it's us mums who struggle so now is the time to be centre of your own attention!