Guest blog from Beth at Betty and the Bumps
Are you returning to work after maternity leave soon? You might be wondering if your brain has actually turned to mush or if it is really possible to leave your baby…My process of returning to work was a much slower, vocational path so I didn’t get the sudden, shit-it’s-happening-next-week feeling that many of my friends had to go through. Thankfully Beth has just been through the ‘transition’ and has kindly written this guest post for us about what it is actually like returning to work after maternity leave to hopefully dispel some myths and put your poor brain and nerves at ease…
Returning to Work After Maternity Leave
I’m Beth, new mam to Gwenn and blogger at Betty and the Bumps, and I recently been returning to work after maternity leave…ten months off in total. A little while ago I contacted Hannah with an idea to share with you all some things I had learned about how to manage when the maternity bubble bursts and going back to earn a living becomes a reality, rather than some vague concept so far in the future that it might as well be imaginary!
I hope you enjoy reading and have a giggle at my expense (I don’t mind, honest!!)
The first day isn’t necessarily the worst: As my first day back got closer and closer, I was almost excited about it; in fact my best friend – who is still on maternity leave – was excited for me because, as we all know, there can be nothing more monotonous than looking after a baby every day and going to work is a break from the norm if nothing else. I was also really lucky that on my first three days back at work, Andrew used up leave to look after Gwenn. This meant that I wasn’t having to think about the logistics of childcare during what could have been a very emotional week. Of course, the bad thing about this arrangement was that it was almost like a practice run, so that my fourth day was actually my first “proper” day as a working mum. I’ve also learnt that on the first day there is an element of novelty. After a couple of weeks this has well and truly worn off (for me anyway!) and there’s nothing quite as depressing as the realisation that this is you, until you win the lottery or go off on maternity leave again.
Being the new girl is no fun: Without sounding like a megalomaniac, the day I left work I was the person who knew everything. On the day I returned, I was the girl who knew nothing. It doesn’t matter how long you have worked somewhere, or what position you hold; if you take enough time off then on your first day back it’s like being Simon Cowell’s tea boy. The lack of control I felt made me feel tearful at times and I dreaded being asked a question that I couldn’t answer for fear of looking like a fool. But, it isn’t all bad because after a while …
It will feel as if you never left: This is the ultimate cliché, but seriously, after three hours on day one, I felt as if I had only left the previous week. There are always coming and goings personnel wise, but the main team at work has not changed and the bricks and mortar are the same so I felt that I slotted back in very smoothly.
It pays to be organised: I am a weirdly organised person anyway, so this has been right up my street, but it is really important to use the night before the work day to get as much done as possible. At the start of the week I hang up all of Gwenn’s outfits for the week, so that I can grab the whole thing in the morning and get her dressed really quickly. I also know what I am going to wear for every shift and I make sure that everything I need is clean and ironed (when I lived at home I was always shoving tights in the tumble dryer 20 minutes before I was supposed to be leaving the house!). The changing bag is fully stocked the night before and usually when me and Andrew are making tea, I sort out Gwenn’s food for the following day so I’m not running around in the morning looking for a clean spoon or whatever!
Working part time really can be the worst of both worlds: A week before I went back to work, I was in a cafe with Gwenn and the owner said to me that going back to work for only three days and getting the rest of the week with the baby was the best of both worlds. I have to say that, so far, I’m not sure I agree. Working part-time means that you can only ever earn a certain percentage of what working full-time brings in so there are always going to have to be financial sacrifices that affect you and your family. We are hardly struggling, but I’m very conscious that we can’t really put anything away for savings, and holidays are totally out of the question. I also feel like I am not completely committed to Gwenn, because I always have to consider that I have work coming up in the week and there are things I need to do in order to prepare for that. The knowledge that I have to go to work at any point in the week casts a shadow on everything I do. When at work, there is always a risk because I am not there that often, that I am not taken as seriously as before and on my first day I did feel as if I was being left out and that I’d slipped quite far down the pecking order. Ultimately, I don’t fall into either camp. I’m not a stay-at-home mum, but neither can I say I’m a full-on working mum and I don’t fully understand the stresses and sacrifices involved for either.
It is no longer okay to be fat: I have already posted about putting loads of weight on when I was pregnant and so far I’ve hardly lost any of my baby weight. When I am out and about with Gwenn my attitude is “Well, anybody who sees me will think, ‘She’s just had a baby, fair enough'” but, now that I’m at work and without my little companion, I feel like I have zero excuse and, in a phrase coined by my wonderful best friend during a back to work conversation, I’m “just a fat mess in retail”. It doesn’t seem to make any difference how long I spend getting ready (snatches here and there around getting Gwenn fed, dressed, entertained) I still always look in the mirror and think “Bleurgh”. Weight gain, tiredness and total lack of me time are not conducive to looking one’s best! I’m sure (or maybe I hope) that to other people I don’t look that different but now the maternity leave bubble has been well and truly burst, I feel very vulnerable about my appearance and it definitely has affected my confidence at work.
It really isn’t as bad as you think: As with many things, the anticipation of the event is often worse than the event itself; for the first few days I sat on the Metro dreading work, but once I was there it really wasn’t all that bad. If you managed to get through your day before you had a baby, there’s no reason you can’t after; the job hasn’t changed, it’s just your attitude. And after a while, you never know, you might even – dare I say – enjoy it ….?
Thank you, Beth!! If you like what you’ve read, you can read her full article, Everything you Always Wanted To Know About Work But Were Afraid To Ask, over on Beth’s blog!