Returning To Work – Embracing the Inevitable
Last month I returned to work after 16 months of maternity leave. It is perhaps the hardest thing I have had to do in a very long time. I held mixed emotions about this inevitable change in our weekly routine; admittedly most of them negatively geared towards not wanting to return to work at all. After being with my little possum pretty much 24-7 since her birth, the time came around all too quickly where this would change for a few days each week. But like all change, I had a choice to embrace it or resist it.
I worried about how my daughter would cope – or perhaps more how I would cope leaving my princess in the care of others. She had been so dependent upon me for her whole life up until now, and to release that unique bond that only we shared was so hard. I reassured myself that she was in the care of both professionals and people who love her.
I had to return to work minimum of 3 days which I suppose worked out well for care arrangements. Despite my determination to only work 2 days where my girl would be cared for by her grandparents, the third day in childcare provides her with different learning opportunities and social interaction. My daughter adores her grandparents so there was no hesitation on her behalf to be left with nanna or nonna for the day. Surprisingly she has even been settling down for a daytime nap without me there!
Childcare was a different story. I am so blessed to have an early learning centre onsite at my workplace, so sending my daughter there was made easier knowing we were together in the same building even though we were physically apart. She didn’t seem too phased at the initial drop off on the orientation day, but I found myself fighting back tears as I went to see my colleagues. I returned a few hours later to check in on her and saw her screaming trying to climb over a baby gate as I looked through the window. Needless to say I felt like a terrible mother for leaving my daughter (albeit temporarily) and my heart broke.
Fast forward a few months and my daughter is gradually becoming accustomed to her new environment at childcare. The educators in her room are so lovely, caring and knowledgeable. They share and respect my parenting philosophies. Even though they were strangers to her at first, she has really warmed to them and has built up trust with one educator in particular. She loves her outdoor play and the book corner. There is still hesitation at drop off, but when I arrive to collect her at the end of the day there are no more tears. I am so happy with the care that she receives there, and this peace of mind has made my return to work much easier for both of us.
I now know what it is like to be a stay at home mum, a work from home mum and a working mum. Each has its positives and negatives, no one is either more significant, harder or easier than the other, and every mum has to make the decision that feels right for her and her family. Personally my heart is still left behind as a stay at home mum, I often find myself longing just to be with my daughter and feel that I am missing out on being fully involved in her growth and development. She is still not walking at 17 months so I will be devastated if I miss her first confident steps! I thought time had flown by since I first held my newborn, but the working weeks now seem to pass by way too quickly. Each day my daughter is that little bit older and this is time I will never get back. I want to maximise the time I have with my baby, and with the extra commitment of work I feel like many memory-making opportunities have been taken away from me.
Then there is the extra fatigue to contend with. It’s the same tiredness I felt when I was first pregnant and caring for a newborn. I was surprised to find myself quite alert and energetic for the first few weeks when I started back, but by week 3 I felt that familiar sense of fatigue hit me. Somewhere within me I still find the motivation and physical stamina to soldier on. On my days at home I have to fight the need for extra sleep and attend to my daughters needs whilst attempting to get the house in order, cleaning, washing and cooking meals. I have made a decision to prioritise our beach walk and coffee in the morning, and running around at the park together in the afternoon; this is so worth the cost of
having laundry that isn’t put away for a week or a floor that is only mopped once a month! I am convinced that motherhood must give you supernatural powers to optimise your output when you feel like there is little on the input side of the equation. Oh and that second coffee I find myself making most days probably helps too!
I can now appreciate that my presence in the workplace contributes to the wellbeing of other babies and children, provides both my girl and I with a different learning environment, and helps top up the family savings. I am also fortunate to be able to return to work on a part time basis, I know this is not always possible for mothers who have less flexible work arrangements or financial commitments. For now I have to find ways to make sure I am making the best use of time when I am with my family and I would love your suggestions on how to balance work and family life, so please leave a comment!