Returning to work after having a baby
A year into Freddie entering her world, Rachael pens her thoughts on what working mums may expect on their return to work.
When they coined the phrase ‘all good things must come to an end’ I’m pretty sure they were talking about maternity leave. After many months of only conversing in baby talk and wearing my mum uniform (jeans and hoody) that smells more than a bit of baby sick, suddenly and cruelly you are catapulted back into the world of work. Now you are expected to chat about things that do not include the waiting list for the latest baby class and complete more complicated tasks than remembering how many spoonfuls of formula you’ve just put into a bottle (that is actually trickier than you think while trying to juggle the kettle and a hungry baby). After my first few weeks back in the office, here’s what I’ve learnt:
It will all come back to you very quickly
Frighteningly quickly in fact. Whilst you may feel fully de-skilled as you turn up on your first morning back and struggle to remember how to turn the computer on let alone remember your password - within a day or two, or even in some cases an hour or two, it will feel like you’ve never been away. This will simultaneously be a relief and also feel a bit depressing. Within a week or so you’ll be fully immersed in all the office gossip and politics and will question whether you’ve really been off at all.
Expect to be enraged by admin
The only way you’ll be sure you’ve been off for many months is the plethora of enraging admin issues that will beset you. Expect long conversations with the IT department as you struggle to get back into your computer account. Once you’re in, you then have to work out whether it’s better to just wipe your email inbox or go through deleting your five thousand emails ONE BY ONE.
Be prepared to have the same conversation about your return to work a million times
If your colleagues are anything like my lovely lot they’ll be thrilled to have you back and many will make the effort to come over for a chat. This means that during your first few weeks back, time spent having the same conversation about whether you miss your baby will outweigh how many hours you’re working. You will feel like you are repeating yourself but try to remember it’s the first time they’ve heard it. Apart from the poor soul sat next to you who will have to endure your blow by blow account of baby’s first year over and over, and over again.
You will likely miss your baby more than they will miss you
You can forget those nightmare images of your offspring - wild eyed, snotty faced and wailing while clinging to your leg as you try to leave them. In my experience they happily crawl off to nursery, family or childminder without a second glance. Whilst you spend your breaks at work watching videos of them on your phone, out of sight is very much out of mind for baby. Most days when I pick Freddie up from his grandparents’ house I’m lucky to get a smile. In fact I’m lucky to get a look at all as he’s usually so busy having a wonderful time playing. This is very much a double edged sword… you’ll be very happy they’ve had a wonderful enriching day, you’ll also be more than a teensy bit gutted they didn’t just spend it screaming for mummy. Turns out you are not the centre of their universe!
You are doing the right thing
Whether you’ve had to go back to work full-time or part-time you are doing the right thing by your little one. All work scenarios have their pros and cons. If you’re working full-time when you really wish you didn’t have to just be safe in the knowledge that your baby is having a great time learning new things and meeting new people while you’re working hard for them. If you’re working part-time that’s okay too, lots of people do. It’s not easy juggling motherhood and work, so we all just do whatever we have to do.
So to summarise, don’t be scared of returning to work. You will find a way to juggle everything and you never know, you may just enjoy your re-entry in the adult world!