A friend of mine is returning to work after her lovely long maternity leave with her gorgeous baby girl. As I’ve been through it, hell and all, recently enough and have come out the other side a better (but more exhausted) woman, I thought there were a few words of wisdom that I could pass along. With a ton of help from many other better experienced blogger Mama’s than I am.
My darling friend,
You return back to work this week after a lovely long time off work, not unlike the amount of time I spent away myself, thanks to our mutually fun illnesses during pregnancy. In our conversations about your return to work, you are nervous, naturally. You don’t want to leave your gorgeous little girl, you’re nervous about going back into the environment. So was I. I was terrified my baby wouldn’t settle, that it made me a bad mother to have my child basically raised by someone else (thats the post natal talking) and that I couldn’t do it. In my head I was outside of the loop of work, and it would take a lot to get me back into the groove, especially on very little sleep.
That much was true. It did take a lot. But it was totally (mostly) worth it.
You are going to feel exhausted. Your child who has a much better sleep pattern than mine does at the moment, may decide sleep is for the week, like mine did, and decide you need bonding time at 2am. And 3, 4 and 5. Just go with it, it’s simpler, and embrace the coffee. The coffee is key to this entire returning to work operation. That and plans of a bottle of wine and good chats to look forward to.
You’re going to be stressed because inevitably there are going to be mornings where everything goes wrong, where the baby gets sick on you or has an explosive nappy and you’re already running late. Try to laugh instead of cry, and think of that coffee (the wine thoughts always go down better publicly when it isn’t half eight in the morning). There are going to be days where the baby is sick and you have to choose which of you needs to stay home with her, days where childcare will fall through and days where you’re so tired all you want to do is crawl back under the covers and refuse to acknowledge that you have work in an hour. But through all the stress, you will get through this.
There are cups of tea and coffee in your future, uninterrupted. Or if interrupted, by chat with adults who are unlikely to be entertained by you clapping at them and singing Old MacDonald. You will listen to on hold music and be thankful that it isn’t Old Macdonald. While sipping on that lovely hot tea.
With a return to work, you’re going to miss her. She’s going to miss you. Let me say this and say it loud, so I can get to the bad thoughts dwelling in the back of your brain. You are not a bad Mammy for leaving her. She will be fine, good, even without you, and she will not doubt you love her any less for doing it. By going to work you provide a good example of equality of the sexes in the work place, go smash some glass ceilings – even if it is more out of necessity than passion. She will not love you any less for it and when she is your age, thinking about her first days back at work after having her first baby, she will look back and be proud that her Mama took on the world again.
This may not be forever, or this may be the start of a new wonderful long phase in your life where you balance work, baby and life as we know it. You will rediscover parts of yourself that have likely gone into hiding since you left work all those months ago; I know I certainly did. ReturningÂ to work gave me back a certain sense of who I was outside of being Mammy, and I hope it does the same for you.
I didn’t do this alone by a long shot, and neither should you. It takes a village, as they say. While partners do play a big part in the adjustment (bye bye excuses for why they aren’t doing the night feeds when you both have work the next day), the others surrounding you do too. If people offer to help, take it. There’s also some must-reads for you which will help – I know they helped me a lot – tales of other Mamas who have been there, done that and worn the Tshirt. This guide to returning to work from the lovely Office Mum is brilliant, as is this beautiful piece from Bumbles of Rice on returning to work after maternity leave. Mama.ie has also got a great piece here with tips for returning to work. There are plenty of others to guide you to too, if you’re interested just shout.
And so my dear I wish you luck as you embark on the next stage of your journey, it’s been an eventful year. Enjoy that coffee. I’m only a text away.
Lots of love