Facing the end of maternity leave

Date: 27 October, 2015
Tags: working mum, maternity leave, back to work

Maternity leave messes mums up. Our entire worlds partly revolved around our jobs, so when we give them up for a long period of time, be it a year or a month, it’s incredibly hard to adjust to coming back to that with the added concern of a baby. Your husband might see it as you coming back from a long vacation, but the reality is that your world is being turned upside down once again and you’ve got to get to grips with it quickly. The differences between being at home every day and being free to do whatever the hell you want, and having a job that you need to perform well, all whilst working your family around the hours you will be away is extraordinary and each scenario is challenging in different ways.

Unless you’ve been through it though, nobody can really fully understand the dread that mums feel in the pit of their stomach as their maternity leave comes to an end and the thought of returning to their life before baby starts to take over. Your brain goes into complete panic mode, filling you with an irrational fear of day to day things that you didn’t even need to think about before. Here is a short (but not exhaustive) list of thoughts that every mum has when they’re getting ready to become a ‘working mum’.

Will I remember how to do my job?

This is a prime example of how irrational your brain gets. Having a baby is hard, but it doesn’t wipe out your brain to the point that you can’t do this. Trust me, you will remember how to do your job. There will be an element of familiarising yourself with certain bits but you will know the fundamentals and soon enough, you’ll be back into the swing of things without even thinking about them.

Oh my god, I’m going to be up at 3:00am doing laundry.

No you won’t. Because at this stage in your child’s sleep progression, you would rather wear that shirt with the baby food stains on it for the second day in a row than pass up the opportunity for an extra twenty minutes in bed. You’ll dab it off with a sponge, everything will be alright. If anybody judges you, it’s because they don’t have children of their own.

My child is going to have abandonment issues.

This was my biggest fear before I went back to work. That my baby would hate me for leaving him with other people. The reality of this situation is that they don’t care. As long as they’re being fed, changed and played with, they don’t care who they’re with This might be a little different with a one year old rather than a tiny baby, but they certainly will not be plotting your demise for nipping out to work!

My house will never be clean again.

It wasn’t always clean before you had a baby. It wasn’t always clean on your maternity leave. This situation will not change when you go back to work. You’ll clean when you need to, not before. You’ll do the important jobs, like washing bottles and making sure you have enough forks for dinner. Don’t sweat it; the dishes will be there tomorrow.

Everyone at work will think I’m a massive baby bore.

You learn quickly when you come back to work that people aren’t interested in you anymore. They want to know all about your baby. How they are, what they look like, whether they sleep, whether they’re teething. Be prepared to be a baby bore that doesn’t bore people, especially fellow mums. It will be all you talk about and you’ll never have to bring it up. 

Are people at work going to resent me for having been absent for a year?

Honestly? People will barely realise that you’ve been gone at all, let alone a year. They certainly won’t resent you for having time off with your baby and will be too busy being thankful for the extra pair of hands. Anyone who does make a snide remark isn’t worth knowing and will be far outnumbered by the people who are just happy you’re back.

I might just jack it in. We’ve survived this long without me working.

It’s tempting! Do it if you feel you can, but for most of us this isn’t an option. Don’t torture yourself with thoughts of what you’d do if you won the lottery. Just suck it up and get on with it, because you can’t get out of going back I’m afraid.

I’m going to feel so rich on my first pay day.

Sorry, but you’re not. You’ll just realise how much stuff you’ve been waiting to pay for whilst you’ve been on maternity leave. If your childminder fees don’t drain your wage, other things most certainly will. Don’t be booking any lavish holidays just yet!

My child will never adjust to this new routine.

Your kids are better at change than you are. It’s a fact. You need to worry more about not being able to just feed the baby and go back to sleep at 7:00am and less about whether your child will pine for you when you drop them off in the morning. The reality is their smile will only widen when they get to grandma’s house and you’ll love the evenings with them more than ever.

There’s no way I can function on a professional level with such little sleep.

You will. You will because you have no other choice and you’ll be fine. No matter what your child does when they’re supposed to be asleep, you will adjust accordingly and you will rock your job like you did before they were there. Failing that, there’s coffee. Lots and lots of coffee.

Going back to work is daunting. It will feel like starting a totally new job from scratch, but you’d be surprised just how quickly it becomes normal routine. I’ve now been back at work for four weeks following ten weeks off for maternity leave and this is very much our day to day lives and all three of us are completely fine with it. It was scary at first, I wondered how we would all cope. If someone had told me how normal that was though, I’d probably have felt a lot better about the whole thing.

So take it from me, you will be fine. Your baby will be fine. Your relationship will be totally fine and your job will be FINE.


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