I was mostly excited about my return to work. I’m not sure if it was the pandemic restrictions that compounded the feeling but I couldn’t wait to be spending a large portion of my days talking with adults and not discussing sleep habits, weaning woes or ‘milestones’ anymore. I love my job for the most part, and I’d been with the same company furthering my career for 12 years before I took maternity, so getting back to somewhere I felt confident, happy, and like there is more to me than being a mum was a welcome change.
I was confident in my childcare choices and knowing Oscar would be well looked after and happy, but I had a little anxiety towards my first work day. The thought of being a newbie was not one I was comfortable feeling. I was dreading having to ask for help to get me up to speed, I wanted to jump back in to being amazing at my job, being dependable, making decisions, and being the expert. I thought I could have it all, but the reality was not quite so rosey!
The biggest challenge for me was returning to work part time but to a role that wasn’t really a part time responsibility. It meant I was over worked and under paid, I constantly worried about my lack of availability at work, and ultimately it caused a lot of stress trying to get my work done in the limited time I had. Throw in any anomalies to the routine (like my son getting sick and being home from nursery, or simply refusing a nap that I was relying on for a few hours more work) and it threw my entire week off and I got even further behind!
I think it’s really important to have an honest discussion with your manger about new roles and responsibilities, and have check points regularly to assess your workload and the alignment with your contracted hours.
I wish I had prepared for my son to be ill (a lot) when he started nursery for the first time – he got Hand Food & Mouth after just 2 days there, followed the next week by 10 days of Norovirus, followed by antibiotics for cellulitis in his eye. It wasn’t just the sniffles and a cold which was all I was expecting! If I had planned a few more back up child care options, or had the foresight to ensure my husband could take a few unplanned days leave then my return wouldn’t have been so sporadic and frustrating those first few weeks!
I also wish I had set some better boundaries. I returned with the (incorrect) mindset that I owed my employer for holding a role open for me whilst I took maternity, I felt like I had to prove myself of value, and that meant saying ‘yes’ to everything that was asked of me. It would have helped enormously to have written out my new priorities as a working mother (a brand new role for me), and set firm boundaries – perhaps even having them written above my desk to remind me that it’s ok to say ‘no’ would have served me well too.
Don’t compare your version of ‘balance’ to anyone else’s, and don’t expect to get it right first time. I thought I’d got it sussed with flexible working, ability to work from home, and condensed hours. The reality was so much harder, and I’ve adjusted my hours and childcare arrangements a few times within this first year back at work to try and find a better fit for me. I’m hoping my most recent changes give me a closer feeling of ‘balance’, a feeling I am happier with, even though it’s a different set up to my other mum friends.
Thank you so much Ella!