It’s been over 10 months now since I went back to work after my maternity leave ended. 10 months! Longer than I was pregnant with Little H. Only 3 months short of how long I was off work. By the time Christmas Day arrives, it will have been over two years since I bid everyone farewell and hobbled off to prepare myself for becoming a mum. In January my baby will turn 2! I’ll be honest, I’m in a state of disbelief about the whole thing. I’m in denial that this amount of time has passed already. It feels to be racing by.
I have seen a lot of posts from other bloggers recently who have been preparing to return to work. (I particularly like A Mum Track Mind‘s recent post: 10 Difficult Truths About Returning To Work After Maternity Leave which is wonderfully accurate). It’s reminded me of how emotionally turbulent that time is. Last December was when I started settling Little H into nursery. Whilst I knew it would be good for her, it felt like I was ripping out my heart by handing my little helpless person over to people who, whilst lovely and qualified, I didn’t know. I wouldn’t let myself cry, but even now when I hear the tunes of her Fisher Price lunchbox, it takes me back to those dark mornings when I was sat at home without her. Lost.
In a way, actually getting back to work was a blessing. It stopped me dwelling on Little H not being with me. But it was another massive shock to the system. Despite everything I’d coped through in my first year of motherhood, trying to regain my professional self was very hard. It was almost as though the confidence I now felt as a parent had been leached from other areas of my life. I was plagued with self doubt and imposter syndrome!
But days passed. Then weeks. I would hit highs only to have crashing lows. But as the weeks turned to months these leveled off and as I passed the 3 month marker I felt confidence in myself finally returning. My ambition followed behind and I started to really find my stride in the work I was doing. So when members of my team who were previously my direct equivalents (but didn’t go on a 13 month break and return to work part time) got promoted I started to feel a frustration which still plagues me. My part time working is accommodated (indeed supported) but opportunities for me to progress up the ladder feel limited.
So I suppose this brings me to the biggest challenge faced by a working mother: how do you get the right balance? The ambitious worker in me wants to take that next step in her career. But I also relish spending more of my week with H than I do at work; I love our Mondays and Fridays together. I don’t want to look back and regret not enjoying my time with H because I was distracted by work – something I became very sure about with the sudden loss of Mum before H was born. That said, I would at least like to know the door to my career progression is open…
I must have seen this personal ‘dilemma’ coming though, because the other night as I was writing my Gratitude Journal before bed, I flicked to a page at the back. In March I had written some reminders to myself about my priorities.
I chose to work part time. I wanted to go back to my job. But I wanted to spend more than just weekends with H. I knew going p-t [part time] would have an impact on my career. I don’t have the bandwidth I had before whilst also doing childcare.
I am confident I made the right choice in going back to work. It has helped me become a fully-rounded version of me again after becoming a mother. I’ve also loved watching H thrive across a home and nursery environment; She enjoys her days there with a different set of games, toys and a group of friends to run around with! We seem to have found a routine that work. But that balance. That elusive balance – between time with Little H and a flourishing career – is something that I’m still aiming for; Is something I suspect I’ll never truly find!
**Update 09/01/17 – This post was given ‘Feature post’ status by Emily from My Petit Canard for the last #MarvMondays linky of 2016. Thanks Emily!***