Returning to work after maternity leave

Feature writer Lara shares her experience of returning to work after maternity leave.

I’ll never forget my final full week with Little Bean on maternity leave. Every class we went to, the swimming lesson, the walk around the park… Every moment was tinged with the horrible realisation that this would be the last time we would spend this amount of time together.

Going back to work early

For me, going back to work was partly necessity, and partly accidental. My original plan had been to take the full year off, but before I went on maternity leave I was offered the once in a lifetime opportunity to attend a work-related conference in Australia. And the very generous grant meant that my baby girl and husband could come along too. It also meant I would have to return to work a few months earlier than I’d intended, but at the time that seemed like a worthwhile compromise. My statutory maternity pay would have dried up by then so financially we’d be better off. I was also becoming more and more convinced that I wasn’t doing a good enough job in terms of keeping her stimulated and entertained everyday – that’s mother’s guilt for you.

Settling in at nursery

Both the first and second days of nursery were horrific. Just thinking about it now makes me upset all over again. I tried to hold it together until I’d handed her over to her lovely key worker, but it was impossible. She’s a sociable little thing usually, but her wee face on the second day, when she realised we were leaving her yet again in this noisy environment, just broke my heart. Of course by day three she was loving it and by day five, it was completely the norm for her, but those first few hours were torture.

Settling in at work

Knowing she was happier did make it easier going back to work but, to be honest, I had similar issues acclimatising. For the first two days back in the office I too would happily have bawled and screamed, but instead I grimly put up with delayed tubes and office politics, and forced myself to care.

After a week though, I’d ‘settled in’ too and actually started to enjoy work. My employer has been flexible in allowing me to start earlier so I can leave at four on the dot. I get home just before my husband brings my girl home from nursery and her huge smile and windmill arms when she first sees me brightens whatever kind of day I may have had at the office.

The perfect world

I’m still coming to terms though with the mummy-bashing that goes on with regards to stay at home vs working mums. I simply don’t understand why there needs to be such animosity and derision for each other when we’re all just doing what we think is best for our families.

For me, working is important. I love it and I’m good at what I do. If I had my perfect world, I would have a virtual office and work mornings only (somewhere in Glasgow) and spend every afternoon with my girl, but until I can make that a reality, I’m making the best of the full-time option that’s available to me. Actually, I lie. In my perfect world mothers would get full pay for the first year of maternity, then in subsequent years have the option of going back to work part time – with half-day nursery fees fully subsidised. I can dream, eh?

Photography: Victor1558 @Flickr

+Lara Crisp

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