I recently made a big decision.
I went back to work after 13 months maternity leave in January. I loved maternity leave. Not every minute admittedly (there was plenty of rocking a baby who fought her all too brief naps). But I would say I was one of the lucky ones. Don’t get me wrong we had our moments; we had a really tricky start with breastfeeding, which coupled with sleep deprivation nearly sent me into a nervous breakdown. We also had a baby who strongly refused having a bottle which caused it’s fair share of tears for both of us. But, we were blessed with a baby who slept well from early on and she was generally content and happy. Some of my friends went through very low points with sleep deprivation and I often felt they probably secretly hated me for having a more ‘easy’ time of it. We had such a busy year; you named it we did it. Messy play, baby sensory, baby sign, swimming, picnics, nice walks – they were all regular activities on the calendar. As my return to work loomed I felt really sad that this period of my life was over.
When I finally went back to work I realised just how much I’d changed. I sat at my desk on my first KIT day last October and it was like having an out of body experience. I wasn’t the old me. I had lost all of my confidence. Who was this nervous wreck that sat there feeling jealous of her colleague, not knowing half the senior team, checking her phone every 10 minutes? It was odd. I cried all the way home.
Of course everyone said it would take time to adjust. But for me, once I actually started, it got worse. Miss Belle was in nursery three days a week and between December and April we only had a week or two where one of us didn’t have to take time off because she was ill. On more than one occasion we visited the GP three times in a week. Everyone tells you the green snot is a permanent fixture for the first year that your child is at nursery, but you don’t realise how quickly they can go downhill. I’m a worrier anyway, and being a first time mum to a baby who was really going through it, just left me feeling constantly stressed out. One day I said to my husband “this would be so much easier if I wasn’t working” and he admitted he’d been thinking the same thing. We are lucky because we could afford for me to be at home. It just never occurred to either one of us to do it. I’d always loved working in fast paced jobs, both in journalism and then working with the media on the other side, as a press officer. I never thought I’d be happy being ‘just’ a mum.
So, we started to debate the ‘big decision’. My husband thought I should give it more time, that I was feeling this way because Miss Belle had been so ill, and that three months wasn’t long enough for us to get settled into our new routine. But after chatting it through and speaking to other friends who’d also decided to stay at home, we decided to give it a go. I did like my old job at times, but it was stressful and there were moments where I thought ‘why I am bothering, I don’t get paid enough for this!’. Having a baby gives you a new perspective on what is important. It seemed mad to pay for my child to go to nursery so I could spend all day at work worrying about her. I was missing out being with my daughter, playing with her, seeing her learn new skills, sharing experiences with her, but more importantly, I wasn’t there when she needed me.
I’ve got friends who’ve told me they were happier as soon as they went back at work. But for me, it wasn’t the case. Part of me feels like a failure for not being able to do both. After all, I was only part time. I have friends who work four or five day weeks and cope. Surely I am some lesser human being for not being able to hack it? Some friends are loving working and being a mummy too. I’m happy they’ve got a good balance, but it makes me feel like I’ve let my old self down. I worry I will regret the decision and that I’ll be seen as ‘under achieving’ by my peers. And of course the thought of going for a proper job interview in five or more years time doesn’t bear thinking about! But, life is short. And I don’t think I’ll lie on my death bed looking back at my life and say “I wish I’d spent more time at work!”
I don’t think I’ll ever regret watching my baby girl grow.