Never have 10 months gone so fast and yet so strangely slow but, the maternity leave is up and it is time to go back to work. Whilst the previously taken for granted perks are looking good, shiny new phone (iPhone with Siri, brilliant), coffee drunk whilst it’s still warm, smart clothes, a handbag smaller than a shed and of course lunch breaks, you’d be a braver woman than me if you weren’t a little daunted… 10 months off work, what on earth should I expect on my return?
The ‘How was your time off?’ question. Am I serious? Oh yes, in fact I’m guilty of having asked this myself and I now hang my head in knowing shame. Time off now seems like something you squandered with wild abandon pre parenthood and something snatched in rare moments now. Either way, it is not what you have just spent your maternity leave doing. No matter how joyful you found caring for your baby it’s tempting to go into a full monologue on the shock inducing hard work a new born baby is. The constant and continual physical presence you are required to deliver, the care, nurturing and sheer number of baby wipes you provide. No time off, no breaks, very little sleep and frequently with no feedback!
My poor baby. What baby? Maybe you made it to work devoid of the guilt of leaving your beautiful bundle of joy. They’re fine as soon as you have gone, right? Maybe you go through large swathes of the day without thinking about them. Maybe you feel dreadful, maybe you cannot drag your mind from wondering what they are doing now and, more importantly, is the child minder doing it like you would? All these questions are perfectly normal and completely interchangeable throughout the hour let alone the day.
That ‘What are they talking about?’ moment. You come back from maternity, possibly to the same role, likely to the same office and probably with a lot of the same people. It all looks comfortingly the same but, of course it’s not. It’s a bit like listening to a conversation in a language you haven’t studied since school, you think you have got the general gist of it but you’re only really getting 1 word in 5. Or, you have drifted off into a 10 month daydream whilst in a meeting and now someone has asked you a question and the panic is rising. Despite your ‘keep in touch days’, you’ve been out of the day to day activities of the workforce and you have definitely missed stuff.
Competitive sleep deprivation. Played by parents at volume between the hours of 8 and 9.30am, the one with the least number of consecutive sleeping hours wins the lack of sleep badge of honour; extra kudos awarded for particularly traumatic episodes of sickness and nappy explosions leading to sleep loss. Bonus points if you already posted this to Facebook on your morning commute.
The guilt trap. I have only the upmost respect for those parents who, through necessity or choice, embark on full time childcare. Those parents are hard as nails. I am not ashamed to say I have dropped a grumpy, snot oozing baby at childcare with relief. I’ve got 99 problems but the kid isn’t one. Well, not for the next 8 hours. It’s hard to not feel guilty about enjoying your work - it is after all time away from your beautiful baby.
Apart from the aforementioned perks, getting back to work is your chance to be just you and I found this to be a much missed part of life before children. I enjoy the problem solving, creative, strategic brain stretching that work offers. Does full time motherhood offer the same? Absolutely everyone who has attempted to distract a wriggling baby trapped in a shopping trolley with a quickly improvised rattle of vitamin C tablets from the shelves whilst calculating the cost per unit of a giga pack of brand nappies against another leading brand, knows it does. You are, however, allowed to enjoy your work and your time without your baby as much as you enjoy your time with them. I just keep telling myself this but now I need to ask Siri what I can make for dinner with egg noodles and cheese.
At Investigo, we offer attractive and flexible work packages to encourage our female employees to get back into work after they had children and bring their skills, knowledge and experience with them. Have a look at our Work for Us page to see what other benefits we are currently offering and call Victoria Hancock, our Head of talent Acquisition, on 020 3862 2869 to have an informal and confidential discussion.