To the First-Time Mum Heading Back to Work

When I was pregnant with Amelia, the day I went on maternity leave was the day I started counting down how many days at home I had left. I couldn’t help it. She was just over a week past her due date, and that whole week I was thinking about how I was missing out on one week of time at home with my baby. If someone had reminded me just to enjoy the moment I’m in, maybe there might have been a few less tears. Scratch that – I doubt anything could have stopped the tears.

Perhaps for the first time since your baby was born, you’re on a time schedule again. You have to be at work on time. But guess what. Babies aren’t all that interested in schedules. In fact, if you’re actually running early for something, they’ll let out a massive poo explosion, requiring a full outfit change and bucket of soaking clothes.  Or they’ll pour their breakfast all over themselves. Just to remind you who is really in charge of the time in your household. 

If you used to be one of those people who could roll out of bed with 20 mins to spare, shower, dress and eat breakfast on the go. Think again. It’s not just you who has to get ready in the morning. And it’s not just dressing them and feeding them breakfast. You’ve got to pack the bag!  Special note: Do this the night before. It might be the last thing you feel like doing, but anything you don’t have to do in the morning will help with the unexpected surprises your baby may come up with, ie poo explosions. 

The bag that is filled to the brim with several changes of clothes, half a bag of nappies, wipes, creams, powders, bottles and food. The clothes that you zip through the washing machine and dryer on a daily basis because your baby changes clothes more often than a runway model. Then there is the extra bottle for just incase they’re going through a growth spurt, the extra snacks incase the food you packed isn’t enough, or little miss fussy decides she doesn’t want it. Yeah that bag – you have to pack it every day.

And then if you’ve hit the unlucky cord and your baby isn’t sleeping through the night yet. Be prepared to be tired. Really tired. Because regardless of what happened in the night, you have a job to do the very next day. So come to peace with tiredness and maybe it might not be so prominently noticeable. That or buy some really good eye makeup to hide the bags and start drinking all the caffeine you can find. Whatever gets you through right?!

But these processes, which while they seem mountainous at the start, will soon become manageable, you do find a routine and eventually it’s just what you do. Kind of like when you first become a parent. It’s just one of those changes in your life that you deal with.

The emotions are really tough.The tears are progressive. Once you pass the halfway mark of maternity leave, everything just seems to speed up, and your mind regularly flickers to the diminishing time left at home. Walks in the sun, afternoon cuddles, and playdates all become fewer and further between. Sleeping till 10am and afternoon naps will soon be off the cards.

There’s the guilt for needing or wanting to return to work in the first place. The guilt for putting your baby into someone else’s care while you’re at work. For not being there to feed your baby every meal. Or make gaga sounds to them all day long. For not being the first person there if they hurt themselves, or get upset. For missing the little antics, funny moments and anecdotes of your baby’s days.

Some people make the decision for financial reasons, others for mental stimulation and adult conversation. Whatever your reason – you’re guaranteed to feel the guilt creep in. It’s a bit a of a crap feeling to be honest. Because you really shouldn’t feel guilty at all. No one makes the decision to return to work lightly. And you’ve obviously made the decision because it’s best for your family. So try kick that guilt to the curb.

Remember quality is what’s important, so just focus on making the time you do have together really special. Enjoy your evenings and mornings together (I used to love having breakfast with Amelia when she was little), play together, laugh together, have fun. You learn to make a concerted effort to ensure there’s quality family time in the weekends when your weekdays are occupied with work.

It’s inevitable – there’s going to be tears, guilt, exhaustion and more tears when the time comes to return to work. Don’t be too hard on yourself. Let the feelings take their place for a wee while, then get them out of your system and remember why you made the decision to return. I guarantee it has something to do with what’s best for you and your family.

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