Returning to work after maternity leave: A world of mixed emotions

Tomorrow brings my return to work full-time after six months of fun and amazing experiences with our little girl. In this day and age, it’s become the norm for this day to arrive for most new mums, perhaps after six months, perhaps after nine, perhaps after a year.

Our situation is a little different to many others, with Kyle giving up his job to be a stay at home dad, which means we – thankfully – don’t need to worry about nursery yet.

The return to work brings with it a whole wealth of mixed emotions and observations. If you’re in our situation and are dreading returning, or, on the other side of the coin, perhaps looking forward to going back to work, maybe you’ll recognise some of these feelings yourself.

  • Finding a new normal: Before we had our baby, ‘normal’ for me would involve work being a big part of my life. A hard day at work gave me a feeling of satisfaction that I genuinely enjoyed. When time at home with our daughter became the new normal, I found that I adjusted pretty much straightaway. The feeling of satisfaction was still there if, at the end of a long day with her, I’d put her to bed without any tears, or made her giggle just by being silly, or even managed to go a full day without any enforced outfit changes from any ill-positioned nappies! Looking after a little one and watching them transform in front of your eyes is the most rewarding job in the world, there’s no doubt about that. Now, I face a new normal again, where I won’t see her during the day but will maximise every second I get with her in the morning, in the evening, and at weekends. It’s a normal that will take some adjusting to, but hopefully it’ll be as satisfying a feeling as when I was with her all the time, albeit in just a different way.
  • Role models: It makes me feel happy knowing that our little girl will grow up understanding right from the off that it’s normal and just fine for a ‘mum’ to be the breadwinner in a family and to go out to work every day in order to earn the money to keep the family going financially. Similarly, it makes me happy that she’ll grow up to expect the men in her life to be care-providers and to know that men are just as capable as women at providing love, warmth, comfort, and kindness, and can even one-up their female counterparts in certain situations (OK, they can’t do the whole breastfeeding thing but why is it men can change nappies far faster and do up those poppers on baby grows without any trouble?!).
  • Knowing what she’s doing: As I mentioned above, many parents face going back to work with the only childcare option open to them being nursery. For me, it’s a huge silver lining to the cloud of no longer being with our little one 24/7 that it’ll be Kyle looking after her. Not only do I trust him and know exactly how he’ll be with her, but I also know what they’re like together and will be able to picture in my head at work the things they’re getting up to. For instance, I know at their weekly Rhythm Time class that Kyle sings along to all the songs, even if he’s never heard them before and has to make up stupid words. He does it shamelessly and for me, looking on, it’s a bit embarrassing (!), but it makes our little girl giggle. So, on a Friday at 11.35, I’ll be able to picture that happening in my head, rather than wondering whether she’s happy at nursery, who is looking after her, who’s paying her attention, and so on. I’ve also been promised endless photos so I can keep up to date with everything going on at home. I have a great deal of sympathy for anyone facing the prospect of putting their little one at such a young age into childcare because I just don’t think I could physically do it.
  • Absence makes the heart grow fonder: There are so many things I’ll miss during my days away from our little one. I’ll miss watching her become engrossed in a new toy, I’ll miss listening to her squeal when she sees one of our cats walk by, I’ll miss lazy mornings with her where the only thing we have to do is have a cuddle, I’ll miss a million more things about my days with her. However, speaking from the experience of the few days where I’ve been away from her for hours on end, my drive home from work will possibly be the most exciting commute anyone has ever had. The anticipation of walking into the lounge to see her cheeky little smile already excites me just thinking about it.
  • Positivity over negativity: Ultimately, no matter how sad I am at the thought of the upcoming changes, I’m determined to keep a positive mental attitude. My little one doesn’t want to see me upset or sad, she wants to see me happy, full of energy for her, and full of excitement in the hours I can spend with her. For that reason, any sadness has been banished thanks to a four-pack of Co-op white chocolate cookies and we approach this coming week with a positive mindset!

If any of this rings true for you, please do let us know by commenting below!

Categories: Observations

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