Maternity Leave is Dead: Mum’s New Nightmare

workI was never intending on having more than 6 months off after BG was born – for three main reasons, 1) I studied and worked hard to get where I am and I shouldn’t have to give that up, 2) I am a teacher and have emotional attachments to the students I teach and wanted to see my “kids” through their exams and 3) the maternity pay ran out.  I have written about my return to work in a previous post and my feelings pretty much remain the same.  I wanted to go back to work, so I did.  I have no judgment whatsoever for those who took less maternity leave, those who took more maternity leave, those who went back part time or those who never went back to work… because… their baby, their choice.

I’ve now been back at work for a whole year.  I am still wracked with “mum-guilt” – especially on the days of the week where I have to stay for a late meeting, school event or parents evening.  On those days, if I am lucky, I see BG for half an hour before I go to work in the morning and half an hour before she goes to bed on an evening.  Some days I don’t see her if its a particularly late night at school… if she’s not woken up before I leave for work in the morning, she’ll be in bed when I get home.  Those days are tough.  Those days I sometimes find myself questioning if I made the decision to go back full time.

I love my daughter more than anything, but I also genuinely love my job.  It is possible to do it “all”.  I try to manage my school workload by doing as much as physically possible at work so that I don’t bring any work home.  It is not possible for me to do school work at home… my evenings after BG has gone to bed are for spending time with my husband and actually having an adult conversation about something other than our child.  Weekends are hectic too as at the moment, my husband works most of them!  This means that I am also on the go as Mum all weekend too – whilst this is sometimes testing and always exhausting, it is these times I cherish most as I get BG all to myself and we can spend some quality time together.

BG was born on 4th October 2016 and I returned to work on 2nd May 2017 after 7 months.  I expected to feel a mix of emotions when I went back to work and had prepared myself for those.  What I had not prepared myself for were the comments from others about “how soon” I had gone back to work, the questions of “why” I didn’t want to spend more time at home and conversations that were geared solely towards gaining information about my child rather than asking me about anything to do with me, let alone my profession.  It was as if by becoming a Mum, I was somehow expected to transform into a person who spoke only of her child.  And that by leaving her to go to work I was somehow “less” of a Mother.  Don’t get me wrong, BG means the world to me – I couldn’t imagine life without her, but my world also includes my husband, my family, my friends and my career.  I also think I would go a little bit mad if I stayed at home and didn’t go out to work.  I genuinely believe that my mental health is better for going out to work… I personally wouldn’t have coped with being a “mum that doesn’t go out to work” (I hate the terms “Full Time Mum” – I’m one of those too, I am a Mum ALL of the time – and “Stay At Home Mum” – these ladies DO NOT stay in their houses all day just being a Mum!).  I have the utmost respect for anyone who chooses not to return to work after having a baby.

What have been your experiences of returning to work?  Have you gone back?  Did you have a choice in the matter?  Share your stories – you never know, you might just help another mum out.

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