Last week I had my first day back at work in 48 weeks. I’m easing myself back in with one day a week before I go in for four days a week in June which (if anyone is interested and has the option) is a great way of getting back into the swing of things at your own pace.
The decision to return to work is hard and it varies from family to family. Everyone’s circumstances are different and there are a lot of factors that contribute to the decision about whether one (or both) parents return to the workplace.
For us, (Tim and I) me going back to work means childcare for Hugh who is still only 10 months old and that was not something I was thrilled about at first. The closer the day got the more worried I became. On the first day I tried to leave him at childcare the tears that rolled down his fat little cheeks broke my heart and I’m not ashamed to admit I cried myself in the car all the way home.
On top of that was the overwhelming fear that I had forgotten how to do my job. As a facilitator I teach leadership and management skills. I speak to adults about adult things, like emotional intelligence, communication and team performance. For the last 48 weeks my primary focus has been keeping a small human alive, just stringing words together so they make sense and learning the words to the entirety of the Wiggles back catalogue. Needless to say the two don’t really align.
As my return date got closer my nerves were in overdrive and my concern about my ability to rejoin the workforce was at an all time high. But at no point did I think I wouldn’t go back.
There are a few reasons why I was always going to return to work.
Obviously there was a money factor. While my salary might not be huge and childcare costs big bucks, financially we are definitely better off with me working four days a week than not.
The other and more important reason is that I am actually ready to go back to work for myself, to engage with people on a professional level and, to be honest, reclaim a little bit of pre baby Amy.
Being a Mum is great and I love the time I spend with my baby boy (most of the time) but I do miss parts of my pre baby life. I miss the discussion about the merits of different leadership theories when I facilitate a program. I love researching new ideas and seeing how they can work for my organisation and I love being part of a team of like minded individuals working together each day to make the magic happen.
I’ve always believed that work should mean something more than just something that pays the bills and believe me when I say I know that I’m lucky to be in a position where that is the case. My job is such a big part of who I am that I can’t imagine giving it up indefinitely.
I think it’s important to reinforce here that this is not a slight or judgement on anyone who decides to stay at home with their kids. I’ve only done it for 10 months and I know that it is not all “lattes with the ladies”. Looking after children is a full time job and in someways I feel I have taken the easy option letting childcare take care of my boy while I go and have an uninterrupted coffee in the office or eat my lunch with two hands while not being covered in baby food or vomit.
I have felt that going back to work also makes me a better Mum to Hugh. For 8 hours a day on a Wednesday I put away “Mum Amy” for a little while and indulge in my old ways. The first time I sat down at my swingy chair at my desk with my pens and my coffee my insides did a little happy dance. My brain powered up and tapped into a part it hadn’t used for a while and I felt brilliant! Then at 3.30pm I go and get my baby and I am so excited to see him! I want to cuddle and snuggle. I have oodles of tolerance for little whinges and needy moments of “Mumma pick me up” and “Mumma I just want to rip your hair out”. I just want to spend the afternoon bonding with Hugh and I feel that sometimes I have more quality time with him on a Wednesday afternoon than I do the days where I have him all day, when life generally gets in the way.
The Mum guilt is a thing. While I don’t suffer too badly from it one day a week I feel when I go to four it will hit me a lot harder. Having said that I still think the pluses I get from working will outweigh the nagging voice in my head that says I’m not being a good Mum to Hugh.
And if the nagging voice continues I’ll shut her up with a strong two handed coffee and a good old turn in my office swingy chair!