As many of you who follow me will know, I started back to work after maternity leave 3 weeks ago. I cannot believe it has already been that long, as I feel like I only walked (well…waddled) out on my last day before I started my blissful mat leave. All good things come to an end I suppose.
Before I get into this, I don’t want any mother that is due back to work to get ‘put off’ and upset by some of the things I will discuss in this blog post . Majority of the negative points I will discuss are purely from the line of work I am in (Midwife). Even at that, it is not necessarily my job that is my struggle, it is my coping mechanisms that are my Everest at the moment.
Expectation -v- Reality
Firstly, I want to highlight that I built up the first day back to be far worse than what it actually was. Fair enough I cried for the majority of the 13 hours I was there; but to be fair to my colleagues, everybody was very understanding of how difficult the first day back can be. Working in a female dominated environment can certainly owe to this, as many of my colleagues have children themselves and remembered how difficult it was for them coming back; so although there was lots of snots and tears…..I also had lots of hugs and words of reassurance that I wasn’t being a lunatic!
Not only did I return to work, I returned to working on a brand new ward, so it was highly stressful; everything is new! Yes I was slow, yes I forgot things, yes I made mistakes ……but yes I am human, so it is important not to forget that. Anyone who hasn’t been in the workplace for seven months will experience somewhat embarrassing mishaps when you return; and you will be paranoid that your colleagues will think that you are as useful as a chocolate teapot, but cut yourself some slack. ‘Rome wasn’t built in a day’, and it is important to stress to people that although it may be annoying for them…. you will be asking a whole lot of questions!!
The night before I didn’t sleep a wink and I spent waaaaay too long fretting over having enough milk pumped for Ellie. I got myself in an absolute mess trying to organize myself as well. Although I had all the time in the world in the lead up to prepare, I was in a state of denial; I left it all until the night beforehand to get my bag, Ellie’s changing bag, her toys, her clothes, my uniform, prep meals, find my work ID and all the other stupid small bits that I should of had in place. I am usually an organised person, but I just couldn’t bring myself to get it all in place. Long story short, don’t do what I did!! Have it thought out and do a little bit each day in the run up to your return to make the night before as stress free as possible.
The hardest part……
Without getting into too much detail as I obviously have to honour confidentiality with my job; the biggest struggle three weeks in to my return has actually got very little to do with leaving Ellie. I obviously miss her like crazy, but I am coping well with that (and I will discuss what has made it easier in a while).
Before I left for maternity leave I was lucky enough to work on a ward that deals with the best outcome of pregnancy and birth; and that is healthy women and babies. I loved working on postnatal and I would actually kill to be back working there having gone through the whole process myself now.
However, it is also important to rotate and develop new skills and I am working with the ‘not so good’ outcomes now. This by far has been the biggest struggle for me returning. Before I became a mother, I obviously had empathy and compassion for women and their families, but I was also able to ‘park’ my emotions and not let them affect me outside of work. Midwifery is a highly emotive career, and I am now finding it extremely difficult to supress my emotions. I think that becoming a mother makes you a lot softer. My biggest problem at the moment is constantly thinking back to this time last year being pregnant; and comparing myself and my experience of pregnancy with the women I am caring for now. It is very difficult not to do this, as Ellie is only 7 months old, so everything I went through is still fairly fresh for me.
I am often finding myself feeling guilty that I was so lucky to carry Ellie to term, and have such a healthy and happy baby girl. I am constantly ‘down playing’ any difficulty that I am experiencing with her now; as all I am consumed with are thoughts of ‘someone else would kill to be in my position’, which is true; but it’s also not healthy for me to sweep my own personal difficulties and feelings under the carpet.
Perspective is a great thing; but if you are constantly supressing emotions you should recognise, and over expressing emotions that you should have control over for your professional capacity…..it can get quite burdensome. I don’t even know if any of that makes sense, but basically I am putting too much emotion into my work life and totally ignoring my home life emotions. It is not good for the mind!
I am hoping that I will build up a tolerance to what I am dealing with, but at the moment, I feel like I am sinking a little bit. The balance of being empathetic and professional will take experience and time. The work is the work; I cannot change that; but I can change my coping mechanisms.
The Silver Lining…..
So although the above is a little heavy and negative, I want to finish on a positive note. If you are worried about leaving your little minions for the first time by going back to work……I can clear one huge worry up that I had hanging over me; THEY DON’T MISS YOU! I was so upset at the thoughts of Ellie crying all day wanting me, but truth be told, she is happy out with her minder, playing and having new faces fuss over her. We are blessed that her minder is family and that she also has children of her own so Ellie is still getting to interact with other kids.
I most definitely would have struggled way more than I have if I wasn’t 100% happy with my childcare. My advice would be that if you feel any doubts or feel a little lukewarm about your childcare…..keep searching until you are 100% happy. The biggest burden I could drag into work would be worrying about who my baby is with. I literally don’t have to worry for a minute during my working day as I know she is in great hands, and I love getting little picture and video updates of what she is getting up to throughout the day. All those little ‘Mammy’ touches mean so much when you’re not with your child for nearly 15 hours of the day.
Other little positives that I have to keep reminding myself about being back to work are obviously things like earning money (cause yanno…..mortgages don’t pay themselves!), having independence and not losing out on a role I worked so hard for. It is also nice to talk to adults, eat in peace and drink a cup of tea while it is still hot……and no matter how sh*t the day can be…..NOTHING beats coming home to that gummy smile and outstretched arms!
To conclude, yes it is difficult, and returning to work can bring new struggles to the surface that never phased you before; but once you recognise specific issues/problems, they will be easier to tease out (in time of course!).
Another great post to highlight before I wrap up (with loads of fab practical advise!) is by Claire Flannery from strengthwithin.ie , see the linked post:
Have a great weekend!