Maternity leave has a tendency to fly by, a whirr of nappies, lunch dates and baby singing classes and before you know it your time is up and you are back to work. The transition from having your entire day revolving around your baby to having your entire day revolving around your bosses demands is huge. Many of us start experiencing “the fear” around six months into our maternity leave (some sooner) whilst others of us are secretly quite excited about having hot drinks again (rather than stone cold tea / coffee), getting “dressed up” for work and having adult conversations which don't centre on food, poo and sleep.
I was returning to a job that I love but still felt somewhat apprehensive about the whole thing. It many ways going back after maternity leave you feel like nothing has changed, perhaps in a lot of workplaces it doesn't, however you have changed. Going back to work can make you question your identity as you might have moved to a work part time or maybe you feel that you can't put the hours in that you used to and you worry people might be judging you.
When I returned to work from maternity leave I felt a tremendous knock to confidence, not because anything had happened but more because I hadn't been there for a year and I was worried about what other people were thinking of me. I said “yes” to everything to show that I was still keen and committed which proved to be an idiotic response as clearly some of the things I agreed to where not even logistically possible with my other role as a parent. (being at work by 7.30am when I had to drop off my child at a nursery which opened at 7.30am was one of these…). It was as if I was self sabotaging myself as I didn't feel that I could do my job so well as I had a baby now. On reflection this was ridiculous.
I only started to regain my confidence when I was struck down with a horrendous bug (thank you to my daughter and the mega germs that breed in nurseries) and couldn't go to work (I was also pregnant so couldn't take anything to make it better). It was when I was laid up in bed feeling very sorry for myself and the fact that my department didn't just stop working that I started to realise that I was doing okay. I had been zealously trying to prove to everyone that I was still capable and hard working and in fact had only been showing that I wasn't. That day I decided to start focusing on what I was doing well and building my confidence through developing what I was good at. I can honestly say that this made a huge difference and I was happier at work and at home.
My advice to all you mummies returning after maternity leave is to not think about how others view you but be honest with yourself and what you can achieve. Say “no” to things that you can't do and think about how your job is going to impact on other areas of your life. It is a time of uncertainty and change, some of you may be really happy on return to work whilst others may think of changing direction and the possibility of a new career or starting your own business.