There are so many women out there that have chosen and are choosing to return to work after having their baby so when it came to my turn I thought ‘no problem!’, however, it wasn’t without its hiccups (the process not the baby). This is my experience. Before taking the trip down motherhood lane I was a hardworking and career driven PA and Office Manager. Nothing happened in the office unless I was on the front line and I would take on any task no matter what it asked of me (working late, early and weekends). You could almost say – I was addicted to my work.
When my partner and I decided to try for a baby we didn’t expect it to happen so quickly – we were blessed in that regard but I felt ready. When it came to the talk of my maternity leave I told them “six months max” as I couldn’t imagine being out of work for any longer than that. I worked right up until two weeks before my due date and only because the doctors put me on bed rest. Despite my extremely detailed handover notes, files and spreadsheets that I had worked tirelessly on, I still felt like I was needed at work. Lying on my couch at 38 weeks pregnant and I was still on emails and in work mode. Perhaps I used it to disguise my fear of the birth but I had the worst anxiety when it came to leaving work. Finally, it all got too much and the doctors decided to induce me 3 days before my due date. Laptop off…its baby time!!
Almost three days of trauma later and I had my baby boy. My world stopped as I was handed my 6lb 2oz angel and nothing else mattered more than this baby. Due to various complications we were 10 days in hospital before going home. For those of you that have had babies you will know what I mean when I say the first couple months are a blur. My nights were days, days were nights, times were I couldn’t tell you if I had even brushed my teeth. Spent two weeks eating and sleeping in the living room with the Moses basket next to me as I thought, well if I’m up every three hours breastfeeding for at least an hour at a time, might as well watch Game of Thrones.
My work brain had finally switched off and my new baby was the focus of all my attention. No longer was I constantly pondering about the papers for the next Board meeting or the new roll out of all the IT kit that I had just implemented before going on leave. I was now immersed in motherhood and it was one of the hardest challenges of my life. My baby suffered from a severe case of acid reflux for the first five months so it was a stressful and concerning time.
At the four month stage panic struck me! Although my boys reflux was getting better with the medication he still vomited frequently and struggled at night when lying down to sleep, and I thought “no way can I leave him and go to work when he is like this!” I made a call to the office with a decision to extend my MAT leave for another month which they happily agreed to. Thank god, I can have more time with my baby. And then a sudden thought dropped. What if even after that and my boy is still sick? What if I can’t return to work for some time? I knew that this must be such a common thing and that lots of women take a year, even more when they have a child. But I knew that these times that we are in are so fast paced and ever changing that if I took that much time out, chances are I would struggle to get back into work at the level I came out at. And then this sobering thought ran through my mind:
Who would you hire? – the fresh out of Uni, in their early 20s with no major home commitments that’s totally up to speed with all Microsoft packages, apps etc…or the slightly older person that’s a bit behind on all the cutting edge tech after being out of work for years, on any given day has to be off with a sick child, might be running on 3hrs of sleep a night and 50% of the time turn up to work with some kind of bodily fluid stain on their shirt.
I know who I would choose!
Luckily for me my baby got better at five months. We were wrapping up on the breast feeding, he was sleeping better and we had nailed a good routine. I thought now is the time I better get my brain back into gear as I only had eight weeks before my scheduled return to work. I started going in for meetings and getting up to speed with emails etc. again. Now this was no easy task- after almost six months of nothing but baby chat, nursery rhymes and sleep deprivation I struggled to spell my own bloody name! I had tremendous support from everyone at work and they took it easy on me (l work alongside some amazing people). They reduced my fears and assured me that I was well missed and an irreplaceable member of the team. I started to feel like the old me again. The old me but a better version as I now had my boy and despite it only being six months, I had learnt so much about myself that I had never had the chance to explore before, because my focus was always on work and being the best PA that I could. So I was going back stronger than ever. Having always been career driven I now had someone to do it for and I no longer was only working for me but now for him and I want him to be proud of his mama.
But this feeling didn’t last long.
With my return to work date getting even closer we had enrolled in nursery sorted all the new work gear and baby clothes etc. and with his reflux almost completely cured after being on solids I was feeling like a champ. That was until I started to share my news with other mums in various baby groups. I received such comments as “oh you’re brave going back to work, I could never LEAVE my little one” or “are you not worried about missing all his milestones while at work?” How about “what if he starts calling someone at the nursery mum?!” Or my absolute favourite “you’re a PA? So you’re leaving your baby to go look after other people?” As you can imagine around 100 swear words came streaming into my brain but I had the poise to block them coming out my mouth. The comments were one thing but the looks and expression on the faces really cut deep.
Why oh why would you want a woman to feel bad for returning to work after having a baby? I would never dream of judging someone for wanting to be a stay at home mum. All I am trying to do is make a living and provide a good life for myself and my son. Just when I thought I had battled everything I could (including post-natal depression) I now had people that didn’t know me judging me. I had to really dig deep, stick to my guns and believe in myself that I can return to work AND be a good mum. Working mums should never be made to feel guilty or like they are any less of a mother for having a career. Up until I became a mum I worked really hard to get to where I am now and I love my job and very proud to be a PA.
I have now been back at work three days a week for five months, my little boy is now one and loving nursery and I am happy to report he calls me mummy and is very happy and healthy – he took his first steps at the weekend! I am also back working with the Edinburgh PA group, meeting and networking with others PAs and public speaking at *Office in May.