It’s currently a long bank holiday weekend, so I am enjoying rolling around on the floor with my baby, (who crawls in for a cuddle then bites me on the nose and giggles). It’s so nice to be off work to spend time with her, so I’m reflecting on what my first two weeks back after maternity leave have been like.
Getting ready in a morning is certainly more challenging. On maternity leave I’ve had a few hours to get ready to leave the house, and I could usually shower while she napped. Now I have to get washed, dressed and brush my teeth whilst keeping her entertained at the same time. It really takes multi-tasking to a whole new level. Twice at work I’ve noticed my cardigan was on inside out, so that shows how good I am at it.
Once ready we can have a bit of a play, but I’m also mindful if there’s any sick or mess one or both of us has to get changed again, so I’m on edge. Actually I could probably live with a bit of mess on me, but I’d be embarrassed taking her to creche in unclean clothes.
When the time comes to leave and I think we are ready I then have to put her jacket and socks on. Wrestling one sock on while she crawls away and pulls the other off is a challenge. But I’m also conscious that I don’t want my brief interactions with her to be of me being impatient, so I have to make a game of it, and just cross my fingers I won’t be late.
Luckily when I drop her to crèche she goes to the carer with a smile. It would be heartbreaking to leave if she was crying. Sometimes she gives me a lingering look of reproach, and I feel terrible, but in the rush to get to the train station I don’t have time to dwell on it and think about if it is real or just my imagination.
In work I’m back at my old desk, and I brought in a photo of my baby to keep me company, and it really helps if I’m missing her to look at her smile, and remind myself that being apart allows me to earn money to give her a good life.
On my first day I was greeted by 2,225 emails, but luckily someone had been covering my role so I could delete most of them. Once that was done, in many ways it felt like I’d never been away. I found myself dealing with the same queries as 9 months previously as if it was yesterday. I find that quite relaxing, because I can process things without too much deliberation, and in that way work is easier than looking after a baby all day when your attention is constantly required. Well not easier exactly, but different.
It was great that someone had been covering for me, and they had done a great job, so I wasn’t coming back to a mess, but in a way that was a bit disheartening. It reminded me how disposable staff are in large companies, which makes me question the value I add. However, in the first week I did get a small boost when I managed to solve something that had been stumping people for a few months, so that felt good.
As much as everything is familiar at work, some things have changed and I find myself unable to find files, or not knowing who the person everyone is talking about is. That kind of knocks my confidence. I was in my department since its inception, and have outlasted many colleagues, so I am used to knowing ever process in and out. Now I find myself hesitant to give my opinion in case something has changed, but I just have to be patient and that will come back with time.
Before I went back everyone was telling me how much I would enjoy the leisurely lunches and undisturbed cups of tea. I must admit I was a bit disappointed I ‘m not enjoying them more. I’m so conscious of getting out on time to get home as early as possible, that I’m still stuffing my face in record time. I’d also forgotten how expensive some of the eateries around work are, so by the second week I’m back on sad sandwiches.
The worst part of the day for me is the commute home. During the day I’ve been occupied, but on the train I’m thinking about getting home to my baby and I’m impatient to get there. I have tried reading and writing my blog, but I find it hard to concentrate, and get so annoyed by the slightest train delays.
For the first few days when I got home my baby was giving me the cold shoulder a bit. She would avoid eye contact, which was really upsetting. Luckily that seems to have worn off now, and the last few days I got a huge smile. It’s also really nice walking in and seeing her enjoying good time with her daddy.
I wish the evenings could last longer so I could spend more time with her. We usually get a bit of a play and a bedtime story, but at the same time we are trying to cook dinner and get showered. Then in just under an hour she is rubbing her eyes and ready for bed.
When I agreed my return date at work I also requested one days unpaid parental leave a week, so at least I am only in work four days for the next 6 months. On my first day off, I had a bit of wobble in self-doubt. I’ve spent 8 months growing in confidence as a parent each month, but because I’d been away from her most of the week I was feeling a dip in self-assurance. After a morning swimming she was tired and not napping well and started crying, and I found myself wondering if she would be better off with the childcare professionals five days a week. But then mid-cry I tickled her with my hair, and she stopped and started giggling. As she looked into my eyes, I wouldn’t have wanted to be anywhere else.
Overall I’ve found the transition back to work has gone well, and hasn’t been too stressful. It feels good to be back in the office, and using my brain in a different way. It’s also relaxing for me not to be constantly with her, and knowing she is in safe hands, so I don’t have to be on constant alert to her needs. It means when I am back with her I can appreciate the time we have, and give her more attention.
I just wish the work life balance could be shifted a bit. Work isn’t enough of a vocation that I love it, so I do it for the money and the advantages that brings. There’s a lot worse things I could be doing and generally it is a good company with nice colleagues. Still it’s hard not to resent that work and the commute leaves me such a short window with her in the evening.
Companies talk a lot about work life balance, but the use of technology to support that is still surprisingly unused. For now I’ll just have to make the most of my days off, and enjoy this bank holiday weekend with her.