It’s the age-old question that plagues parents and caretakers all over the world: when will you wrap up your parental leave and return to work? On any given day, I probably change my mind at least 20 times.
“Forget having a career. I want to be a stay-at-home mum forever! It’s so rewarding looking after my baby and watching her grow!”
Fast forward to five projectile vomits later (from her, not me) and I’m suddenly fantasising about donning fancy, spew-free outfits to the office and having adult conversations that don’t revolve around the plot points of Frozen.
With my first daughter Edie, I returned to work on a part-time basis when she was nine months old. While I absolutely loved using my brain for reasons other than working out awake time windows and nap maths, during those first few weeks, it felt like I was walking around without a limb. I can vividly remember sneaking off to a secluded toilet on another level and quietly sobbing because the pangs of missing her were so intense.
But here’s the thing I didn’t expect to happen… while I was bunkered up in my clandestine cry loo, my little girl started to thrive at daycare. Her speech and development skyrocketed, she made so many special friends who she’s grown up with and are still in her class to this day, and she cultivated her own identity and independence away from her family unit.
I couldn’t have been more proud of her. Knowing this meant I could stop beating myself up about going back to work and hit the ground running with my job. It also meant that our two days off together during the week were extra special. Knowing how precious our time was, I’d make a conscious effort to turn off my Slack notifications, mute my email and be fully present with Edie.
So you would think I’d be fine going through the same process all over again two and a half years later with my second daughter. Even I naively thought I had it in the bag!
“I’m not getting the same pangs in my tummy this time around,” I told my partner as we walked through the doors of Tilly’s daycare to introduce her to her educators the week before she started.
But of course when that first drop-off rolled around, I was an absolute mess. Despite having done it all before, everything I knew went out the window and suddenly I was the World’s Worst Mum leaving behind my teeny tiny seven-month-old with complete strangers (who I have no doubt will soon become like family. Early childhood educators are living angels). I ugly-cried into Tilly’s sweet-smelling shoulder and told her that we would both do each other proud and nail our first days at daycare and work. We were a team and mummy would always come back to get her.
Logically I knew that she would thrive just like her big sister did but still, I couldn’t control the floods of tears. I think it was all compounded by the fact that I was starting a brand-new job (hello there, lovely Kiindred team!) and I was going to need to tap into some serious razor-sharp focus as I learnt the ropes.
I wiped away my tears and put on my pump-up positive vibes playlist and walked into my new office. Not only was I the awkward new girl, I was also the fragile mum fresh outta mat leave missing her babies. But I can be all of those things and still be more than capable of sinking my teeth into a new role. My job gives me a sense of purpose and pride away from being a mum, and it’s something I want to model to my girls as they grow up and see mummy proudly going off to work.
Thankfully, I couldn’t have asked for a more welcoming and understanding team. As creators and employees of a parenting platform, they can completely relate to the struggle.
While it’s still early days, in fact I’m writing this on my second day of work, Tilly looks so happy in all of the photos that are uploaded on the daycare app and I’m slowly getting back my mojo in the workplace, one spew-free outfit at a time.
Like I told her, we’re a team and we’re in this together!
My back-to-work survival kit:
- Calming anti-anxiety spray Rescue Remedy
- Favourite working mum life podcast at the ready – We Don’t Have Time For This
- Sister on speed dial for emergency pep talks
- Incredibly supportive partner who holds down the fort on my work days
- Masses and masses of baby cuddles and kisses when I walk through the door at the end of the day