The Double Edged Sword of Returning to Work

The Double Edged Sword of Returning to Work

This really is a double edged sword for me. I feel like I’m being pulled in two directions.

Just before I realised I was pregnant my role at work changed, I’d been in the same job for nearly five years and there was an opportunity to broaden my skills and I jumped at it. It was at this point that I started to really enjoy my working life. So, when it came to starting my maternity leave I was a little reluctant to leave, I was just getting started.

In my head, I was always going to go back to work, primarily from a financial perspective but even more so now, for me. Yes for ME. One thing you learn very quickly upon becoming a mother is your role is selfless, most things will get prioritised before you do. All of sudden things that were once chores become a moment of pleasure (going for a run is much more fun than it used to be!)

I consider myself quite lucky, I work for a company that are flexible and were open to discussion on my return. I did this pretty early on because the control freak inside me needed to know I had my arrangements set in place. We were able to come to a decision on my hours pretty quickly and more recently I’ve been put forward for a new role and I’m being given a huge opportunity to broaden my horizons, shape my career and complete a post graduate diploma too. This is a huge motivator for me to be back at work and getting my teeth stuck into something new.

So back to the double edged sword bit… I’ve enjoyed every second of maternity leave, of course I’d love it to go on longer. I will cherish every memory I’ve made with Molly so far. She brings me joy that I didn’t realise was possible until she arrived. I’m now facing my return to work in less than a month and It’s dawning on me that this precious time is coming to an end and we’re all about to face a significant change in our routine and home life.

I feel uncomfortable with the fact that I’ll be paying a significant proportion of my salary on childcare, I’m uncomfortable to be leaving my baby with someone else for nearly 10 hours a day. I find the judgement of others pushes my guilt to new levels, and why should I have to explain myself or constantly justify my choices in my head when I’m wide awake at four in the morning?!

Here are some of the comments I’ve heard along the way:

“So you’re going back then?”

“Ohhhhhh, you’re doing four days”

“I’m not putting my baby in nursery until he’s at least a year”

“Can’t you just quit and stay at home?”

“We don’t need to pay for childcare, we’ve got family doing it”

“If you work part time, then you’re a part time parent”

It’s amazing how all of the above spark emotion with me, the expectation that I might throw my career away bothers me. The shock that I’m pushing myself and doing four days, yes this will be hard, but I’m willing to try it. (Some women go back five days!) Will Molly be too young to be at nursery for all those hours each day? Well, this will be her normal, she’s going to have an amazing time and become my confident, social butterfly. I don’t want to quit my job, and of course I’d love to be at home with my new best friend. But I also worry I’d be bored and I probably wouldn’t be as sociable and get involved in the kinds of things Molly will enjoy every day at nursery.

Yes childcare is expensive and it’s the equivalent to a second mortgage but if you are going down that route, you will naturally want the best you can get. If you’re fortunate enough to have family close by and can save some childcare costs, then fantastic. I think what I’m trying to say here is; there is no right or wrong solution when it comes to how you manage going back to work, it’s your choice for your child. Just because I choose to work doesn’t make me a part time mum, if Molly needs me, I’ll be there, and I’m working to invest in our future as a family. I expect to see Molly thrive at nursery and once we get over those first few weeks of change in routine it’ll hopefully be the best thing I ever did for all of us.

Motherhood seems to be a rollercoaster of comparisons, guilt, and a huge amount of pressure online to be following the trends, attending every mother and baby group, exposing your baby to all of life’s wonders in the shortest time possible.

Recently I was talking to a friend who has held down a fantastic job whilst she built her family. I said that I had felt guilty about wanting both the ideal home life and a great career. She quickly stopped me in my tracks and said; “Claire, I wanted it all and I’ve got it all” you can have your family, provide for them and still build a career. I always thought maybe I had my priorities laid out wrong because I was too hung up on the perceptions of others but actually she reminded me that it’s my choice, it’s my family and it’s my career and you can have it all if that’s what you want.

A Guest Blog from Claire Harrington

About Claire

Claire is married to Matt and they live with Molly in the Gloucestershire countryside. Claire works for a leading firm of Consulting Engineers in North Bristol. When she’s not hanging out with Molly, she enjoys running, reading and red wine. You can find Claire on Twitter.

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