Returning to Work: My experience

I haven’t written about returning to work on NHM yet because it was a very painful experience for me. I think it was probably the hardest decision I’ve ever had to make. However, three years on, I think I’ve come to terms with it all.

One of the ladies mentioned in the recent NHM Feedback Survey that: ” Would love more tips on balancing going back to work with having young babies, feeding everyone & running a house whilst being the breadwinner & having a lot if work pressure & a blackberry to deal with…!!!”

All I can say is, I feel your pain.

I returned to work when Miss NHM was 5.5 months old. It nearly broke me. I’d planned to return to work when she was 7 months old. However I had to return to work much earlier, partly because we needed the money (I’m the main earner in our family) and also because at the time, if you didn’t return after 6 months, your company didn’t have to give you back the job you left before you went on maternity leave. I spent 15 years getting to a fairly senior position and I didn’t trust that the place that I worked would give me back my previous role.

I also ended up going back earlier than originally planned because I had to start my maternity leave early due to my SPD. I was also drafted for Jury Service when Miss NHM was 8 months old. I had already deferred it once as they wanted me to attend Jury Service when I was 8 months pregnant. Given it was January (snowy season) and I couldn’t get off the sofa without crutches at the time and couldn’t drive, I managed to defer.

However, this was a bit of a logistical nightmare. I was apparently the first person to express as a Juror in over 7 years! lol. It was pretty cool though, as I got out of a huge murder case because I needed to express at lunchtime. Oh and a Jury had to be thrown out of a room because they didn’t have anywhere else that was private enough for me to express! lol. I digress.

The week before I returned to work, I bargained with my husband and cried many bucket loads of tears as I did NOT want to go back to work. Not when my baby was so tiny. I didn’t want her to be looked after by a stranger, three days a week (I was very lucky to return to work 3 days a week for the first three months). I was still breastfeeding and continued to do so for the following three months at work. The first time she came home smelling of someone else was horrific.

The first day back to work wasn’t too bad. The second day was absolutely horrendous. At lunchtime I sat in a cupboard on the floor (because the chair they had arranged for me was actually a rotating stool) using a double breast pump in the only top that I could fit into that was still smart enough for work, sobbing my heart out. Yup, it was horrendous.

Then there was the whole Breastmilk tampering scenario and work accusing me of having post natal depression because I went ballistic when I realised someone had tampered with my breastmilk. Luckily my health visitor at the time totally had my back and told me to tell Occupational Health at work that they didn’t know what they were talking about. Not sure that helped though! lol.

It did get easier though. I stopped crying on the drive to work. I’m pretty sure that having to get up very early to feed Miss NHM and then having Miss NHM cluster feed in the evening didn’t help. Oh and the lack of sleep because she was teething. We got through it though.

I think that’s possibly why I’m a complete nazi at home when it comes to organisation. You have to be. I juggle many, many things. I spent the first 8 months after maternity leave working in the office, doing a job that was absolutely rubbish and not what I had originally signed up for. I spent the whole time wishing I was at home with my baby. I am very, very grateful that it wasn’t full time.

I started using a lot of technology to organise my time. Evernote, Mealboard, Trello, Remember the Milk and the list goes on. I vividly remember the first six months at work my “home” to do list had over 70 “must do” items on every day. It never seemed to end.

My slow cooker came into it’s own as I’ve talked about many times on NHM. I was regimented in everything we did. Once I started to rely on technology, RTM and Evernote came in so handy because I stopped having to try to remember it all. I think that’s half the battle.

I think my one piece of advice for a Mum who is trying to “do it all” is, make sure you take some time out for yourself. Even if it’s just a minute, to take a very deep breath. No one told me that and I went on and on and on and nearly had a breakdown.

Thankfully I had the motivation to find a better job and I managed to secure a new job, which I’m still doing now and which I absolutely love. It helps that I work from home most of the time too, so I don’t have wasted time in a commute.

Working with children is bloody hard. But then, if I spent all day at home with Miss NHM, I would have lost my identity and probably completely lost the plot in a different way. So not working with children is also bloody hard too! lol.

Now I have some perspective and can look back, I’m glad I returned to work when I did. Miss NHM loves nursery and she has never had a problem with clingyness at nursery as it’s always been part of her routine. It was hard though. The hardest thing I’ve ever done, as I said, other than breastfeeding.

Whatever you end up doing it’s going to be wrong for some reasons and right for others. Trying to get over the guilt is half the battle. Trying to get organised is the other half ;-).

Look out for tomorrow’s post which is a list of my suggested strategies for making your return to work that bit easier.

If you are returning to work soon or have returned to work after Maternity Leave, what advice would YOU offer others?

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