"To all the mums going back to work this week..."


It’s all about a mug of hot tea.

“It will be so nice to drink a cup of tea all the way to the bottom,” you say. “I haven’t had more than three hot sips in a year.”

You hate cold tea.

It might be nice, too, to be walking down the street without being tethered to a pram. Literally. That looped strap around your wrist. Always looking for the curve of the curb to cross the road. Waiting for lifts. Avoiding the stairs.

Imagine that, the freedom to walk where you want.

And then there are the clothes. If you are very careful, and pull them on only at the very last moment before you leave the house in the morning, you might get to wear something that hasn’t been splattered in drool, and milk and vomit and worse. Something maybe (whisper it) that’s not stretch-fit Lycra, denim or trackies. Shoes, not trainers, heels not uggs.

You’re going back to work after you’ve had a baby. Heading back into the wild after a months in captivity. It’s been a glorious, muddled-up, foggy, stressful, delicious, anxious, dreamy time. You have learned things you never knew you had to.

Like how to make a cup of tea one-handed. How to differentiate between an ‘I’m hungry’ cry, an ‘I’m tired’ cry and a ‘Just come and fricking pick me up right away’ cry. How to scrape dried pumpkin off the wall. How to make small talk with people with whom all you have in common is an arbitary two-week period when you all expelled a human from your bodies.

How to be shamed for however it was you did that. How to survive on no more than two-hours sleep at a time. How to love someone who does nothing but take from you. How it feels to truly care more about someone else than yourself. How to be a parent.

And now, you have to relearn what it was your did before you learned all that.


LISTEN: This Glorious Mess help listener Chris with her back-to-work situation (post continues after audio…)

So there’s hot tea, and walking in the world by yourself, nice clothes and maybe even a sneaky lunchtime shop. But there’s also the stuff that no-one told you about.

These first days, weeks and months, you’re going to feel some things. Just when you got used to all the new feelings that parenthood pulled up alongside itself, you now need to make peace with some other emotions.


What if that person who they hired to do your job while you were away was better than you? What if they’re all secretly wishing you weren’t coming back at all?


You have no idea what you’re doing. How did you ever understand all this shit they’re talking about in these interminable meetings? Why does the boss keep looking at you and rolling her eyes? You could have sworn that she looked at you and rolled her eyes. She’s thinking, ‘Mum brain!’.


You are clinging onto coffee like it’s a rubber ring in a wave pool. Your bones feel tired and you genuinely don’t know if you can stay awake til pick-up. Why didn’t you get that baby sleep-trained before you came back? What would happen if you closed your eyes, just… for a moment…


You can’t remember if you told Annie at daycare that Emme likes to have her feet rubbed when she goes down for a nap, that she definitely has to have Sophie the Giraffe with her, and that she needs an extra firm cuddle for a few extra minutes when she wakes up because she likes to ease back into reality… What if Annie at daycare is really a monstrous abuser? What if that kid with the blonde angel curls starts bullying Emme? Babies can bully too, right? What if he bites her?


You have to leave. You have to leave. You left your beautiful girl with some almost-strangers to be here all day but now you have to leave to go get her and your miss her so much your heart is hurting but no-one else is getting up from their desks and you feel so conspicuous picking up your bag and pulling on your coat. It’s not quite 5. You have to leave. 



How can the traffic be so monumentally appalling between work and daycare? How can there be all these f*cking cars between you and your baby girl right now? You’ve made it to the end of the day and all you want to do is see her and hold her and smell her and touch her hair…. and daycare charges $20 for every extra five minutes and let’s face it, it’s not like you’re really earning enough to really justify daycare fees anyway and….

It’s alright. The first couple of months are the hardest. You are experiencing the second biggest seismic shift of your life. The first was learning to be a parent. The second is learning how to do something else and be a parent. How are all of these women just walking around doing all this? How can it be?

Don’t worry. Soon you will be one of them. Stumbling out of the house with all the bags, crying at drop-off because Emme screamed the place down when she left your arms, spilling that too-expensive coffee down your top and swearing. Pulling on a jacket and walking into the office and smiling because you’ve totally got this.

No-one’s got this. We’re all just faking it. But the first month back is the hardest.

You’ve totally got this.

Get the latest episode of This Glorious Mess in your ears below…

  • This post is for Chris, who wrote to This Glorious Mess telling us about her rough first week back. We hope it’s getting easier, Chris. You’ve totally got this. 

You can buy Holly Wainwright’s first novel, The Mummy Bloggers, here

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And you can tell us all about your first week back at work, below, here.