When I packed up my bags in November last year and exited my office to head into maternity leave, I knew the next time I walked through the doors would be different. I would have changed; I would be a mother. I would be in charge of a real-life human being. It was almost impossible to picture what that would be like.
As an obsessive planner, I would spend my commutes mentally preparing for a future I knew nothing about. How would I feel about returning to work? Would I want to? How many days would I come back? How many months should I have off? Would I still be good at my job?
Lots of incredible mothers around me would share their advice, and their experiences of returning from maternity leave. I felt as prepared as I possibly could be.
What I didn’t prepare for was a global pandemic that would fundamentally change every single thing about the way we work.
Watch: Be a good mum. Post continues below.
There have been some real challenges being on maternity leave during COVID: reduced incomes, further isolation from friends and family, attending hospital appointments alone, missing out on mothers' group.
For many of us, it is not the maternity leave we had envisioned.
For me, I walked out of my job nine months ago and came back to a completely different environment; to an office that's near-empty, to teams that have experienced huge hardship together, to a place where video meetings are effective and efficient rather than used as a last resort.
I watched from afar as the virus spread and workplaces adapted and changed to adhere to the Government advice.
So as I was mentally preparing to come back to work, a little earlier than originally planned (thanks to my husband’s industry being severely impacted by the pandemic) all I could think about was the scene in The Walking Dead when Rick wakes up from a coma and realises there has been an apocalypse while he was asleep...
While I wasn’t sure what to expect on my return, here are some of the positives I've noticed.
1. You're guaranteed a seat on public transport.
Because it’s virtually empty. It was definitely a pregnancy perk that I enjoyed - it made the start of my day that little bit more relaxing. The closest train station to me is extremely busy, so I used to spend my morning commute crowd surfing (literally).
Forget personal space; I have been so close to people I can smell what they had for breakfast. I definitely won’t miss those days.
2. No one is ‘watching the clock.'
While I’m hearing from people this can be a challenge, as it means many are struggling to find the line between the beginning and end of the work day, it also means people are attending gym classes on time, they’re cooking and eating together as families, and there is no mad morning rush out the door. A whole lot of people are experiencing balance as they never have before.