Maternity leave felt like an eternity away when I first applied for it, but once we had Nia (my eldest daughter) and got into a good rhythm with her, time just flew. The next thing I knew, my first day back in the office was one sleep away.
I can still remember I couldn’t sleep the night before – I was so excited to feel like my ‘old self’ again. Equally, I was feeling extremely guilty that I was choosing to have a career over ‘looking after’ my child. Returning to work was definitely not what I expected, because we're not really told what to expect.
Here's what I wish I'd been told.
1. Childcare - the big emotions
My husband and I pretty much cried for the first two weeks after drop off. Nia’s scared little face and the crying as we turned our backs to her and headed towards the door to leave still gives me chills. It was horrendous. I remember sitting in my car looking at photos of her, and crying like I’ve never cried before. Crying for the loss of my ‘baby’ who had now somewhat spread her wings, but also crying from the guilt of leaving her with strangers who have no idea how she likes to be held.
I wish I’d been told how hard that first month of starting childcare would be. Brace yourself. The adjustment is not only for your little love, but also for you.
2. Rhythm - a different beat
I have always functioned at ‘100 miles per hour’. So naturally, going back to work, I was in the mindset that I was going to pick up where I left off and continue at full cylinders. WRONG. You think differently, you work differently, your availability is limited, you are sleep deprived, and your priorities have shifted. You are still very ambitious and driven, deadlines excite you because you’re all about proving yourself, but truth be told, there’s just a lot more information we have to keep in our heads now that we’ve had a baby! It’s important that we find our new balance, and don't allow ourselves to not feel like we’re failing at home or at work.