I’ll be honest... I thought maternity leave would be a break.
Maternity leave is all coffees in the park while your baby plays quietly beside you, isn’t it?
My year away from work has been tougher than I’d imagined. Although there were amazing magical moments, there were also physical, emotional and mental changes in myself that I never anticipated.
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I had visions of achieving things I’d dreamed about doing but never had time to do. In reality, what I achieved was raising a baby – which was a big achievement in itself. (Plus, I watched a lot of Netflix while our baby slept on me!)
I’m now two months back into work and wanted to share some of my experiences, and open the door for more honest conversations for new mums.
Here are five things I've learned since returning to work after maternity leave.
1. It was nice to come back to a familiar workplace.
I was nervous about coming back to work. When you spend a year thinking constantly about the logistics of a baby, it can become all you think about. Having our baby, I felt thrown into a job with no training (and often no clue) and I lost some confidence.
There were so many questions in my head about work. What had changed? What if I can’t remember anything? What if I no longer fit in? Who am I now?
It has been lovely to go back to my usual workplace where people are welcoming and friendly. It helps that where I work has a progressive and supportive culture where many do juggle work with other responsibilities, and have empathy for others.
2. I felt like a new starter.
As I sat at my desk on the first day, it hit me that it had been 12 months since I’d been in a professional headspace. In the past year, a lot had changed in my organisation. Throw in a year of an unforeseen pandemic, and it felt like people were speaking an entirely different language.
Just like a new starter, I needed building and computer access. I also needed to refresh all my online training and get my head around a new organisation, new leadership, process changes, team changes, and technology changes.
It can seem like you’re back and everything is as it was, but it is a big adjustment and quite overwhelming after such a life change.
3. I felt like I was not doing anything well.
From 12 months of learning to raise a baby and running our house, to trying to juggle work and home life, it can feel like you’re not enough – not enough at work and not enough at home.