I went back to work slightly earlier than I originally planned (thanks COVID), when my son was nine months old.
I think I was ready in some ways. It was my first maternity leave, so I'll never know if lockdown fast-tracked my desire to want to get back to work, simply to escape the four walls of my house, or if that’s just me.
Regardless of all that, here is what I wish I knew about returning from maternity leave.
1. You will feel heartbroken for approximately 6-8 weeks.
Remember that feeling after your first heartbreak? That dull ache?
Well, it revisits you when you return to work. It took me a good six weeks to stop watching my phone on the hour, every hour while running through my son’s routine in my head.
Is he sleeping right now? What is he being fed for morning tea?
It wasn’t until about seven weeks after I was back at work, and I found myself laughing uncontrollably with my co-worker, that I realised - hey, I’m actually enjoying myself again.
Sure, in those first few weeks there are moments of excitement - to have left the house, to be eating on your own, to engage in adult conversation - but the dull ache always pulls you back to reality, reminding you that a small but not insignificant part of you is missing.
The good news is? It fades, and of course you still *miss* your baby, but it’s not as all-consuming as it once was.
2. Any excuse to talk about your child, you will find it.
It’s like word vomit. I know when I'm doing it, and I recognise the polite smiles on my colleagues' faces as their eyes glaze over while I show them the sixth video of my kid who has just learnt how to bop along to music.
Yet I don’t stop. I know it’s a faux pas, especially with otherwise unattached, young and free people - they don’t really understand where you’re coming from.
Other mothers might give you a couple of minutes, but no one finds your kid as interesting as you do. I’m giving myself the ‘six month rule’ - you know that rule when your friend first starts dating someone and you allow them to drop their name into conversation and ditch plans because you understand that it's the honeymoon period?