And so we survived. My first week back at work after maternity has come to an end. And do you know what? It wasn’t bad at all. I’d even go so far as to say I enjoyed it. I’m sure I have more stressful weeks ahead of me and I won’t live in this work/life utopia forever. But for one of the biggest worries of the last few months, it’s proved much better than expected. Here’s why I think that’s the case.
I work for a company who (in my personal experience) have been generous, fair and compassionate with my maternity. I have a supportive and kind manager who provided flexibility for my maternity appointments, and demonstrated genuine interest in how I was doing and what I needed to be comfortable in doing my job and subsequently going on leave.
While on maternity leave she gave me choices throughout. The choice about how much I wanted to stay in touch (i.e. she asked if I’d like to receive the fortnightly staff e-newsletter to my personal email address, and texted me at one point to ask if it was OK to call and get my opinion on a couple of big changes in my team). I told her my availability for ‘keep in touch’ (KIT) days and she made her diary work so that we could have a catch up each time. And early on in my leave, we met up for coffee and cake and she had a cuddle with my little girl, and asked all about how I was finding being a new mum. All of this made me feel confident that my leave was time away from work and that she understood that being a mum was important, and that I had no obligation to get involved in anything unless I wanted to.
Your entire body changes after giving birth no matter how you do it and how quickly (or not) you ‘spring back’. Prior to my first KIT day I was super nervous about what to wear. I’d lived in jeggings and leggings and baggy floaty tops for months. How on earth was I going to dress to feel a confidence I didn’t feel and feel like myself again?!
I asked for help. And it came in the form of a lovely online community called the Styled by Susie Community on Facebook. Susie Hasler is a stylist based in the South East of the UK and while I’ve not been fortunate to personally experience any of her services yet (they’re on the birthday and Christmas lists), the 3000+ strong group of women she’s curated is supportive, funny, understanding, non-judgemental and incredibly knowledgeable. I posted a shout-out about post-maternity workwear and got links, suggestions, and, in one case, clothes in the post, to get me all kitted out. As a result, this week I’ve felt comfortable, confident and like a bit of the pre-baby me resurfaced for the first time in months.
OK, so she’s only been at nursery for 4 days plus some settling in sessions but my gut tells me it’s the warmest, most nurturing and fun place she could be outside of a family environment. Not once has she cried at drop-off (the tiny traitor) and she’s eaten like a horse, settled in quickly and every single person I’ve spoken to, bumped into or passed in the hallway has been friendly, smiley and kind. I feel genuinely happy leaving her there and I’m so pleased with the choice we made.
I received so many lovely ‘go get ’em’ messages prior to coming back. My incredible NCT ladies (love you girls) provided the support, love and humour that I’ve come to depend on. My best friends each sent personal, kind and encouraging messages. My mum and sister reassured me that Ada and I would both be fine and told me they loved me and my mother in law sent love and luck. My husband told me I was going to be great and everyone would be happy to see me. And my sister and brother in law and nephew sent flowers. I felt empowered and it was because, when my self-confidence had a dip and I got scared, these people provided a much needed boost.
You are not alone
The old cliche that it takes a village to raise a child is so true. It may not be in practical, childcare terms, but I am a better mum because of the people in my life; whether family, friends, colleagues, or ‘online (wonderful) people’ lifting me up, out of the kindness of their hearts. So if you’re due to go back to work, be brave. You’ve got this. And if you have a wobble, don’t be stubborn, just turn around. There is a queue of people behind you, ready to give you what you need to feel strong again.