My gorgeous baby boy is not far off 8 months old now and as much I hate to even think about it there are only about 6 weeks left until I have to go back to work. When I broke up for maternity leave last year the time spread out before me seemed so vast, it almost felt it would go on forever. The first few weeks were the longest in my life, waiting for our stubborn little baba to finally decide to make his appearance. Then he arrived and everything became a bit of a whirlwind.
As the saying goes the days are long but the years are short. There were times when it felt like a day (or probably more accurately a night!) would never end, but then somehow each new week passed at lightening speed and before we knew it we were adding another week onto his age. At some point we got so far in that we stopped counting by weeks, and instead began thinking in months. (I actually have no idea how many weeks old he is now without checking – for so long I could recall instantly the number of weeks and days he was! How things change.)
As time went on we settled more easily into a rhythm as a family and we found our new ‘normal’. I completely fell in love with my new job of being his mummy. Then, just when it felt like things couldn’t get much better, I started to realise work was there looming on the horizon in the not too distant future. It’s been like a bit of a ticking time bomb in the back of my mind for the last month or so. Not that I haven’t made the most of it and enjoyed the time, just that every now and then when I’m looking at his gorgeous face or listening to his wonderful little laugh the realisation that our current status is temporary creeps into the forefront of my mind.
I have to say I am dreading it. It’s not that I don’t like my job. It’s not that I have concerns about putting my baby into nursery. It’s just that it feels like the end of an era, and as with any era that’s been a positive fixture in your life it’s going to be really hard to say goodbye to.
Of course I understand that we’re not alone in this. I know most families find themselves in this position. Not many people are fortunate enough to be able to take a career break financially. (As for those that are – I have to say I don’t judge them one tiny bit! If I could, maybe I would too. At the very least I would have a full year off before deciding what I wanted to do.) Knowing that the problem is widespread doesn’t make it any more palatable though.
As time has gone on I’ve had numerous moments at baby groups where another woman has said this is her last class because she’ll be back to work the next week. Everyone sympathises because we all feel the same:
How has it come to an end so quickly? Why can’t I just stay in this bubble a bit longer? It’s not fair!
If you mention to a fellow Mum that you are due back to work soon she will almost certainly respond with something along the lines of ‘Oh, it’s rubbish isn’t it! It goes so quickly!’ She might ask how you’re feeling about it, and she’ll probably be anticipating that your answer will be something along the lines of ‘I just don’t want to go back yet!’
In contrast, people I’ve spoken to from work have almost exclusively phrased any questions in the following way: ‘Are you looking forward to coming back?’ It always feels as if these enquiries are delivered with an expectation that I will say ‘Of course I am looking forward to coming back to the office and leaving my baby in childcare several days a week. Why wouldn’t I be?!’
I can only put the difference in these conversations down to our very different outlooks. My fellow mums have been there or are going through it right now as well. We’re in that same ‘mummy bubble’. We are all counting down the days until we have to leave this era and swap it for a completely new one. A whole new routine, a whole new dynamic, a whole different set up for ourselves and our families. My colleagues, in contrast, are still in the same place they were before I left; not in the bubble I have been wrapped up in for the last 8 months.
When I left for maternity leave I was at a point in my career where I knew my job inside out; now when I go back any number of things may have changed. Of course I will be more than capable of adapting to any changes and learning any new things as necessary but it still makes the thought of going back feel a bit alien. Not to mention that I can’t really imagine being immersed in something else so fully for so many hours a day at the minute. The only thing I’ve had to focus on with any intensity for the least 8 months has been my baby!
Then there’s the childcare aspect. We did our research with local nurseries and settled on one we were very happy with. We got a really good vibe when we went and looked around and I could imagine our baby going there. I don’t doubt it will be good for him. The cost of childcare is quite frightening though, and when you look at what I’m actually going to earn once you’ve taken into consideration the hefty childcare fees it is a bit depressing. It is the only viable option for us though. Bring on the free nursery hours in a few years so I can actually feel like I’m earning some money from going to work again!
Finally, I’m going to miss my baba. I am not someone who needs to spend every hour of every day with my baby; right from the first week of his life I was happy to have little trips out without him as long as I knew he was in safe hands. I enjoy time to myself when I go to the gym a few times a week and on occasions when I catch up with friends and leave him with Hubs. Somehow this seems different though. He still seems like he has so much growing to do, so many ‘firsts’ he hasn’t yet reached, and I hate the thought of a bunch of strangers being the first ones to see him walk or hear him talk or any of the other big milestones we still have to come.
Ultimately, I know it will be fine. I suspect I’ll find myself in the BIGGEST state of ‘Sunday Night Blues’ for probably a week or so before my first day back. I expect that Sunday night feeling will return every week for the first month or so after. I’ll probably have a few sleepless nights, a little bit of anxiety and possibly a few tears, because that’s what happens when I get stressed out. (Oh the joy! Good luck, Hubs.) Then finally, hopefully, things will settle down and get easier.
Before I do go back to work I’ve got things to look forward to. Our first little family trip for one; I am beyond excited about that. There’s also the less fun thought of my ever expanding to-do list that I should probably get cleared down as well. I keep adding things to it but I hardly ever get any of them ticked off and if I don’t work through it before I go back I doubt I ever will!
For the moment though I reserve the right to feel a little bit sad about the end of an era. A time when I have watched my tiny little newborn baby grow into a playful little boy. When I have watched him learn to roll, laugh, sit, crawl, babble, eat his feet, blow raspberries and charm everyone that sees him with his infectious smile. I’m going to miss our little routines and our uninterrupted time together.
Fingers crossed we’ll get there though. I hope I will eventually enjoy a bit of time being myself away from my role as a mum, and I imagine those days I do have at home will become all the more precious.
In the meantime please could somebody slow time down a teeny tiny bit for the next month and a half? If that would be possible I would be eternally grateful! (Where’s Bernard with his watch when you need him?)
Has anyone else reading this gone back to work recently after maternity leave? Is anyone in a similar boat to me going back sometime soon? I’d love to hear your thoughts if you are or soon will be.