Sometimes clarity comes with time. When you are in the depths of returning to work, balancing the delicate mixture of excitement, anxiety, self-doubt and the glee of having a cup of hot tea, you can’t always identify the reasoning for your feelings.
For me, it was crying on a daily basis, irrational fears and poor work decisions to try and make me feel “in control”. At the time I thought that this was linked to going back to work after a year off. That it was because she was my last child – my final baby. For a short while, I believed it was because I had lost the ability to do my job well.
However, the one thing I didn’t realise was this: not only way she was my last baby, she was also the first baby I had brought home since 2006. The six-half age gap was not by design or choice.
She was my fourth pregnancy but only the second I was able to bring home.
It is only since launching my return to work coaching business, and speaking to mums who had returned to work after a stressful pregnancy be it a rainbow (a baby born after a loss), threatened miscarriage, childhood illness or fertility struggles, that I realised the pattern.
There is a level of fear that underpins the return to work of a parent that has lost the naivety of life after these types of struggles. After battling through turmoil and settling into a routine that finally trusts the new family dynamic, it is all changed again with the return to work. We can’t be there to make sure they are safe, that they are happy. The grief of this temporary separation is overwhelming and can come out in a variety of ways – so please don’t judge when you see you colleague’s red-rimmed eyes (again) or panic when their mobile rings.
This may sound familiar to you. The job that you lived for and the goals that you were working towards, may all pale into insignificance. That isn’t a reflection on you, it is a reflection on how your life has changed. It doesn’t mean you don’t care or that you are broken beyond repair. Just that your life has changed in a way that will take some time to re-calibrate.
There is light at the end of the tunnel; after speaking to Mums that have been through similar, this is our advice to you:
Talk. Keep talking to someone you trust. This may be through a formal network such as SANDS or a trusted friend. Don’t bottle up what you are feeling; there is nothing to be ashamed of!
Strength. You will uncover a level of strength you never knew you had. Use this to refocus what you want and take the leap to make it happen!
Purpose. Own it. After any transition or trauma, people get clarity on what they want. New work-life balance, self-reflection, travel, education!
Guilt. Try and move away from the guilt that you MAY feel as life goes on. Parenting always carries a level of guilt that can paralyse. Don’t feel guilty for enjoying it.
Joy. Grab the joy in the little moments, as over time, those are the ones that will count!
About Clara Wilcox
Clara runs The Balance Collective. She is a mum of two with over a decade’s experience in recruitment and coaching. She offers career and return to work coaching for parents and flexible working consultancy and workshops for businesses. Find out more on The Balance Collective website or find Clara on Facebook, Twitter or connect with on LinkedIn!