Let’s get one thing out of the way before we begin. I am in no way suggesting that non-mums aren’t good at their jobs nor that stay at home mums are missing a trick. This article is purely a reflection on how I’ve found my return to work post-maternity leave.
I’ve always loved my job and I’ve always been career-focused. I work as a journalist and I thrived on the fast-paced news environment and the adrenaline of a breaking story. I liked the pressure to meet deadlines and the unpredictability of having to deploy on a story at short notice. I didn’t mind that my job impacted my personal life, even when it meant missing weddings, hen dos, birthdays. I waited until as late as possible to start my maternity leave because I didn’t really want to stop working. I was so excited about having a baby but I was concerned about how it would affect my career and whether being a mum would change how people viewed me professionally.
The truth is both those things have happened.
The unexpected thing is that the change hasn’t been because of other people, it’s been because of me. My priorities have totally changed. Of course in my head I knew this would happen, but the thing is, I didn’t KNOW it would happen. Now I’m a mum to an energetic and boisterous one year old and she’s without question the most important thing in my life.
It doesn’t mean I didn’t want to go back to work, even though I did find it hard. It doesn’t mean I don’t care about my job anymore or want to be good at it, because that stuff does still matter. It does mean I’ve gained a much healthier perspective with regards to work.
When I’m in the office I’m more focused, more assertive and more direct. I feel empowered knowing that work isn’t the be all and end all. I feel more decisive because I don’t have the time or energy to dither over things. I feel liberated because the things that used to make me feel stressed just don’t anymore.
I feel more in control because being a mum has given me confidence. If I can manage the hardest job in the world, then of course I can manage my day job.
I always struggled with work-life balance. I’m still not great at it but it’s much better now. I don’t wake up, grab my phone and obsessively check my emails when I’m not on shift – most of the time anyway. I try not to get involved in too much Whatsapping about work stuff on my days off. I don’t even watch the news that much at weekends because I make an effort to switch off! (Don’t tell my boss!)
The weird thing is even though I’m working full time and I have much less time with Skye now – fewer bedtimes, fewer playdates – it’s also making me a better mum. I didn’t realise how much I was missing adult me who wears smart(ish) clothes and has a name other than Skye’s mummy. I also still love the intellectual stimulation of my job and the buzz of the newsroom. It’s reassuring to still have the professional respect of my team.
Don’t get me wrong, it’s bloody hard trying to balance it all and I really wish I could have more time at home with Skye, but the time I do spend with her is time I value so much. I feel more energised because I’m doing something else for part of the day. I’m more present when I’m with her because I’m so happy to be there. I make sure my phone is elsewhere (as much as possible) so I’m not tempted to check emails. I value our time even when she’s having a grumpy day. I love bedtimes because that quiet time at the end of the day when it’s just the two of us is so much more precious now.
I’m not naive enough to think it will ever be easy.
I’m shattered 95% of the time and of course, there’s the inevitable mum guilt about not being with Skye more. And, in spite of all I’ve written there’s still the niggling professional worry that my career as I’d imagined it pre-babies is now gone.
But for now, we’re making it work. For now, I’m just about having it all?!
You can find more from Sarah on her blog, Raising Skye.