Once upon a time I had a baby. I loved him so much that when it came time for my maternity leave to end and for me to go back to work, I spent weeks agonising over it, dreading it and wishing I could stay off forever.
After twelve months back in work I fell pregnant again and the prospect of another twelve months of maternity leave reared its head. Now, considering how desperate I was not to go back to work last time you’d be thinking I would be counting down the days until maternity leave this time, right? Well, actually, not so much. In fact, I’m feeling super apprehensive about it.
I had around four months off work before Dexter came into this world as a mixture of early maternity leave and sick leave due to suffering with agonising pelvic girdle pain before taking another twelve months off once he was born. I do look back on our time off together fondly but I also remember the mundaneness of it all and how isolated I felt during a lot of it.
The first four months sort of passed by in a blur of sleepless nights, mum guilt and sheer panic; my husband was off for six weeks over the summer and there was barely time to even think about how bored or isolated I was as I was so busy and so, so tired.
At this point, as winter approached, things got a little darker, although I found blogging as a way to keep me sane and found two amazing online friends who kept me busy and were there for me when things got tough. Then weaning started and that kept me going through the darkest days; I blogged about our experience, the recipes we used and I kept myself busy meal planning and cooking. Having no money didn’t help either and I was determined to stay in as I was convinced just stepping outside the house would result in me spending money we didn’t have.
When Spring sprung, I knew maternity leave was soon to be over and the first sign of this was my first full pay packet for six months. I was now on annual leave as opposed to maternity leave and it was time to start preparing for the daunting return to work. I tormented myself over it for weeks, worrying about how I would cope, wondering if the cost of childcare was worth it (childcare vouchers made sure it was) and asking myself if I would still have the capability to do my role now I was a Mum. Would I be able to care about sales and targets when the most important thing in my life was made out of kissable lips, luscious blue eyes and wrinkly chubby skin?
I had no idea at this point what an incredible twelve months lay ahead of me work wise, I felt really low, gutted that I was going to have to leave my baby for five days a week and feeling like I’d totally lost my identity and was now only a mother.
I’m not going to bleat on again about how easily I adapted when it came to returning to work which was helped entirely by having amazing coworkers, finding an incredible childminder and realising and understanding that the pristine home I’d kept throughout maternity leave was going to have to be sacrificed for my own sanity. I fell back in love with my job after some really hard months before maternity leave and literally am now at the point where I cannot imagine having to leave for another twelve months.
I fear losing my identity again if I take another twelve months off work. I love the person I am when I am in work, a person who is totally different to the character I am in real life. I know that sounds odd, but at work I have no issues challenging what I see as wrong, dealing with irritable customers or standing up for myself to my manager. At home I shrink away from social situations and would rather stay home than go out in the majority of cases, especially if it involves solo parenting. I haven’t yet worked out how to combine these two personalities of mine and fear I could lose that confident, capable female manager character if I take more time away from the workplace. What if my baby brain is worse this time and I really do forget how to do my job? What if I just get really, really bored while I’m on maternity and start driving myself mad worrying about things that are totally insignificant? These are my concerns and they’re valid, however crazy they sound.
I suppose taking less time off for maternity leave is an option. We now have Shared Parental Leave available for us, although considering that my husband earns more than me is unlikely to work out for us financially. However, I also want to have as much time off with this baby as I did with Dex and I am excited about watching him or her grow into their own person, watching them learn to sit, to crawl, to walk, helping them learn about food and stay with them until it’s time for me to go back to work.
I guess the most important thing this time is to keep busy, get out more and try to embrace everyday. At least this time I have the added luxury of not having to worry about going back to work and also having a toddler as well as a tiny baby to keep me extremely busy.
This will almost certainly be my last maternity leave so I am determined to make the most of it, however I will miss work and my workplace identity but I shall keep in mind that once this leave is over, I have thirty years to keep me busy in the workplace!
How did you cope during your second round of maternity leave? Did you enjoy it as much as your first?