The return to work. The setting of the alarm for the crack of dawn, the reminder of all the tasks you left unfinished before you left, the return of the Sunday night feeling of dread as the credits to Countryfile are rolling and you realise you haven’t even planned what you’re supposed to be doing tomorrow.
As a teacher, the return to work comes several times a year; the return after Christmas, when it’s cold and grey, the return after Easter, when exams are almost upon us, and the return in September, when you are sure that you have forgotten entirely how to teach and surely you should still be on holiday somewhere exotic?
What could be worse than each of these returns? The return after maternity leave, that’s what.
It is now over a year since I returned to work after my maternity leave, and the trauma of the situation has faded into a distant memory. However, I recently discovered a draft post that I wrote long ago, back in the days before I went back to work and, having read a number of blog posts recently from people anxious about their own Returns, I thought I would resurrect it, for the benefit of anyone who thinks I might have even the tiniest pearl of wisdom to bestow.
“And so the Day of Reckoning draws ever closer.
The day I return to work, that is.
Yes, I have now found a childminder and am forced to confront the brutal reality that I will one day, all too soon, no longer be on maternity leave. No more days spent lounging around the house watching Loose Women and Pointless. No more afternoon tea breaks in front of Escape to the Country.* No more Friday swimming lessons. No more getting annoyed at the overcrowded state of the London Overground on the way back from Westfield trying to navigate a pram through the hordes of people with Real Jobs. No more suppressing the urge to pull faces at kids in school uniform and yell “ha ha you have to go to school, suckers, I DON’T!”
There are three major things bothering me about the dreaded Return to Work. These are:
1.) Oh God, it is going to be really expensive. No getting around that one really, but at least I have basically learnt to survive on Absolutely No Money Ever, whilst on maternity leave, so it can’t be any worse than that, right?
2.) How will Piglet cope without me? I am terrible mother for forsaking him. The voice of a woman who managed a nursery, who I met on a course whilst five months pregnant last year echoes in my head, “it really is sad that we have so many babies. They’re institutionalised really.”
PIGLET IS GOING TO BE INSTITUTIONALISED. LIKE A ROMANIAN ORPHAN! What if he spends his days banging his head fruitlessly against the sides of a filth-encrusted cot, knowing only that he is abandoned? The thought of it makes me want to fling myself off the balcony. At least then he would be able to live with my mother, and she could retire.
3.) OK, so assuming that the above is not going to happen, and is just the wild imaginings of an overprotective parent (i.e, me), the third, and probably most important, pressing issue is WHAT IS HE GOING TO EAT ALL DAY? So far in two weeks of “eating” solids, all he has managed to do is lick a piece of bread, and while everyone else is banging on about their babies’ poos being so awful now, and full of broccoli and the like, Piglet’s poos have remained-if you’ll excuse the talk of bodily fluids, this is a baby blog after all-steadfastly liquid.
So, over a year into the experience of being a working parent, what have I learned? What tiny snippets of experience can I pass on to the new generation of returners?
1.) It will be OK.
That’s it. It will be OK. They will survive. You will survive. Work might put you on the Get Out of This Place Ye Working Mother Before You Have Another Baby and Bankrupt Us duties, but on the bright side, that means you will have little work of substance to actually do, and might even be able to read novels all day, as I did after returning to my old job for three months before starting a new one (cheers work, and by the way, some of those novels were NOT suitable for the school library).
You will also discover an efficiency you never knew you had. Entire blog posts will be written on the train, emails will be ignored unless they are life-threateningly important, and prioritising will be ruthless. You will be, quite literally, a machine. Your coffee habit will be insane.
Oh, and the fears about them becoming a Romanian orphan are unfounded. That childminder/nursery will be absolutely fine. They will even look forward to going there. I know it’s hard to believe they will ever love someone that’s not you, but they will, and thank God. They might even eat something, although it may take a while. And trust me, enjoy those liquid poos while they last.
It will be OK though. Honestly.
*Good lord. Remember the Escape to the Country drinking game? Thank God I went back to work before I literally went insane.
If you liked this post, or even if you didn’t, please feel free to vote for me in the Mum and Working Awards 2016.