The Return to Work After Maternity Leave

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.



Keep Calm and Carry On Linking Sunday

28 Comments Add yours

  1. The Pramshed says:

    Thanks Min, you have made me feel a lot better now about going back to work in 6 weeks (gulp!), I know it will be fine and my little one will be fine, I’m just wondering HOW ON EARTH I AM SUPPOSED TO MANAGE EVERYTHING – sorry that was in bold (ha!), but I am sure that I will become effecient at everything and prioritise. She will love nursery, I keep telling myself. Right, I’m off to check out this Escape to the Countrty drinking game – 6 weeks left to play. Claire x

    1. Min says:

      Do it-I think we should have a tribesters Escape to the Country drinking sesh. Or just any excuse for a tipple really! Thanks for commenting and you’re right, it will be fine and you will manage.

  2. I feel for new moms returning to work. Thankfully I don’t have to worry about leaving my daughter for work. However there are days I need to escape the confines of my Deb #tribal

    1. Min says:

      I feel for you on that one. When I was on maternity leave I was desperate to leave the house and had to make sure I got out at least once a day or I would literally go insane. I can’t stand staying in!

  3. Yvonne says:

    I cant listen to the theme tune from the Antiques Roadshow without breaking out in a cold sweat ha ha! You are absolutely right, it is all ok. Great post 🙂 x #FabFridayPost

    1. Min says:

      That is so true, haha! Thanks for commenting.

  4. Michelle G says:

    I really enjoyed this. I went back to work and was dreading it but after a couple of weeks – during which time I went down from 5 to 4 days – I actually started to enjoy it and feel like me again. And I started to appreciate the balance of being with my gorgeous bubs and being someone who could make a difference in the workplace. I wish I hadn’t wasted so much of my maternity leave though worrying about going back to work! Interestingly, my husband’s now about to return to work after Shared Parental Leave and I think he is going to find it just as tough a wrench as I did – but, I also think he is very ready to be ‘him’ again too x #KCACOLS

    1. Min says:

      That’s interesting to hear about your husband, and fab that you managed to take shared parental leave. There are definitely benefits to working as well.

  5. What a great post – I bet this is so reassuring for Mums who are returning back to work to read! I bet it’s quite nice to reclaim a bit of the old you back too. Thanks so much for linking up at #KCACOLS. Hope you come back again next Sunday

    1. Min says:

      Thanks Fi. Hopefully it will help put people’s minds at rest. I think we all have those fears, but it always turns out OK.

  6. Emma says:

    Oh god when I was teaching I could not watch Countryfile because the end of the credits would send me into a flurry of panic over the amount of marking I still had to do! I remember getting worked up about returning to work too so it is great that you shared this post because it makes the point that really it is all ok and far easier then we build it up to be. Although I am sure that secretly you miss the days of Escape to the Country! 😉 #KCACOLS

    1. Min says:

      I would be lying if I said I didn’t. That programme will forever be associated with maternity leave!

  7. I am going back to full time work soon – actually have to find work first before I can actually say to am going back to work. My Evelyn is going to nursery soon this September – but I am actually looking forward of going back to work. I like being with my kids – but it has literary been more than 5 years and I am a little rusty on everything – work wise. And yes, I am so scare of what the working world has for me. This post is a really good reminder that everything will be okay – and I know it will be – it is just that nervousness butterfly in your belly that’s all.

    Thank you so much for linking up with us on #FabFridayPost xx

    1. Min says:

      Wow, 5 years. I would definitely be feeling a bit nervous after so long, but it will be OK, and nice to get back into it again I’m sure. Thanks for hosting and commenting.

  8. Thanks for sharing this! I have been nervously thinking about what it will be like to do this when we have out next child. When our little boy was born I was still in grad school and got to stay at home with him for the first year. However, where I live you only get about 3 months of maternity leave which I feel will be hard to come back from. Luckily my aunt is retired and will be able to watch them both. Look at me all worried and we aren’t even pregnant with the second one yet. I guess that’s mom life for ya. #KRACOLS #TribalLove

    1. Min says:

      Three months of maternity leave is so short. I definitely feel for you on that one. Thanks for commenting.

  9. I salute you ! I couldn’t do it. Admittedly, my teaching wage only just covered childcare costs and I couldn’t find a nursery open early enough for me to get to school in time to set up the early years areas so that was a bit of an issue. In hindsight, I would have struggled anyway as my lovely little munchkin is a terrible sleeper – takes ages to get to sleep and wakes frequently and always has done and probably will for a while. Some evenings I’ve barely had chance to eat I’ve no idea how I’d have done all my paperwork. Financially it is really hard, but I don’t regret my decision. I think it’s hard whatever choice you make- it’s the nature of being a mum right? # KCACOLS

    1. Min says:

      Certainly is. Piglet isn’t a great sleeper either (just got him to sleep at 9.30pm after nearly two hours of trying!) and it does wear you down sometimes, but every path has its advantages and disadvantages.

  10. Yummyblogger says:

    Great post… Returning to work is such a stressful time, I blogged about it myself
    You’re right – the most important thing is you WILL be ok (parents survive anything right!?) and your efficiency goes through the roof… I swear parents end up working harder than non-parents!
    I think the bit I still hate most is the logistics, and routine… Will be harder early next year with 2! #KCACOLS

    1. Min says:

      Yes-getting out of the house is like a military operation!

  11. All of this is brilliantly put and most of it is so, so true for me! Nearly 7 years later, the return to work memories are now water off a duck’s back and I do feel like I’ve mastered the working mum routine thing… phew! #kcacols

    1. Min says:

      Good to hear. I keep telling myself that one day all these worries will be a distant memory.

  12. I’m on Mat leave at the moment nd I know its going to be tough going back. But it has to be done. we cannot afford me not to work xx


    1. Min says:

      Best of luck for when the time comes! I’m sure it will be fine. x

  13. Madeline says:

    I think you’ve summed it up perfectly in those 4 words – it will be ok. And, as far as I’m concerned, if it’s really not ok, you always have options. x #KCACOLS

    1. Min says:

      Looking back on it now, it was OK. Thanks for commenting.

  14. Silly Mummy says:

    This is the best post I have seen on this topic! Yes, that is largely based on the fact that I have never seen anyone else raise the concern that their baby will become a Romanian orphan. I’m pleased that fear proved unfounded, and Piglet has not been banging his head on the side of a cot, whilst overworked nuns ignore him. & more seriously, I’m glad that it all works out okay. #KCACOLS

    1. Min says:

      Thanks! Yes, luckily that one did prove unfounded. I was worried, but I think I was probably over estimating my own importance in Piglet’s life. I guess I am pretty important to him, but hopefully not so important that we need to be attached 24/7.

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