You can see part one of my return to work after maternity leave saga here.
For those that can’t be bothered to read it, I’ll attempt an American drama series-style summary.
(Please imagine this in a Hollywood Voiceover accent).
I had made the decision to become a stay at home mum, however in order to keep my maternity pay – which, given I was hoping to return to work and then was denied the chance at the last minute, I was fairly set on keeping – I had to return to work for two weeks.
Obviously having someone to look after the kids was my primary concern.
The small one had never been apart from me for any length of time and I wasn’t convinced that it was worth settling him with a stranger for the sake of a fortnight, if anyone would even want the gig. I love him, obviously, but he really can be a right whingebag, especially when teething or ill which is basically all the time. And don’t get me started on trying to get him to sleep.
Daddy took holiday and covered the first week and, as I suspected, he is a much more fun stay at home parent than I. He sent me pictures like this:
Because shopping with daddy is just too much fun, unlike shopping with mummy:
No: my children did not miss me at all, and to add insult to injury the house was tidier.
Fortunately, my sister and parents were able to pick up the second week.
Aside from sorting childcare I was about as unprepared as I could have been.
I had nothing at all to wear having spent the previous three and a half years either pregnant or on maternity leave, and the time before that being significantly thinner. Being the fashion-forward mum-about-town that I am, rather than face a shopping trip and waste money on new stuff, I spent the fortnight in old maternity dresses.
I hadn’t even considered how I was going to get to and from work, and upon realising that I no longer had a parking permit decided to get the bus.
I could probably write a whole post about the people you meet on buses (and, specifically the ones that sit next to you when there are lots of empty seats and try to start a conversation about G Plan furniture. I genuinely don’t have a clue), but’s let’s just say in the second week I decided to take the car, sit in traffic for an hour each way and pay an exorbitant rate for parking. It was worth it.
Of course, the children were impeccably behaved as only children being looked after by relatives can be.
On the first day with her auntie, the big one was on best behaviour all day until the moment I pulled up in the car. On day two she threw a bit of a fit when I went to leave the house, which was excellent for the mum guilt…
Yea, seems about right (he has since reneged on this. This week he has had two days when he has not napped AT ALL. You know what the opposite to fun is? That).
There were some things I enjoyed about going back to work.
I drank hot tea at my leisure. I took lunch breaks, during which I went out to eat, sans children, and I even got my hair cut. I travelled at a speed I had quite frankly forgotten was possible; a speed unfamiliar to mummy me who has to wait for the toddler to inspect every rock, bug and piece of rubbish. I consistently overestimated how long it would take me to get places unencumbered.
It was a little bit like a holiday really (but a lot more successful than my actual holiday).
Of course had I the stress of deadlines, back to back meetings and people demanding my time it might not have been so jolly and, even with a very relaxed attitude to actually completing any work at all, by the time I schlepped into week two, the cracks were beginning to show.
My house had inch of dog hair covering the floor and crap everywhere. To be fair it’s not always that much better, but I certainly noticed.
I missed the kids.
Going from being with them (all day) every day to being away for eight or nine hours was strange. Receiving pictures of them having fun (and eating ice cream) when I wasn’t was a bit rubbish.
The little one learned a whole host of new skills; one being using a pencil, which meant I was not prepared for his attempt at wall art while I was having a shower (which I rubbed off the wall before I took a picture like some kind of blogging noob).
With no trip to the supermarket, there was no food, milk or toilet roll left in the house and I may have, at 5am, panic bought 45 bog rolls from Amazon* (Sadly, they were lost in transit, so my plans to build an extension to house them proved unnecessary).
Above all, I was completely shattered, despite not really exerting myself. Really tired. The small one was teething, which is always fun, and the big one decided to wake me up on my last day at 4.30 am singing, loudly. I’m not quite sure what, but it wasn’t what I wanted to hear at 4.30am.
Was I sad to leave my work after maternity leave?
Well, I was sad it hadn’t worked out the way I had planned, but although I had some great colleagues who I will miss…not really.
My boss didn’t even pop in to thank me for my seven years of service, and that kind of summed up the whole experience for me.
Looking after kids all day might be a thankless task much of the time, but at least they are toddlers so they have an excuse for being ungrateful buggers.
What does make me sad is that my story is not uncommon.
Those who commented with positive stories of how well their workplaces had responded to their requests for part time work after maternity leave were few and far between. The news this week that the gender pay gap is biggest immediately after a woman has a baby (and keeps going for 12 years! Yikes!) couldn’t be more timely, or more relevant to me.
It seems intelligent, hard working women everywhere are being denied the flexibility to work around their children and if not forced into giving up work altogether, are being skipped over for promotion, or taking worse paying jobs just to get them that work/life balance. You start to see now why so many get sucked into the evil clutches of an MLM. It’s not right, and it’s not fair.
So this is a shout out to the working mothers.
To the ones that get out of bed every single day, make themselves look presentable, get the kids ready for childcare, and then go and work their bums off only to return in time to argue with their toddlers about what they won’t eat for dinner, all the while clinging on to the last threads of their sanity.
It’s bloody hard work.