I’ve been back at work for almost 3 months now, my first day was 17th March and I didn’t write about it until now because I spent most of the first month doing a phased return. It wasn’t until after Easter that I was back to my usual 3 day week, so I’ve now done 2 months of that.
Some of you may recall that I was dreading my return to work. I cried the night before, partly because I felt like I was abandoning this little thing that had only ever known me being there almost 24/7. Partly it was purely selfish, I felt like I was missing out on watching her grow up and develop.
In actual fact, It’s been nowhere near as hard as I thought. Work is so busy (for those of you who don’t know, I’m a GP) that I didn’t get a moment to think about her all day. The first few times I left her she was with Pete, happy as larry, then later on with my mum, so that made things easier too. Coming home was amazing. When I started back at work, Bea wasn’t quite 8 months old so we weren’t quite at the stage where she was excited about seeing me again, but then as the weeks went on she started to get really excited when I came home, clapping and shouting and reaching for me. There have been crushing moments too though. The day I returned to work, Bea properly crawled, to the incentive of her expressed bottle that Daddy kindly put on the floor in front of her. Another day I came home and she had started clapping, (taught by my mum,) as lovely as it is for mum and her to have that experience and memory together, it still cut deep that it wasn’t me who taught her.
Being back at work has had it’s plus points though. I know after almost 8 months at home with Bea I was starting to take our time together for granted. There were times I needed to get some life admin task done or a bit of house work and she got plonked and shushed, inevitably towards the end of the day with a deadline looming and the witching hour underway. As she got more mobile that got harder and I got more frustrated. Now, as much as possible, the time I have with her I spend with her. When something needs doing, I plan to do it later… not much is getting done, but, whatever. I think I’m more patient with her too, being away makes me fresher, more ready to face the challenges a crawling, almost toddling, non-stop little minx brings with her.
Objectively, now I’ve done both, I’m not sure how I feel. We just did our garden with the money that I earn – we use my salary at the moment to plough into the house and live more carefully on Pete’s. I’m so happy with it, but I hate that that essentially represents putting material things ahead of my time with Bea. I have more than once considered what it would mean to give up work, financial cuts we would have to make. I know I’d be as happy in a smaller house, so we could still afford holidays and the like, but with Bea every day. I’m pretty sure that if had had the option I’d have taken a career break, but there’s very little information about it available in my line of work and I do know that if you are off for over 12 months, there are retraining consequences. I’m also a partner and have obligations to my practice and partners. To some extent I feel I’ve made my bed and have to lie in it. Unfortunately I don’t buy the working woman positive role model argument… my Mum didn’t work and it didn’t stop me forging a challenging career, however I also don’t feel it influenced me in how I feel about being wishing I was at home with Bea either; I want to be home with her because I want to spend more time with her, not because I feel children do better when they have a stay at home mum (or parent) as a constant.
All those things considered, a lot of this is selfish rather than considering Beas needs. She is a happy little thing, doesn’t seem at all bothered by me leaving and copes really well with our days apart. Her relationship with Pete has blossomed. Although he was great with her before, its really gone to the next level and he knows her routine and quirks (almost) as well as me now. She and my Mum also have a lovely little bond going on and its amazing seeing mum make her laugh or do things with her that I wouldn’t have thought to do.
Of course I know that there will be countless things she doesn’t learn from me, at nursery, at school, even at University (if she goes,) but its hard making the transition from being the lynchpin to all her new experiences. At times I have felt recently that she needs me less because she doesn’t see me as so central to her life now, she has had to reply on others as her touchstone throughout the day. And I know that its great that she has so many people around her, loving her, cheering her on and ready to catch her when she falls, but it doesn’t stop me wishing it was me. I also know I’m lucky to be able to work part time and I will say that 3 days is a reasonable balance but at the same time, more than enough for me.
I don’t think I’ve given any answers in this post, if you’re searching for them yourself, goodness knows I wish I had them myself, but I hope if you’re dreading returning to work it might help in some small way. I certainly found it was a bit like when I was pregnant and people would tell me that having a baby was ‘the best thing ever!’ – I used to think, ‘It might be for you…!’ and couldn’t comprehend how I would feel when she arrived. Similarly people told me the anticipation of returning to work was worse than the reality and it is, but I couldn’t see that at all when I was dreading my own return, until I had done it and it was fine.
I’d love to hear your thoughts, as always readers,
PS All these photos are from my Instagram account, you can follow Bea and I’s adventures here.