What I have learned… About being a working Mum

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.

So I made it through the day without her… And this is what daddy daycare looks like…

A video posted by Rebecca Norris (@rebecca_norris) on

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,

Love,
Rebecca
xo

PS All these photos are from my Instagram account, you can follow Bea and I’s adventures here.

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17 thoughts on “What I have learned… About being a working Mum

  1. I really like this post Rebecca – although I am a *insert politically correct word for stay at home Mum here*, what you said about having a Mum who didn’t work yet still having a successful career and the reasons for wanting to stay at home really struck a chord with me.

    Max is 16 months old now and I am still at home with him full time, which has meant financial sacrifices for sure. There’s a lot of boring reasons why related to if we have a second child/medical issues with pregnancy and I have to admit, I often struggle with filling 5 days a week and at times *hangs head in shame* I get a bit bored. As much as I love spending time with him, his conversation isn’t up to much! I am lucky to have a few friends close by on maternity leave/working part time/stay at home full time which is a lifesaver.

    Not sure what my point is except working out the balance that works for your family is key. Sounds like Bea is thriving and I hope Max/potential child number 2 will be the same when I return to work. I love the thought of him developing a different relationship with my Mum/Tom, thanks for both the positives and negatives in this post.

  2. I’ve found this a comforting read as I try to find the answers myself. My son is 7 months now and I’m planning to return to work (in a new management role I worry will be too demanding) in mid September. My thoughts currently are driven by the sale of our flat and the purchase of a new house near my parents and sister. I’m terrified it will fall through and will leave me needing a full time nursery place rather than giving the little fella looked after by family instead. I don’t know how I’ll cope.

    • Good luck!, what ever happens (and I know this isn’t comforting,) you will get used to it. If nursery turns out to be th only option then think of the plus points – I often think Bea might have loved nursery (she will be going for at least a day a week from being aged 1,) as she is so outgoing.

  3. Thank you for this post & it really strikes a chord for me too. I’m 2 months back into work mode of 4 days a week & nearly 13 month old son is at a fab small local nursery 2 days p/week, grandparents 1 day, Daddy 1 & Mummy 1 day! So it feels like a really good balance for the little man, & he’s settled really well into a new routine, new people caring for him etc. I think it’s me who’s struggled much more, going from craving ‘me time’ when I was on Mat leave & with him day in day out, to now feeling like I don’t have enough time with him, but ironically also thinking how on earth did I do it all the time & being in work does feel like a break some days – without the whirlwind that is a crawling, cruising, desperate to walk little person who’s into absolutely everything! I suppose to summarise there’s no right balance or scenario, whatever works for you, your baby & little unit. I do find I’m more thoughtful on my work days about what we were doing this time last year, groups we went to etc. Great to read about other people’s experiences & perspectives on what is quite a transition time. Ruth x

  4. I read this with interest as I have sort of ‘been there and done that’ in terms of the emotions you are experiencing. However, my little girl is now 11 and just about to start secondary school in September, so I thought I’d throw a different perspective on things. She is an only child so all my eggs were in one basket – so to speak! I returned to work when she was 10 months and unfortunately had to return full time after a further 6 months due to the risk of redundancy, which as a result I rode out and stayed for a further 8 years. She was cared for in nursery full time and for an only child this proved to be great as she became very social and well adapted to new situations. She thrived at primary school which came around so quickly and then she went to an after school club or was cared for by Dad who had some flexibility with working hours. She is now equally close to both my husband and I. I went through all the regret about the decision we made. For us it was mainly financial reasons that meant I went to work and as a result it afforded us some fantastic family holidays, where I spent much undivided attention with my daughter and some real quality time which had I’m not sure would have been so possible with me at home as you ellude to. That said, I had a lot of pressure from my mother (who works full time now) to be a stay at home Mum because that is what she did when I was small. As far as she was concerned I was a terrible mother for being at work, which gave me added angst about the decision we had made. I have just accepted a new job which involves me being overseas about 50% of the time, but the timing is right as she is now off to secondary school and quite frankly she would rather I am not around to bother her so much! But it will mean financially we are in a very strong position and we can afford all the school skiing trips and lovely holidays we have enjoyed. In summary, I would say from my experience it is about the quality rather than the quantity. With mobile phones and facetime now we also stay in touch that way when I am not at home and again speak more than I do then on the days I am at home doing housework. In an ideal world I would still love to stay at home, but the lifestyle we have, quality time and the personal fulfilment I get from working does make it worth it and probably a happier Mum to be around. They are not small forever, which although does mean enjoy it while it lasts, also means you need to have a life waiting for you once they are grown up.

    Dawn

  5. Hi Rebecca
    I loved reading your blog.
    I am a working mummy and I really enjoy my home/work/life balance. (I work 4 days a week)
    Yes it was hard at first to leave William and of course I miss him every day, but I also enjoy seeing my friends and colleagues and missed my work and life. (Also the fact I could have a cup of tea when I fancied! – a hot cup of tea! lol!)
    William attends nursery, has a day with his granddad and a day with my sister.
    As a person and to grow I know I don’t get everything I need off my husband, parents or son and they don’t get everything off me that they need. It has taken a lot of different people to help create ‘me’ to help complete and still completing ‘my’ soul, my development and I believe it is just the same with a baby/toddler. Its healthy for children to experience new characters, new learning styles which every new environment and situation will bring. Life is hard at times, and independence and social skills in this ever more demanding world is so important! – You can never start to early!
    William runs into nursery and sometimes doesn’t even look back. He enjoys time with other people – As I do.
    But as you have written above, this time apart also makes us both appreciate our time together much more. William and I look forward to seeing each other, and those hugs and kisses I receive at the nursery door when I collect him are priceless!
    I respect stay at home mummy’s – I think your amazing and really respect all your decisions and choices. But for me, I need a balance of me time, William time and work life time.
    It’s about you, what you can handle and what makes you and your child happy.
    However if anyone is reading this and about to return to work…. it’s ok, you will be fine, it takes a few months to get into the momentum but it will soon feel natural.
    Commenting from my own experience if you and your child embrace it, you will both flourish! Good Luck!

  6. So much of this post resonated with me. My little one is 18 months and I returned to work when he was 9 months old. I do two long days (equates to 50% of whay my FT hours would be) and with a 3 hour commute each day its tough. I too was dreading being away from G but I am such a better Mum for it as I definitely have more patience the days I am with him. He is cared for by my hubby (who works shifts) and my MIL. So I am nore relaxed as well knowing he is with family. I feel I have the balance just right at the moment and the only thing I worry about is potentially upsetting that balance by having another baby!

    The anticipation of going back to work was definitely worse than the reality and as you say you end up being busy and not able to brood about the time apart. My times when I regret working are missing the milestones. G walked for the first time when I was at work and I burst into tears when I heard. But on the flipside my hubby got to see it and he missed several other milestones by being at work.

  7. A lovely read…I’m really truly dreading the return in 2wks…sadly to 4days per wk over 2 jobs..But this was useful to read..and very honest and heartfelt.
    Glad all is going well with you 3 and the beautiful new house xx

  8. Great post – thank you.

    I am just over two months back in to being back at work full time, 5 days a week and little one is 13 months old and cared for full time by my husband. I have a job (not a career) that is ok, pays pretty well for London, and my husband was self employed, (often out of work) so there was no choice but for me to be the one to go to work. I asked to return 4 days a week but was told no. I hate the fact that I only get to spend 2 days with my daughter and struggle with feelings of jealousy that my other half gets to spend every day with her but now that she’s on the move, I think he finds it more difficult being at home full time and there are certainly days when I get home from work (usually only just before her bedtime) when I sense he’d have preferred to be out at work all day, so in a nutshell, I think both of us are unhappy in the current situation but we dont have an alternative right now!!! However, the most important thing is that she is a happy and content little girl, LOVES being with her dad all day long, and I get the best cuddles and sloppy kisses when I get home which almost makes up for not being there (not quite!) I guess no situation is perfect (and no two situations are the same) but we’re all doing the best we can to muddle along and raise happy and well-balanced little people xxx

  9. So eloquently put Rebecca, and I think you address many of the conflicting emotions which I have felt since returning to work. I, like you, leave Willow with family on my 3 days… and although I am so happy to see her forge relationships with other people, I do also feel that her incredible attachment to me has certainly diminished. From her perspective, I am sure that is a healthy and positive step. From my perspective, it’s quite painful. I loved our maternity leave bubble so much. That being said, this week Willow has had tonsillitis and we have had a whole different set of challenges to face including sleepless nights, late night hospital visit for an outrageous fever, and a 24/7 appetite for boob (her, not me!). She has only been comforted by me, and leaving her to go to work today has been torture. I genuinely feel like a total failure of a mother. What’s the point of having luxuries in life if you can’t even be there to nurture your poorly child?!

    Frankly, I am not sure how long I will continue to work for. I have to say that overall I am just not invested emotionally in my job, nor do I enjoy it enough, to justify being away from Willow. I am glad I have given it a go, but I suspect I won’t last much more than a year. Once she is talking and is able to ask me to stay at home (I’m hoping she will care enough to do that?!), I just can’t see myself being able to leave her.xxx

  10. lovely post and just shows how much of a personal decision it is. I work full time and have one we girl. I went back to work when she was one. It actually really matters to me about the female role model aspect to me and that things are completely equal at home. My parents both worked and split everything and didn’t observe traditional gender roles. I want the same for my wee girl. I actually love working which made going back to work easy. I came out of the baby bubble and became a better, more fun parent because of it. Our childcare arrangements (mixture of grandparents and nursery) suit our wee girl and seeing her gain independence makes me so proud. I’m so glad the arrangements work for you. I love that I have the choice and that makes me feel empowered but I recognise that not everyone is so lucky. Essentially parently is just doing our best day in day out and this is just part of the mix. Xx

  11. Your posts on work and Bea always resonate with me and I think they feel really heartfelt. I think its great that you admit that its hard to find any answers.

    For me, being a few months behind you and friends like Fee, I feel like I’ve had the benefit of everyone else’s experiences. I had originally planned to go back at 9 months after maternity benefit stopped but my husband luckily got a fantastic pay rise that means that the previous salary gap between us is now non existent so we’ve been able to afford for me to take longer off. Plus, I’ve actually spent less than I anticipated on maternity leave, so it wasn’t too hard a decision. I don’t want to go back at all – I don’t particularly love my job and I think its going to be very long days and stressful when I am at home. I don’t quite know how I’ll manage actually but my field is one where you can’t take a career break and get back on the wheel – so I don’t really have any choice. I am going back part time – 4 days – from mid November when my daughter is 13 months.

    Since talking to you and other friends I’m making a real effort to engage with her during the day – the house is a total bombsite – but I feel like I’m on borrowed time and every second counts. Maybe if I wasn’t going back at all, I’d be more easily distracted. But we’re really making the most of family time – jobs get done after she is in bed or taking a nap – but when she’s awake, I’m engaging whilst I still can.

  12. I’m currently at home with my toddler full time, but I did go back to work for 14 months after maternity leave ended. I worked part time on a trial basis but in the end my request was turned down. It just didn’t make financial sense for me to go full time so I went zero time instead! My new job has long hours, rubbish pay and my boss is very demanding but I love it. Having said that I have kept him in nursery one day a week and I think I would go a bit mad otherwise.
    I did find going back to work easier than I expected, what wasn’t easy was feeling guilty about putting holiday in, and being made to feel awful about using holiday to cover my sons sickness. Switching back again to being at home also has its challenges, like feeling like I should do all the housework, and adjusting to not having ‘my’ money.

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