After 7 months of being glued to my son’s side… I have returned to work. Not part time. Not one day less a week. Full time.
I won’t lie. I enjoy my day job. (How awful of me!) I consider many of the people I work with close friends and it has been very refreshing to have an adult conversation with someone who isn’t questioning my parenting skills or analysing my child’s developmental progress. But wouldn’t I rather be playing ‘stack the rings’ with my blue-eyed bundle of joy and unravelling the tufts of hair from his tight little fist that he has so excitedly wrenched from my head?
Without a shadow of a doubt.
Returning to work after having a baby seems to be a controversial topic these days. Some people find it absolutely abhorrent that any mother would contemplate leaving her baby behind to pursue her career. Others welcome the escapism. Most have no choice.
In my opinion, no one should ever question a woman on her right to decide to return or not to return to work.
I’ve recently had a few negative comments from ‘friends’ who think that it is their right to tell me that it is ‘not normal’ to go back to work ‘so early’ and that I should look for part time work. It is so infuriating. Whilst there are of course a few mothers out there who can’t wait to leave their child behind and return to their career – I am not one of them.
The main issue people seem to have is: if you have decided to go back to work, at what point are you going back? By rights maternity leave generally lasts a year, so returning before then is surely not encouraged? And if you do return before the year exactly what are your reasons?
According to some ‘experts’ you should be breastfeeding your baby for at least six months so surely you wouldn’t consider going back to work before then?! And who are you going to leave your precious bundle with? Surely they won’t get enough love and affection?
The list of criticisms is endless and sadly it seems to be other mothers who are doing most of the scrutinising.
Personally I wouldn’t recommend going back to work before 6 months, for the simple reason that not only do you want to spend the first few precious months with your child, but your body has gone through a massive upheaval and needs time to recover. But some mothers have little choice. And the result can often be an overwhelming sense of guilt and separation anxiety.
Just remember that for all the tears you shed, there is absolutely no scientific evidence that suggests that children are damaged in any way when their mothers work outside the home. And once you see that your baby is fine, your emotions will stabilise. The American Academy of Paediatrics reports that a child who is emotionally well adjusted, well loved, and well cared for will thrive regardless of whether his mother works outside the home.
In my case I am very lucky that my in-laws and my husband are on hand to look after Pip and despite an early start, I get home at a very reasonable time so am able to give him his dinner, bath and spend quality time with him.
For other mothers who leave at the crack of dawn and don’t get home until their child has gone to bed, the decision to work must be much more difficult and rather than criticising them we should offer more support.
Equally, we should also support those who choose not to return to work or remain full time mums (a massive job in itself!). Whilst on maternity leave, I was asked by one woman what I ‘do all day’. After outlining a typical day consisting of feeding the baby, changing the baby, taking baby out, lunch with baby, playtime, bath and oh the day has gone, she looked visibly unimpressed and said ‘so you don’t work then’. It was a statement rather than a question. Of course I put her straight, but it was frustrating that she should think that taking care of my child was not work and wrongly assume that I did nothing else. Every mother knows that childcare is a full time job. Everything else is your side-line.
You can’t win either way.
I have been back at work now for just over a week and although it was difficult at first, not to mention exhausting, it has also been exhilarating. I truly believe that returning to work (whether that be one day a week or full time and provided of course that you have help or can afford childcare) has its benefits. Having a child is a wonderful thing, but that doesn’t mean that you simply have to define yourself as ‘just a mum’ and erase all that you were before. Getting back into the adult world can help you to regain your confidence and focus, not to mention help your bank balance so that you can buy your little one even more unnecessary items!
So if you are worried or feeling guilty about going back to work or maybe if you are worried about NOT going back to work and becoming a stay at home mum here is my advice: whatever you choose your children will always be your number one priority. So don’t let anyone tell you what to do. Do what’s best for yourself and your family.
After all, happy mum = happy babe.
Are you a working mum? Or did you choose to stay at home? If anyone needs any tips on how to survive moving from the baby room to the boardroom check out this helpful article Working Mum Survival Guide.