Regular readers of my blog may remember that I made the return to work three months ago after maternity leave. It was a massive life change that I documented heavily both in blog form and in vlog form. In all honesty, I just wasn’t ready to give up those milky days at home and I knew that life was never going to be the same again.
The honeymoon period was over and I took it quite badly. Sort of an understatement. I howled like a crazy banshee every night for weeks whilst eating my bodyweight in buckets of well-known chicken as consolation.
It has been three months of our new routine now and just about enough time to take stock, reflect and provide you with an update.
So here we are – the ten realities three months in:
- The good news is that it actually does get easier – hurrah! Without wanting to sound smug to those of you who can think of nothing worse than going back to work, I just want to put it out there, just once – it DOES get easier. Not every day by any means but some days become easier than others and after three months I have noticed a definite shift in my ability to compartmentalise my work vs family life and enjoy a guilt free HOT cup of coffee.
- There is no such thing as routine. In just three months we have dealt with (in no particular order) a family bereavement, a health crisis, childcare issues, a school trip, an appearance on BBC Breakfast, Scout camp, world fucking book day, one year old vaccinations and subsequent fevers and a vomiting school child. There is no such thing as a normal day at work and there is no point in a routine. It’s all about survival people and that’s the reality.
- We have developed a heavy and unhealthy reliance on takeaway food that masquerades as buckets of chicken but is actually probably more like deep-fried pigeon. Despite boasting an impressive knowledge of how to organise one’s working life, I have been an inept, increasingly blubbery-bottomed mess who has returned to the Colonel more times than is normal despite the fact that his minions have an inability to remove the fucking mayonnaise. Ugh. It’s like a bad relationship that keeps me coming back for more. Sigh.
- Baby brain – oh yes, it’s alive and well. I find myself frequently zoning out when people are talking to me which leads to embarrassing moments in important meetings where you shout out “yes!” randomly because you think someone has spoken to you and you have no idea what they said. And when I refer to “you” I clearly just mean me. Similarly, I have found myself on numerous occasions losing track of my point / words / sanity mid-sentence. So blubbering, blubbery, inept mess is pretty much the sum of it.
- I have no filter. None. Everyone else appears to have suddenly become a complete moron in my maternity absence and I have no tolerance for the office politics, bullshit and preening that was once a fond part of my working day. Unfortunately, I have absolutely no ability to hide my disdain either. Call a spade a spade or it’s getting awkward quickly.
- Five days in the office has been replaced with three days. Whilst that’s a lovely balance (who doesn’t want more days at home than behind a desk?!) it doesn’t mean I have a part time job. It means I condense a full time job into 22 hours and that requires some serious prioritisation and streamlining of tasks. That’s probably the reason that I have lost my filter. There is no time for the bullshit.
- My house looks like a squat. Visitors are met with the smell of wet children and dogs and a hefty glare from me for daring to add yet another to-do item to my day. Washing is done haphazardly, use of Febreeze is at an all time high, mud is now a décor feature of my kitchen floor and my children are only ever half clean (good enough right?!) There just is no time. I cannot get to a state of cleanliness that was possible during my time at home and quite frankly some days I just cannot be arsed.
- If there were to be any justice, I would be stick thin. I literally never stop and come to think of it, neither does my long-suffering other half. Like ships in the night we occasionally wave at each other across the sea of dirty laundry, nappy changing or school child taxi-ing that is a constant feature of our time outside of work.
- I’m hanging on by a thread. Fuelled by coffee, my love of my job (because it is awesome and I get paid) and the general feeling that if I get off the hamster wheel I may never get back on again – I am on the edge of a breakdown pretty much permanently. And so are all the other parent’s I know.
- The half an hour of cuddles with my baby at the end of a working day, near enough breaks my cold, closed heart. The fuzziness of her warm, milky head combined with the plumpiness of her slightly too worn pyjama’d body send my ovaries into a spin. For those few minutes, I am cocooned with grief and the realisation that I’m missing her babyhood day by day whilst out at work. It’s hard to swallow.
So that’s it I think.
I had an overwhelming response to my return to work story and I was touched by how many of you crashed back into work life with me. I can honestly say it hasn’t been an easy transition and whilst my work life is slowly coming together, my home life is just about hanging on by a thread. “It will do” is pretty much my survival mantra right now, be it for a cursory sweep of the bathroom with a baby wipe or when I hastily shove someone’s packed lunches together and chivvy them out of the door.
Reading this post back to myself I realise that I opened with the gambit that it does get easier but actually as you read down the list it becomes obvious that being a working mum doesn’t get easier after all. Maybe it just get’s easier to pretend and to compartmentalise or maybe it’s too soon to tell.
I’ll let you know in another six months.